Diet Is a 4-Letter Word

Posted on June 8, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I had a run-in with my arch nemesis this week.  Fritos.  He won.  What’s worse, he has a friend.  Julio’s.  If you’re from Texas, you’ve probably seen Julio there on the shelves between his rival corn chips, and if you’ve had him you understand his power of persuasion.

It seems I had a fiesta in my pantry this week.  The timing figures—on the heels of my thoughts about garbage.  Thankfully, the fiesta is over. Has it affected my training?  Fortunately, no.  My sprint tri is in two weeks (yay!), and my workouts have been going well.  Has it affected the way I feel about myself? You bet. Disappointment is the first word that rolls to mind, like a thundercloud.

But the big question is this:  Will my lapse in nutritional judgment this week cause me to change what I eat next week? That is, will I go on a diet?  The big answer:  Absolutely not.  In my opinion, diet is a 4-letter word.

There are dozens of diets on the market, always have been, always will be.  Each time a new study touts the superpowers of one kind of food or the evil powers of another, there’s bound to be a book, an infomercial, a talk show segment, or some other media blitz right on its heels.  That’s not to say the studies aren’t important. They are. But information is only good when it’s used wisely.

A diet cannot last forever.  A healthy lifestyle can.  What’s the difference?  A diet has a beginning and an end.  Many diets require the dieter to eliminate entire food groups or to overindulge in others.  They require an exorbitant amount of willpower, which always fails, partly because it is physiologically impossible and certainly unhealthy to eliminate or overindulge, and the dieter’s body will pressure her into balance—which means she eats what she “shouldn’t.”  She gets frustrated and quits, or she meets her prescribed time limit and, inevitably, the diet ends.

Most diets also require the dieter to consume less calories than he expends.  Makes sense, especially if weight loss is the goal. But often, the number of calories prescribed by the diet is far less than a body actually needs to function—which means the dieter loses energy, gets weak and lethargic. Cranky.

The body knows what it needs.  It needs calories to pump the heart, run the brain and nervous system, move the muscles and the bones they’re attached to.  If the body doesn’t get enough calories from all the food groups, it goes into starvation mode, slowing down metabolism to conserve energy—hoarding all that fat the dieter is trying to shed.

No diets for me, thank you.  I prefer to live a healthy lifestyle.  What this means to me is that there is no beginning and no end to proper nutrition. I eat all the food groups, every day. I don’t worry about what time I eat my last meal.  My body doesn’t refuse carbs after 3:00.  I don’t panic if Fritos wins for a couple of days.

Let me repeat that.  Sometimes Fritos wins for a couple of days. But since I’m not on a diet, that’s ok. It’s my mind—my opinion of myself—that pays the bigger long-term price than my body.  This is because I have chosen to live a healthy lifestyle rather than to be (forever) on a diet.  I know what the effects of saturated fat are on my arteries when the Fritos win.  That—and not the effect on the elastic in my pants—is why I’m disappointed in myself.

I do have some general rules of thumb I try to follow:

  1. If God didn’t make it, don’t put it in my mouth.  This prompts me to eat more whole foods and far less processed foods.  (Yes, I still try to argue with myself how God did, in fact, make Fritos since he made the people who invented, manufactured, packaged, shipped, and shelved Fritos, the corn that’s in the Fritos, the people who created and operated the machinery that made all the other gunk that’s in the Fritos. You see how it goes.  It’s exhausting, really, this kind of logic. Still, sometimes I let it win…)
  2. Graze like a gazelle.  If I eat small portions all day, I feel better. And who doesn’t want to eat all day?  When I do, my metabolism runs fast and steady throughout the day.  I have less of a desire to overindulge in anything because I’m always satisfied, never starving, and I don’t overeat to the point of discomfort. I know I’ll be eating again in just a few hours. It’s a beautiful arrangement.
  3. Don’t eat anything bigger than my head.  Seems like a no-brainer when it comes to foods like watermelon. But this also means that if I choose to have pizza, I can’t actually eat the whole thing. I would. But I can’t.

These rules of thumb have come after years of learning to listen to my body when it tells me what it needs.  They’ve come because I do read the reports about nutrition and exercise.  They’ve come because my main goal for my body is disease prevention.  If I focus on keeping my body healthy and disease-free, I gravitate to the foods that will do that and steer away from the foods that won’t.  In the process, my weight corrects itself. My tastesbuds have more than adapted to whole foods—I actually look forward to them. And I have more energy, more clarity of mind, and feel better than I have in my life.

What are your thoughts about diets?

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7 Responses to “Diet Is a 4-Letter Word”

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I agree with everything you said. AND I love what I call “itos” – doesn’t matter, Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos.

The other thing for me about diets is that I remind myself a lot that food is fuel. Eating is not something to do when I am bored, and it isn’t something to make me feel better when I am depressed or anxious or stressed.

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Ito-itis. I seem to have it too. And it seems to strike most when I am bored or anxious or depressed. You’re right–food is fuel. Thanks for the reminder!

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I needed to read considering i have beaten myself over my eating habits this week…i had rice all week
(aargh), i am trying to find other foods…but i am the worst kind of eater, not at all adventurous with food…i rarely ever eat fritos and stuff but rice will be the death of me, if i am not careful lol. I don’t dio diets but i really want to eat healthy and try other things

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It can be hard to break away from old habits and form new ones. Have you tried other grains, like quinoa, millet, or the variety of brown rices out there?

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I tried brown rice earlier this year and actually like it but white rice cooks faster lol…i have quinoa but still haven’t tried it…i am going to break this one old habit soon lol…thanks

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