Being healthy without being miserable
I was excited to see that I got a lot of positive responses to my last post, based on why we crave sugar and how we can satisfy this craving while still being healthy. Going through the process of writing that got me thinking about dieting in general- mainly, why is it so easy to stop enjoying diets? There should be an easier way to be healthy without forcing ourselves to up the types of foods that we love eating. And fortunately, there is! But first, we need to face a few important facts.
Why is it common for diets not to work?
The classic “eat salads all day” diets usually don’t work out for us because they involve restrictions, in one form or another. Maybe you try to limit your calorie intake, your carb intake or your fat intake. But then, on your “cheat day”, you let yourself enjoy half of a large bag of potato chips. Because you were good for 6 out of 7 days and only cheated once, you let yourself say that you are now being healthy and this small binge was perfectly fine. Your small binge is eventually accompanied by a painful feeling of guilt in your heart- maybe even desperation. How will I ever lose the weight I want to lose if I can’t let go of these chips.
Let me tell you: you can let go. It is possible for you to get your ideal body, even while enjoying everything that you eat! Shocking, right? But maybe after you read this next part, it won’t be that surprising after all.
The biology behind weight gain and loss
I’ll give you a small biology lesson, the main takeaway of which is your weight is NOT based on your caloric intake. In biology terms, your weight is determined by the weight of the atoms in your body. You lose weight when you take in less atoms, and give off more through breathing and respiration. So yes, just by breathing, you can lose a minute amount of weight. So for this reason, start thinking about your weight not in terms of your calorie intake, but what it is that you are actually eating.
That feels a little better, right? You don’t need to worry so much about calories anymore! Here comes the harder part, though: you need to think about everything that you chose to put in your body.
Restriction vs. Replacement
You might find that a diet which involves replacement instead of restriction will be a lot more successful. Don’t deprive your body of fat- replace the type of fat you are eating. For example, one serving of butter might have 100 calories, while a serving of olive oil has 122. In both types of fats, all calories come from the fat. But the difference in these two is the type of fat. Butter has saturated fat while olive oil has unsaturated fat, and because of this, olive oil is easier for your body to break down. Fat that can be broken down more easily can be used by the body more quickly for energy, while other fat is stored in adipose tissue. So when you choose to replace the butter on your toast with a healthier fat like avocado or olive oil, you can still get a fatty flavor without eating the type of fat that will make you gain weight.
The same goes for sugar, grains, meats, and any type of food that you can possibly think of. There are healthier versions, and there are unhealthier versions. Before you go on any diet, make sure that you know about both. Healthier foods tend to be less processed. That’s why dark chocolate is a great replacement for milk chocolate and white chocolate- there was less processing involved to dilute the strong flavor for a sweeter one. Because of this, you will also find that dark chocolate has less sugar content. The next time you go grocery shopping and look for a bag of chips, try some of those dried vegetable chips as opposed to potato chips. If they were dried or baked as opposed to fried, it is likely that there is less oil and fat, and possibly less salt as well. You still get the crispy, salty chips that you love so much, but in a healthier version.
Don’t Like Healthy?
Maybe after trying this for a while, you find that you really hate the healthier version of a particular food. That’s completely normal- we all have food that we don’t like! But solving this problem is like learning any new skill: you have to find a way to do it. As a personal example, I’ve always hated eggs. But eggs are a really good source of protein, and so it is important that once in awhile, I make myself eat eggs. To solve my issue, for about one week, I made myself eat scrambled eggs every morning for breakfast. Now, I’ve learned to cook them in ways that I can appreciate the flavor. I cut out my misery by learning to find something positive in my eating choices. You can surely do the same!
The key to healthy dieting and a positive mindset about it is cutting out the factor of guilt. Don’t deprive yourself of the flavors that you love, but find healthier ways to achieve them. Better, don’t give yourself cheat days, but if you ever have a strong craving for a bowl of ice cream, give into it! As long as it’s once in awhile and not every day, you and your diet will be fine.