We’ve all tried diets and they work. Until they don’t, right? But while they’re often not a long-term solution, they can teach us something useful.
The trouble with diets is that real life intervenes. We’re doing marvellously, then we get busy, tired, stressed, cranky or upset.
Sooner or later we feel like we’ve done so well (i.e. been deprived for so long) that we deserve a piece of chocolate. Which turns into the whole block.
Or we’re just over life without bread.
Tamar Haspel writes about food for The Washington Post, and she despairs of advice like ‘just eat everything in moderation’ or ‘all you need to do is move more and eat less’.
Who knows what ‘moderation’ looks like? It’s both common sense and completely meaningless.
Diets work because they bring structure to our eating. Instead of it being random we now have rules. Boundaries. A plan.
Perhaps we eat less on two days of the week, we have all our meals within a designated timeframe, or we don’t eat certain foods.
Tamar points out that the people who manage to keep their weight off don’t go back to random eating. They develop their own rules.
For instance, they might only drink alcohol or have dessert on special occasions, they have two squares of dark chocolate after dinner but nothing else, they don’t buy foods they know they’ll overeat, or they watch what they eat at home but relax when they go out.
The benefit of diets is they give us clues as to what might work for us. Most come with a book that outlines a system and claim that only that system works. It’s not true, clearly.
By now we know our own vices and what suits us. I’ve learned that it doesn’t work for me to snack between meals. I also have a rough formula for those meals. But intermittent fasting? Nope.
Pretty much all diets recommend basics such as limiting sugar and processed food and eating more vegetables. After that it depends on your needs and preferences.
Tamar spoke to a Stanford Uni medical professor who’s done a lot of dietary research. He made the point that we need to have joy and pleasure in food. If we enjoy what we eat we’ve got a better chance of doing it forever.
That’s another key. I adore food and love what I eat, though I know it wouldn’t suit most people.
So trust that you know yourself and your foibles better than any diet book, draw on what you’ve learned works and come up with your own plan.
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