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Why I Never Recommend Dieting

People ask me what my favorite diet is all the time, and I always answer none.  I’m not a fan of the diet mentality—of depriving yourself to reach a goal. Health is a journey. It’s not something to be rushed because you have to lose 10 pounds before summer. Changing your mindset takes time and effort and that’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s worth the time and effort you put into it. Diets are designed to fail and almost always do. Most diets are not sustainable long term and when stopped, most people gain the weight right back. You end up not wanting to go to a restaurant with your friends because nothing on the menu works with your diet. Who wants to live that way? Diets do not teach you how to eat—they show you what not to eat. They don’t explain why you shouldn’t eat certain foods or they give false information. The negative connotation dieting evokes is one of deprivation and starvation. That is NOT what food is. Food is to nourish and help us live the best lives we can.

When you ask most people what the word “dieting” means to them, you will hear words like deprivation, restrictive, weight loss, unhappiness, struggle, work, and lifestyle. Lifestyle is a good one because that does play a huge role. You want it to become part of your everyday way of life, streamlining behavior and not depriving yourself. If dieting actually worked there would not be a million books (okay, not a million, but a lot) of various ways to do it and the how.  If it worked, there would be one book and everyone would own it. Which diet works best has been an avenue of study for many years. Scientist want to prove THIS is the best diet for heart disease or THIS diet is best for metabolic syndrome, but they can never come to a complete consensus. There is no one combination that will magically melt the pounds away. What they can agree on is that the less processed foods you eat the better.  Minimally processed foods, close to nature or predominantly plants are what is best to promote optimal health and give the best chance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

More and more evidence is emerging that shows the American dietary pattern full of processed, packaged, and fast foods are leading to negative changes in our bodies. Diets filled with aged fats, refined flours and sugars are leading to huge amounts of inflammation throughout the body’s system. Inflammation is a key factor in obesity, cardiovascular disease, blood sugar disorders, and other chronic degenerative conditions. For the first time in our history, our children will have a shorter lifespan than we will. Children are being diagnosed with disease usually reserved for those in advanced years: diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint deterioration, and heart disease. This trend can be reversed with a new mindset regarding food.  When we change you what you view as food, it can radically change the course of your health.  

These are the two things I do tell people when they ask me to recommend my favorite diet: eat the rainbow and remember S.O.U.L. foods.  S.O.U.L. eating is eating seasonally, organic, unprocessed, and local. Eating the rainbow and S.O.U.L. foods are the best way to get your phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These are all things that aid disease prevention, cellular health and recovery from an injury.

The journey to getting to eating this way is sometimes a long one. When you spend a lifetime eating processed foods, moving to a diet of whole foods can be daunting. Taking your goals day by day is the best way to achieve your goal of getting rid of processed foods and moving to a healthier lifestyle. Small goals are what is going to get you there. The ultimate goal is optimal health and the only way to achieve that is if you are eating in a nutritionally sustainable way. Fad diets are not going to get you there, and starving yourself certainly will not get you there. What WILL get you there is eating mainly organic, unprocessed foods. It may seem boring, but when you provide a varied diet it can be interesting and keep your interest longer than you realize.  

I’m not saying you can never have another donut again in your life, but keep it within reason.  I’m an 80/20 advocate: 80% of the time you are eating healthy and doing the right thing. That leaves 20% of the time to indulge. If you are constantly depriving yourself, it’s harder to stay on track. Don’t eat your 20% all in one meal because that can derail your efforts, but a little here and there is good for your mental health. Or that’s how I look at it, anyway!

Niki Claybrook holistic nurtitionist