Want to know the reason why diets never work long-term?
They’re all about what you can’t have.
No sugar. No carbs. No fat. No alcohol.
Have you ever wanted to stick to a diet long-term? Because the first thing I think about as soon as I start a diet is, when can I have some pizza?
Willpower works against us
Normally, it takes a decent amount of willpower to make good food choices during the day. Diets actually make this easier for the time you’re following them because you’ve made a pre-commitment to a certain set of rules. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t give in and cheat, but it helps your brain know there’s an end with a reward to look forward to.
But it also means that your brain views this as a challenge, and a painful one at that. You have to fight cravings and memories of delicious food to be successful. Humans have an evolutionary bias toward doing things that are easy or bring pleasure. Since the diet itself does neither, your brain wants it to end as quickly as possible so you exert as little energy as possible.
That’s why it’s so easy to give into your favorite food the minute you reach your goal. Plus, your celebration becomes linked in your brain as a positive experience. Next time you’re deciding what to eat, you remember how happy the post-diet celebration made you and you’re much more likely to choose something that isn’t diet approved.
Look and feel your best without the diet
How do you look and feel your best without depriving yourself? Here are 3 steps to get you started.
1. Experiment with healthy but enjoyable food combinations
Processed, refined and sugar-laced foods block leptin receptors in your brain. Leptin is the hormone that gets released when you’ve had enough to eat, telling your brain you’re full. That’s why it’s so hard to stop eating certain foods, even when you know you’ve had enough.
So whole foods like protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats help you eat the right amount by allowing your brain to process leptin, in addition to nourishing you more. But you also want to enjoy the food you eat so you don’t feel deprived. The best way to start eating more healthy food is to start enjoying more healthy food.
Try looking up healthy alternatives for ingredients in your favorite recipes (like sweet potato noodles in place of spaghetti or pastured ghee in place of butter). If you start with something you know you enjoy and tweak the ingredients, you'll be more likely to enjoy the end result and you'll start to get the hang of cooking with these new ingredients. That will help give you a strong foundation to branch out and explore new recipes.
If the healthy food you’re eating tastes as good as your unhealthy food, there’s nothing for you to miss. Sure, you have to still make a decision. But the healthy and unhealthy options are more equally weighted in your mind, which means you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything when you choose the healthy option.
2. Stop calorie counting
Nothing causes a sense of deprivation like calorie counting. You’re limiting both what you can eat (by avoiding higher calorie foods and ingredients) and whether you can have an extra treat or a larger portion size, even if you’re hungry.
While counting calories keeps you in a calorie deficit - assuming you’re perfect - it doesn’t ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for your body to operate at its peak. With the added stress around social events with food, eating out and other typically enjoyable experiences, there are better ways to keep your eating in check.
What’s more important is what you eat. As I mentioned, you end up eating the right amount with foods that don’t block leptin receptors in your brain. And just in case you do overdo it at a meal, your body’s smart enough to recalibrate your next few meals until you’re back on track.
Listening to your body also has the advantage of feeling more connected to what you’re eating. It makes meals enjoyable, rather than something necessary for survival. You’re less afraid of food. Plus, you’re more in tune with what your body needs to feel its best.
3. Treat yourself every once in awhile
When you’re eating well, it’s okay to indulge every once in awhile. The 80/20 rule is a good rule of thumb. If you’re mostly eating those whole, nutritious foods and you decide you want a treat then go for it. Even eating whatever you want for 1-2 meals a week will be fine in the long run.
In fact, a few weekly treats can help you eat better overall. Strict rules over what you can’t eat can cause you to obsess over those items. Not only does this eat away at your willpower more rapidly because you’re constantly thinking about it, but you’re also more likely to overeat or binge when you finally give in. Knowing you can eat something if you really want it prevents you from obsessing and helps you eat just enough to feel satisfied.
The key here is to choose the foods you’re really going to love. If you think ice cream is only okay, don’t eat ice cream just because work is having an ice cream social. But if you find your favorite cookies at a holiday party and you want to celebrate because it’s the holidays, give yourself permission to have a few guilt-free. You’ll enjoy the party without regrets and get back to eating well the next day.
When you start to enjoy food that’s good for you, that’s when you’ll see the biggest shift in how you look and feel. We’d love to help make that shift as easy and painless as possible.
We deliver precooked meals made with whole ingredients with little to no processing straight to your door. Our specialty is clean comfort food; meals based off food you love and just as delicious to make it a no brainer to choose the healthy option. Even clients who only eat our meals a few times a week find themselves making better choices outside of Methodology once they see what healthy food can taste like.