“As defined by the dictionary diet is the kinds of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that anymore, at least not to most people. We’ve now bastardized the term to mean deprivation, starvation and suffering.” Vinnie Tortorich & Dean Lorey pretty much hit the nail on the head here in their book, Fitness Confidential.
When you hear your friend or coworker say “oh I am on X diet” or “you have got to try Y diet!” Your mind automatically goes to a dark dark place where you feel chained in a basement and for some reason your pondering taking away some form of delicious evil energy giving carb, tasty filling fat or wonderful muscle repairing protein.
I don’t enjoy the word, “diet”. Or at least today’s version of it. I don’t know about you but my “diet” consists of a balance of the 3 macros – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and the odd dozen chocolate almonds or two or even some nice white wine every now and then. You know what, I’m happy, I’m in good physical shape (granted I am not ready for a fitness competitor’s stage – but hey that’s not my goal) and I’m not stressed about what I can and cannot have. Like majority of people we have enough external stress in our lives, why add our food as one of them and constantly trying to “test” our willpower.
Adam Bornstein simply said, “don’t rely on willpower… you have much less control over your behavior than you’d want to believe. That’s because stress and anxiety—emotions that are inevitable—can wreck havoc on even the strongest intent, and make it difficult for you stay focused and push yourself to stay consistent with new behaviors.”
As strong willed and determined as we think we are we unfortunately only have so much willpower available to us. You can think of willpower as money. Say within a given day or week you can only spend so much money, every time you make a purchase you give up some money. Now on a day-to-day basis every time you surpass a craving or “test” your willpower, you lose a little bit of it. This is why after a long stressful day at work our willpower is often at it’s lowest. We have been constantly testing our willpower and come to the end of the day we’re spent. Emotionally and physically done. This is when we typically make most of our poor nutrition choices, rebel against what the current “diet” is telling us to do, and dive into that bottle of wine, piece of cake, or bag of chocolate almonds. Later we often feel defeated, and guilty. Guilt is a truly shitty feeling, which often plagues you for years in your life. Why let something such as food make you feel guilty? Why let some person who don’t know who created X diet, stick you with guilt because you wanted to have a glass of wine at dinner? If you want that glass of wine, do it. And enjoy it.
Unless there is a particular goal itself (e.g. to get up on that fitness stage) as opposed to maintaining a healthy daily lifestyle, you don’t need to “diet”. As stated in Precision Nutrition, “don’t take your nutrition to extremes – unless you have extreme goals. Strategic moderation, as unsexy as that sounds, is the only sustainable method.”
The thing about “diets” is that they come to and end. They’re not sustainable. You cannot restrict yourself of a vital nutrient for a long duration of time. You need it. Your body needs it. Typically a person will reach their goal with Y diet, and then eventually gain back whatever they had lost before. “I need to lose 15lbs by summer!” Okay cool, but what happens after summer?
Simply lead a an active lifestyle, eat healthy 80% of the time, and enjoy those chocolate almonds, cake or wine the other 20% of the time. Strive for 100% – 80% of the time. It’s trying to be perfect, setting yourself up for failure. You can’t maintain perfection ALL THE TIME. So strive for perfection 80% of the time. Life is really too short to be stressed, and you already have enough of it on your plate as is.
I finished my workout today, and now I cheers to you with my glass of white!
By Shane Kokas