In our health conscious culture we are surrounded by fad diets claiming to help us be beach ready in a flash. Most of those crash diets call for giving up an entire food group; we are asked to say no to sweets, cut out carbs, or fence out fats for the sake of fitting into a smaller swimsuit. But all of these diets share the same problem: They are not sustainable.
I’ve jumped on almost every diet train that has rolled by, and I have attempted to give up almost every food group at one time or another. But as anyone who has also journeyed down the fad diet trail can attest, it is almost impossible to stick to these types of eating plans. Instead of seeing lasting results, I would succumb to a vicious cycle of short-term success followed by falling off the wagon and eating anything that didn’t run away.
This year I finally decided that enough is enough. I began to do research on clean eating and learned about all of the problems associated with diets that exclude certain foods. I discovered that the reasons for my long term failure were not due to my weaknesses; exclusive diets are simply not practical or healthy, therefore they cannot be sustained for long periods of time. Instead of cutting foods out of my life, I now focus on making my diet fit the 80/20 rule: 80% healthy and 20% treats.
Why Restriction Doesn’t Work
Our bodies need all of the ‘taboo’ foods that crash diets convince us are evil. We need fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in order to be healthy and fulfilled. The key is to recognize which foods are healthy sources of these nutrients and which foods are not. Through research, I have become able to determine which foods can nourish my body and which cannot. By learning about what each of these nutrients does for body and what sources are beneficial and which are empty, I can now take control of my own health and my own diet without depriving myself of foods I love.
Everything in Moderation
Understanding moderation has also been essential to my journey away from dieting and toward a healthy lifestyle. I no longer have to feel guilty for eating a cupcake or a burger. In a healthy lifestyle there is room for all foods. Instead of exalting chocolate cake as a ‘cheat’ food that should never be eaten, I now understand that one slice of cake will not undo all of my healthy efforts. By occasionally eating my favorite unhealthy foods in small amounts, I prevent myself from bingeing and eating half a cheesecake in one sitting.
The concept of moderation is the primary difference between crash or fad diets and a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Crash diets look to exclude foods my life completely, leaving me feeling deprived and restricted. In contrast, a healthy lifestyle focuses on allowing all foods in their proper proportions. I have come to believe that moderation is the key to everything in life, including my diet, and by doing so I have broken away from the dieting cycle and regained control of my life.