Sustainable Changes: Living at Peace with Your Food

by Joshua Danker-Dake

I am anti-diet. If I go on a diet, I’m almost certain to be unhappy while I’m on it, and I’m just as likely to gain most if not all or more of that weight back afterward. I know this is true for a lot of people.

Why should we be surprised that extreme dietary fluctuations result in extreme weight fluctuations? I’ve lost fifty pounds over the years—none of it on a “diet.” For the vast majority of us, diets are not the solution. The solution is small, gradual, sustainable changes to the way we eat, because changes we can live with are changes that will lead to the formation of lasting habits.

Remember that food is fuel. It’s better if we don’t treat it as an adversary. To that end, I’m never going to say to you, “Don’t ever eat x,” or, “You absolutely must eat y.” Life is too short.

If you’re sincerely committed to losing weight, here are some ways to go about making lasting changes to your day-to-day eating.

Be reasonable. I don’t want to hear anybody say, “I don’t like vegetables.” That’s like saying, “I don’t like anything blue.” Do you utterly hate lima beans? Cool, don’t eat them. But lima beans taste vastly different from green beans, which taste vastly different from broccoli. Heck, cooked broccoli tastes vastly different from raw broccoli. Most of us aren’t frighteningly passionate about vegetables, but all of us can find some that we don’t mind eating. And realize that you can teach yourself to like a food. It’s worth doing.

Don’t completely deprive yourself. Nothing should be off limits. No food is verboten. Making a do not eat list is how horrific, regret-filled binges happen. I like the eat 90% nutritious food and 10% whatever you want guideline for staying on track while satisfying the inevitable cravings. Keep the treats in the rotation. Just remember that a treat is something out of the ordinary, not a regular or daily thing. Replace ice cream every day with ice cream once a week and you’ll make a lot of progress; replace ice cream every day with no ice cream ever and you’ll find yourself sitting on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night eating straight out of the carton.

Rethink the way you get full. Most of us are accustomed to getting full on carbs—potatoes, bread, pasta, etc. You’ve got your meat, you’ve got your veggie, but mostly it’s the carbs that get you full, right? If you want to lose weight, this is a good place to start—not because carbs are bad (by no means), but because it’s a good way to get the calories down. Because we’re not eating those carbs plain, are we? Bread and butter. Pasta with alfredo sauce. Fried potatoes. It adds up in a delicious hurry. Try replacing half your regular serving of that sort of thing with an equal portion of extra vegetables, and go from there.

If you’re going to succeed, you’ve got to find what works for you, what you can live with. Are sacrifices required? Absolutely—if it was easy, you’d be there already. But small, incremental sacrifices lead to good habits, and good habits lead to steady progress.

Read more from Josh and the sustainable struggle series herehere, here, and here.

Joshua Danker-Dake is the author of the acclaimed comic novel The Retail. A writer and editor by trade, he also serves as the Strategy and Tactics Editor for Diplomacy World, the flagship publication of the Diplomacy hobby. Beyond health and fitness, other things he gets rather excited about include He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, bombastic European power metal, and St. Louis Cardinals baseball.

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