Did you know that today is International No Diet Day? Since 1992, May 6 has been declared the day to celebrate body acceptance and body shape diversity, and to increase awareness of the dangers of diets. Predominantly celebrated in Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, India and Israel (who knew?), INDD emphasizes the following: 1) Doubt the idea of one “right” body shape; 2) Raise awareness of weight discrimination and size bias; 3) Declare a free day from diets and obsessions about body weight; and 4) Present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets.
So, in honour of International No Diet Day, I invite you to join me in enjoying a big piece of chocolate cake! Also, as I’m a doctor with a degree in nutrition, I’d like to share with you some of my own tips about healthy weight management and weight loss (that DON’T involved dieting).
Growing up, I was obsessed with dieting and calories. It began when I was 10, when my diet-obsessed aunt convinced me to try a “grapes-only” diet she’d read about in a magazine. We only ate grapes – that was the “diet”. We only lasted a few hours, thank goodness. Things got really bad when I started university, after a rather unkind “friend” told me that I was fat (I weighed 125 pounds, and am 5’8” tall!). I started counting every calorie, and developed a phobia about fat in foods.
Luckily, another friend recognized what was going on, and sent me to a dietitian that their sister had been seeing for similar issues. She told me that the way I was eating (and also compulsively exercising) was actually shutting down my metabolism. She challenged me to live by the following magic words: “Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full”. She made me a bet that not only would I not gain weight, but I’d have more energy and feel great. She was right. I’ve lived by that rule, generally, ever since, and my weight hasn’t gone up and down more than five pounds in 17 years, since I heard those words. Because of her, I also decided to become a dietetician, and got a degree in dietetics before going on to med school.
So here are my “healthy body, healthy weight, healthy life tips” for you today, International No Diet Day:
1) Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full! The first step in this is to start asking yourself this, when you begin to crave food: Am I really hungry? You’ll probably discover that, more often than not, you’re eating for emotional reasons – because you’re bored, or tired, or angry, or sad, or lonely, for example. Or, in my case – proscrastinating! In these situations, snacking doesn’t truly help the emotion, because though it feels good in the moment, it actually leaves you feeling worse about yourself afterwards. Learn to recognize the difference between true hunger and emotional eating, and you may never have to “diet” again.
2) Eating healthy isn’t about deprivation – there’s room for everything in a healthy diet, in moderation. And I mean everything (unless you have a medical condition in which you need to be particularly careful, such as diabetes). Obviously, the less healthy or more fatty/junky a food is, the less often you should be eating it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, ever. Go ahead! Especially today.
3) Forget about diets. If you’d like to lose weight, or maintain a healthy diet, you can do that through a variety of healthy food choices. Sometimes, you might need a little help – some of my friends here in Cabo “subscribe” to a meal-delivery service that provides a huge variety of gourmet yummy meals that are designed to meet a certain calorie level. I think that’s great, and it really works – and they don’t feel like they’re on a diet, at all! The key to maintaining a healthy weight is finding healthy foods, and food habits, that you enjoy eating. Living healthy is a way of life – an enjoyable way of life, not about extreme sacrifice and weird tricks or techniques or fads.
4) Love yourself, no matter what size you are. Who you are is much more important than your body size, no matter what society might tell you. If you’re a good, kind, honest person who’s overweight, I’d rather spend time with you than with a skinny, nasty person!
5) Take time to enjoy your food. Eat consciously. Eat at a table, not in front of the television. Find healthy foods that you love (I love sushi, berries, granola bars, big bowls of multigrain cereal and Asian-inspired stir-fries with lots of vegetables)
Today, focus on what’s good about you, your life, and your food! Into everyone’s life a little chocolate cake must fall …have a wonderful day!