Food Is Not The Enemy.

5 Nov

Please go and read this link, then come on back:–wanna-lose-weight-don-t-diet

This is one of the few times I’ve come across a health article that DIDN’T preach eating specific types of food for weight loss. I have long been a proponent of healthy eating, not diets. As far as I’m concerned, diets set you up to fail and some remove most personal responsibility. The moment you stop eating according to a calorie-restrictive diet, you gain weight. Sometimes more weight than you initially lost. I am all for a system, a lifestyle change, that is actually achievable for the average person. How many people do you know that eat macrobiotically? Gwynnie and Madonna. Excellent. Just your average megastars.

There is a plethora of testimonials and evidence that those who diet often gain the weight back when they cease the diet. To me the problem is that it’s strictly a temporary measure, not a lifelong plan. Specifically because one chooses to eat only certain foods for a short- or long-term goal, one is almost bound to fail at keeping the weight off.  I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious but diets almost always fail. They fail because most diets are based on full-scale deprivation: you can’t have red meat and/or carbs and/or sugar. Take your pick.  I’m hardly saying that all anyone should eat is sugar and red meat: what I’m saying is that eating in a healthy way shouldn’t be so exclusive.

What the woman in the article above has done, I think, is fantastic. She chose one “unhealthy” thing – just one – to stop eating. She didn’t deprive herself of the rest of the foods that most health experts would agree are not healthy. A month later, after seeing positive results that were achieved relatively easily, she tried something else. Then she added in exercise. And what did she see? Success. She felt better by implementing a lifestyle change*  on her own terms, at her own speed. She didn’t deprive herself of an entire food group.

Most weight loss clinics and plans make me a little crazy. OK. A lot crazy. I am certainly no angel when it comes to maintaining a perfectly healthy diet: I love cheese, alcohol, bacon and sugar. (If I can get them all in one meal, I am a happy, bloated camper.) However, I also feel groggy and less energetic when I don’t get my fruits and veggies. I am fortunate enough to be able to consume most of the food I love, having only a lack-of-gallbladder to consider when it comes to diet. (So, McD’s ain’t never gon’ happen, but I don’t need to avoid gluten or lactose.) I also am fortunate to have an exercise partner and a supportive husband who offers to bring home more fruit and less chocolate and go for walks after dinner when I feel like I’m at the high end of what my weight-spectrum. But I defy anyone to tell me that if I eat nothing but meat or grapefruit or soup I will have lasting, positive results.

I’m rambling. I know. But this stuff really hits a nerve with me. I mean, even shows like Bulging Brides and Last 10 Pounds don’t advocate crash diets or food group deprivation. Yes, the people on the show go on fairly low-calorie diets, but they’re also trying to lose a specific amount of  weight in a very short time frame. They preach healthy habits.

So, please. Remember: balance is your friend. Eat your veggies and get your Omega 3’s. Eat a bowl of sour cream and onion chips while lying on the couch when it’s crappy outside. Have an apple at breakfast and maybe some fish during the week. Go for a bike ride or a swim. Enjoy that glass of wine at dinner. If you’re concerned about your food intake, I suggest keeping a food diary to see what you’re actually consuming during a week. You might be surprised at what you find.

But for goodness sake: be reasonable.

*I really, really hate that term. Can we please come up with something aside from  “lifestyle change?” It’s a little too close to “synergy” or “let’s parking lot that idea.” Blech.


3 Responses to “Food Is Not The Enemy.”

  1. Chrissy November 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    One thing I would add is that a calorie reduced diet is only a good idea if you truly are consuming too many calories. I don’t think those reality shows you mention are really doing the participants any favours: One of the most important things I’ve learned about weight and fitness over the years is that a deadline can be helpful, but it can also be the exact reason why weight gets gained back in the end. The slower you lose, the easier it is to keep it off. Reduce the calories in your diet too much (and I know that’s not what you’re suggesting people do; but those shows imply it), and you just fuck up your metabolism. Especially if you combine drastically cutting calories with increasing activity. The human body is designed to protect itself against famine, and when a diet recreates famine conditions… well, we all know what happens.

    Whenever someone tells me they want to lose weight, other than perhaps cutting back on/out things that are truly unhealth and/or being a little more diligent with portion control, I almost always push for leaving one’s diet relatively intact and starting with an increase in exercise. I understand that a lot of people like the idea of starting with cutting calories because “not” doing something instinctively feels more achievable than going out and doing something (activity, exercise) that one doesn’t particularly feel like doing. This used to be my attitude, as there is precious little in the way of activity that I truly enjoy beyond the endorphin rush and health/beauty benefits… but what I’ve learned is that it’s a lot easier to get up and do *something* a few times a week than it is to sustain any type or level of deprivation… indefinitely. I know there is a cultural phenomenon where, for example, people want to get to a certain weight before they get active (especially before something very public like hitting the gym), but starting by reducing calories just cuts in to the energy you need to be active, not to mention it’s just not sustainable, so any lifestyle change plan that starts with (significant) calorie reduction is likely to have a moment of ‘failure’ near the start. Not very motivational. Not to mention, there’s really not much point in losing weight without gaining *fitness* unless you’re okay with being skinny-fat and listless.

    Which is my long-winded way of saying that I agree with you, I think that’s a great article, but I think those reality weight-loss shows fall on the other side of the diet vs. lifestyle change spectrum.

    (BTW, my alternative lifestyle change was “healthy lifestyle renaissance”… but it still has the L word in there… maybe ‘health and fitness renaissance’?)

  2. J November 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Well put, could’nt have said it better myself. Moderation, self control and a little bit of excercise will work wonders.


  1. Tweets that mention Food Is Not The Enemy. « Food Nurd -- - November 5, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melly , Carolyn Fuller. Carolyn Fuller said: Food Is Not The Enemy.: […]

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