Diets are not sustainable.
They operate with a mentality of scarcity and deprivation.
They force us to remove whole food groups that can actually be great for us when done right.
They take too much effort: weighing, counting, thinking, stressing.
They separate us from the people with whom we want to feel freedom and ease.
Plain and simple, they don't work.
Counting calories, in particular, is based on an average measure for some generic "average" body that doesn't exist. There are too many other factors at play when it comes to fueling ourselves for a generic measure to make sense, and as I've written about before [in this article on Nutritarianism], not all calories are created equal. There's no one set of guidelines that works for everyone, so why spend each day trying to squeeze ourselves into a box where weight and numbers mean everything? No one body is the same, and no one's lifestyle is identical, so there's no way a prescribed range of calories can be universally applicable. Similarly, adhering to strict food guidelines without taking our unique composition into account won't do us any good. One person can eat Food Plan A and feel awesome and thrive; someone else can eat the same set of foods and feel horrible. We need to identify which foods work for us, uniquely, and run with that -- sans restrictive plan, sans counting, sans guilt.
What all successful "diets" have in common is that they ask us to reduce our intake of junk and increase our intake of real foods. There's no reason this has to mean ONLY grapefruit for a month. We can accomplish the same goal [clean system, more energy, better digestion, shedding of excess weight] in a more sustainable way by incorporating more whole foods.
Think of it this way: 4 cups of cooked veggies are going to have an entirely different effect on the body than 1 cup of french fries. It will also be more filling. And more energizing. And generally less upsetting to the digestive system.
Eat more. Enjoy more. Get more out of your food. Everyday. See? Not a diet.
Limiting our intake only increases our desire to eat more: and it's not because of any particular personal shortcoming. Plain and simple, if the body isn't getting what it needs, it's going to put up a fight to get it: that means out of control cravings, mood swings, low energy. Plain and simple, the body just starts to need more fuel and demands it get some in the quickest way possible. This is when things get tricky and we fall into the trap of eating nutritionally-empty non-foods.
Feeding ourselves with real, lasting fuel means we have enough oomph to get through to the next meal and enough variety to ensure our nutritional means are being met. As much as Slim Fast would like us to think a meal replacement shake or bar provides the same nutrition as the caloric equivalent in real foods, it doesn't (and it has a load of sugar, preservatives, and processed junk we just don't need). Feeling satisfied and not held back by choices makes way of living sustainable. Long term changes require us to break down old habits in new ways we can keep consistent.
Bonus: weight loss happens when the body is functioning well and getting the right combination of real foods it needs to thrive.
I've discovered that having parameters to work within and a sense of structure is freeing. It's not a diet. It's a choice to set ourselves up for success. It's a lifestyle and a process. It has to be constantly retooled: the body changes, and being flexible and open to its signals means we can more easily adapt and give it what it needs.
It just requires us to pay attention to what's working and what isn't... to be mindful and forgiving, and open to what our body asks for.
Get in touch with your food -- particularly the food that you need. Let's talk.