How many weight-loss diets have you tried in your lifetime? Too many to count? The word “diet” is a noun, not a verb, and refers to our food habits over time. When we use the term as a verb (e.g. “to diet”), our focus changes from nourishing our bodies to restriction. Dieting also implies that there are a start and an end. Diet-think can lead you to continually search for the perfect solution, or give up entirely.
What if your focus changed? Instead of focusing on weight, you changed your measure of success to something else like:
- Waist size
- Healthy blood pressure
- Lab values, including cholesterol and triglyceride
- Your ability to more easily accomplish activities of daily living
Achieving and maintaining good health involves at least four distinct components: Nutrition, Mental, Physical, and Emotion. The emotion component includes self-talk. Consider how you speak to yourself. Are you as kind to yourself as you are to a close friend or loved one? When we have compassion for ourselves, it is easier to accomplish other goals in our lives.
Some things to include in physical self-care are:
- Adequate and restful sleep
- Regular physical activity
- Brain stimulating activities
- Massage and/or acupuncture
- Eating mindfully
- Eating for nourishment
What if you gave up all the “food rules” you’ve followed for years and focused instead on choosing foods that nourish your body and bring you joy? Personally, I maintain only one food rule, and it is from the renowned author, Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
The first part is accomplished by reading ingredient labels and only choosing foods made from ingredients you can buy in the local market. The food you eat frequently should bear a close resemblance to its appearance when collected or harvested. This relegates most ready to eat meals, deli meats, snack bars, chips, and packaged desserts to the “sometimes” category. It also means giving up “diet” foods, which often include artificial sweeteners.
The second part of the phrase encourages you to pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. I challenge you to consider how often you begin to eat when you are not truly hungry. And how often you continue to eat long after you are satisfied. If you are like most people, at least 100 calories a day can be attributed to eating when you are not hungry. Eliminate those calories, and your waist size could shrink.
To accomplish the last part of Mr. Pollan’s rule does not require you to become Vegan. My article in the September edition explained what it means to be “plant-based.” You can find my nutrition articles from past editions at https://saddlebagnotes.com/health-and-fitness/
On your journey to a healthy size, your daily mission should be to eat an abundance of non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables can be raw, cooked, pureed (smoothies and soups), and even dried. Adopting this one behavior has been known to result in shrinking waist sizes.
As you develop new habits, you will build your own list of food policies instead of rules. Here is my list:
- Eat when hungry; stop eating when satisfied.
- Don’t diet while dining – dieting sucks the joy out of eating.
- Eat only food items that taste great with no “off” flavors from artificial ingredients.
- Don’t take part in the clean plate club. It’s okay to leave food on the plate.
- Fill half of every plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes, and broth-based vegetable soup.
- Choose carbohydrate-rich foods based on the naturally occurring fiber content.
If you enjoy my monthly articles and want more nutrition tips, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I record a new video each Wednesday. This is a link to a recent video on why all calories are not the same: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwLoYt6QmD0. My podcasts Wednesday Wellness: Nancy’s Nutrition Tips are available on seven platforms, including Apple, Google, and Spotify.
Nancy Teeter is a registered dietitian and SaddleBrooke resident. She is committed to providing trustworthy information to the community.