What to Do When You're Done with Diets
Keeping weight off without feeling like you’re on a diet isn’t about following some strict regimen. It’s about stacking the deck so that when it comes to choosing what to put in your mouth, you want — you revel in — the foods that will keep you at a comfortable weight. Without any special diets.
Doing that is partly about tuning in, and partly about knowing the effect that bite you’re about to take is going to have … on your body and on the bigger picture. It’s eating with your eyes wide open. Here are my favorite free resources for making it happen.
Getting Into the Right Mindset
Just as cooking with real food starts with having the right tools and pantry basics on hand to do so, staying at a comfortable weight without feeling like you’re on a diet takes being in the right mind-space.
There are some things you’ll need to unlearn, like feeling guilty about what you eat and thinking that eating fat will make you fat, and new things you’ll need to practice, like treating yourself compassionately. Because, despite the titles of many self-help books (7 days to, the 21-day plan, yadda, yadda), real, lasting change takes time. In fact, just remembering that food is food and not a program or a science project or a monster out to get us can be quite the challenge. But it’s worth it. This is part of why I call it our “eating practice,” because we need to take responsibility for where our minds go as much as where our forks do. Sometimes, giving up food with an occasional fast for a meal or a day can be just what we need to recalibrate.
Food is Out to Get You … Really, Really Happy
A big part of the shift is that food is meant to be pleasurable. (Didn’t you feel a deep sense of ahhhh settle over you when you read that?) Let me be clear, though, I’m not talking about the temptation of overindulgence we’ve come to associate with pleasure. I’m talking about the deep, soul-smiling satisfaction that comes as we learn to find the “yes” in mindfully saying “no.” As we learn to take our time to truly savor real food without guilt and count our blessings for what’s on our plate, our perspective shifts and food becomes a beloved ally rather than a dreaded enemy.
The great news is, this doesn’t have to be a heavy thing. It shouldn’t be. It’s about lightening up — not on your mayonnaise, but on your attitude. It’s about reveling in the everyday pleasure of the food you eat and letting food make you laugh. It’s about embracing the natural rhythm of everyday moderation punctuated by celebration. Yes, you’ll need to take ownership of the fact that the choices are yours to make and not give up on healthy eating when you feel old habits creeping in. And you will. Because it’s worth it.
Know the Impact of What You Put in Your Body
Once you’re firmly grounded in the truth that real food is actually out to make you healthy and happy, the next step is to gain a firm grasp on the impact different foods have on your body. This may sound simplistic, but it’s crazy powerful. When you know, for instance, what’s really in that box of Ritz crackers, you’re more likely to say “ewww” than “I want that.” And when you realize how potent real foods are — things like vegetables, fruit, olive oil and whole grains — you’ll start to have warm fuzzy feelings for them (I did, anyway … and I hated vegetables). They’re busting their little roots to take care of us, after all! This basic understanding shifts the inner dialogue we have with ourselves. We move away from feeling like we “should” eat those roasted carrots and “shouldn’t eat” those French fries to wanting to eat those carrots and not really caring for the fries. I kid you not.
When I teach my daughter’s second grade class about how to eat right, I start by focusing on the awesome stuff that real foods do for us. Vegetables (did you know mushrooms fight cancer?), whole grains, nuts, fruit, even chocolate are all out to do us some serious good. Even fat — that poor food group that we demonized for decades — is out to make us healthy and, believe it or not, THINNER. And, yes, even salt, butter and cream have their place in most diets.
Having that inner chatter cheering you towards real foods is a HUGE step. But there are a few more things you need to know so you don’t make unintentional choices at the supermarket. Here’s how to know what food labels really mean so you can tell, for instance, whether that wheat bread you’re feeling all good about is really made with whole grains (if you want to bake your own at home, we’ve got the whole story on whole wheat flour and an awesome recipe for no-knead bread here for you).
Why You Should Care About Where Your Food Comes From
Now that I’ve got you feeling all good about food, I don’t mean to sound an alarm. But it is important to recognize that, in the food world, not all is as it seems. The easiest way to trust your food is to know where it comes from. There’s a big difference between a farmer who grows your food and someone who makes food products.
This line of conversation inevitably leads to the question of whether or not to spring for organic food. My answer is, as it is in many other places, that’s up to you. It depends where you are on your NOURISH Evolution. As I moved along on my evolution, there was a point where shifting to organic food just felt right. I knew I wanted to limit the amount of chemicals I was exposed to, and I didn’t want to be part of the grand experiment of genetic engineering.
But as I discovered chinks in that USDA organic certification — powerful food industry forces in a constant assault to compromise the meaning behind the label and serious issues about food safety with the food system as a whole (including the safety of the packaging they come in) — I was simultaneously unearthing the deep pleasure of connecting more closely to where my food comes from. So I moved away from shopping at grocery stores and toward shopping at farmers’ markets and local markets, and even growing my own veggies.
You see, there is organic, as in USDA-certified organic label, and there is organic as a way of life. The first has to do with politics and paperwork. The second has to do with being a good steward and nurturing ecosytems so that everyone — and everything — thrives.
That may sound lofty, but it’s not. It’s Myrna and Earl, two old-school farmers who give Noemi bear hugs every Saturday at the farmers’ market, and Yael who gives her strawberries. It’s Linda and Emmett, young farmers of a new generation who are raising their baby amid kohlrabi and goats.
I know these people. I trust these people. I get profound joy out of buying food from these people. It’s a totally different experience than buying a bag of organic lettuce at the supermarket.
Healthy Meals for a Happy Family
Those added layers of joy I talking about aren’t that surprising when you consider that food is so much more than just what we eat. Yes, I say this often, but it bears repeating.
If you have a kid (or a spouse) who only eats mac ‘n’ cheese and hot dogs, take heart: This place of deep connection … it’s a fun place. And your kids will actually want to be in the kitchen. Here, food has color, flavor, personality and interactivity. It may take a bit of time for them to clue in, but as you get all amped up about bringing real food to the table on a regular basis, they’ll get it. They’ll even take ownership and start to say yes to “grow foods” in their lunch boxes all by themselves. What a privilege to be able to give that opportunity to the kiddos under our influence!
Funny, isn’t it, how the further we move from a prescriptive approach about what we shouldn’t eat and the closer we draw to what feels so darn good to eat, the better it is for everyone … and everything? We’re naturally healthy. We’re peaceful and connected. And we’re effortlessly at a great weight.
That is what it is to be nourished.
Are you ready to move forward on your NOURISH Evolution? Awesome. Start by signing up here and I’ll send you a weekly recipe and inspiration to keep you going. And keep an eye out … I’ll be touching base now and then to see how you’re doing on your journey and what I can do to keep you moving.
I'm so glad you're here!