I just had to write about food during the week of our national food gorging, aka Thanksgiving (for those of us in the States). And during the week of Thanksgiving, when we show gratitude and feast to our heart’s desire, this is also the worst time to talk about diets.
So I’m not going to do that.
I’m instead going to talk about the mindset behind why we change our diet, what is diet anyway, what are we looking for, and just how do we know it’s working anyway?
Let me share an excerpt from my book Younger Joints Today. It’s a book about reversing chronic joint pain, and has a ton of information on how nutrition affects joint health.
People use the word “diet” in many unhealthy ways. It often involves severe restriction, a sudden change in a desire to get healthy. Many times, there are unhealthy motives behind dieting and diets.
Instead of “diet” meaning “restriction,” I prefer these definitions instead: “habitual nourishment” and “regimen of intent.” How do you intend to nourish yourself every day?
So, diet can mean how you regularly nourish yourself. Or it can mean restriction, and deprivation.
Start out by asking yourself, ‘why am I dieting?’ Why are you changing how and what you eat? What are your reasons, and what are your goals?
I find this piece immensely important, and often overlooked.
Your intention and your reason set the stage for how successful you are in making changes.
If you are going on an extreme detox diet because you read about it in a book, or a blog, or because someone you know is also doing it, or because you feel guilty for over-indulging over the holidays…. Pump the breaks. Those are all external factors influencing your decision.
What they say you should do.
How about you? Don’t you have any say in the matter???
Instead, I would like to invite you to make dietary changes because you want to, because your curious, because you’d like to experience some novelty, fun, and learn a thing or two about what foods are right for you along the way.
All books, blogs, videos, and social media posts can do is provide information. Some of that is relevant, but it can’t all be relevant to everyone. Is a carnivore diet the key to everlasting health, or will a vegan diet save us all? Trying to lump us all into one, “this is best for everyone” diet just won’t work.
You would be smart to look for guidance through this process by a professional. Many types of professionals can assist, such as Naturopathic Doctors, functional medicine practitioners, nutritionists, and holistic health coaches.
The success of your dietary changes will depend on your goals that you established from the start. You did set goals, right? Otherwise, how can you tell if it’s working and worth doing?
A trial of a dietary elimination, for example dairy elimination to see if it is affecting digestive health, may last 3 to 6 weeks. A nutritional intervention to address autoimmune, neurologic, or rheumatic conditions may last much longer. The key is to have a plan, be well prepared, and know what your benchmarks for success are.
Whatever your plan, I suggest you take phrases such as “cheat day,” and “cheat meal” out of your vocabulary. It just plain sets up negative thought loops, reinforces shame, and is just overall creepy verbiage. What, are you monogamously married to this diet?
Instead, just acknowledge when you are following your dietary changes, and when you are choosing to not follow it. That’s all. A rational adult making a well thought-through decision.
Any diet, or diet-pusher who leans on “no cheating”-type anti-cheerleading (bullying, if I’m being honest) earns an instant “eww-factor” in my book.
By all means, make the dietary changes you wish, based on internal-derived interests and goals, with a specific expectation established. And if all of this seems a bit too much, get some assistance whenever you need to help you create your path forward.
Wishing you a holiday season full of gratitude for your meals and those you share your meals with,