Dieting and lifestyle are incredibly different pathways with some occasional overlap.
In short, dieting describes extreme behavioral changes that are not to be maintained for extended periods of time. Lifestyle changes are less extreme, layered in changes that are meant to be sustained, resulting in a healthier you. Which is better for you?
If you plan to live well into your eighties or longer, think about the percentage of time a 21 day fix or 2 week diet represents. Your health reflects what you do most, and smaller more sustainable lifestyle changes will likely be a better plan for most people.
Living well doesn’t mean never having bread, dessert or a few glasses of wine, and we should figure how to have this becomes a part of your life style. In fact, that’s exactly what we teach to our members. Remember that your health reflects your behaviors. Sitting and enjoying a pastry with a family member as part of a celebration likely brings you joy, but if celebrating with pastry is a regular occurrence this likely brings excess weight, displaces better nutrients and interferes with other health systems long term.
Participate, but don’t indulge.
Another part of living a healthy lifestyle that I have personally experienced and hear from many of our members is that the coveted cheat night often makes people not feel good the next day. Cleaning up your food choices, adding physical activity and taking care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally leads to a healthy lifestyle. However, once in this mode, eating your favorite meal can sometimes make you sick. Your favorite Italian Take Out is a date night fav that elicits nostalgia and lights up your taste buds. But now, you develop a stomach ache the next day? Everyone has their level of cheat, but the longer I choose healthy habits, the less I can tolerate what I used to consume frequently without issue. Ugh. I really wanted to be able to participate without giving up feeling well. How do I do this?
Evaluate your “cheat.”
I don’t love using the word “cheat” to describe something that is a less healthy or unhealthy behavior, but when I do everyone knows what I mean. So, let’s remember that in this particular instance, cheat refers to something that you don’t do on a regular basis, not something that is frowned upon. That said, make your cheat worthwhile, and make your cheat real. We always talk about sleeves of Oreos or Chips Ahoy – cookies that are filled with corn syrups, GMO flours, preservatives (shelf stable for how long??) and other compounds that are devastating to your body. Perhaps I’m judgmental about my cookies, but these are not cookies. Compare an oreo to a fresh bakery cookie, or homemade cookies. (Last weekend I had a raspberry filled fold over cookie from one of my favorite childhood bakeries. Not even in the same category as a Chips Ahoy.) I vote for bakery or homemade. If you are going to indulge, make it worth it, and make it real.
Real ingredients are sometimes not the end of the line for health, either. Certain flours and other ingredients can be contaminated with pesticides, contain gluten or other lectins, or be a GMO crop. Find some delicious and “healthy” ingredients to help you discover some decadent flavors and maybe help you feel less like you have a hangover after eating a chicken farm. (Try sharing this dish to participate, but not indulge!)