Why your diet didn’t work… and what to do instead

OK confession time... this post is just as much about why no diet ever worked for me. The funny thing about diets is that in every other area of our lives we see ourselves as individuals - we don't all apply for the same career, we don't all read the same books and we don't all try to look good in the same outfit. But somehow, whenever a new "diet" is popular, many of us attempt to make it fit.

The last time I dieted was before my wedding. I dished out a fair bit to join a popular program, and then discovered (in hindsight, not surprisingly) that the food didn't even closely resemble how I need to eat to feel well, and I couldn't stand the exercise program.Since studying naturopathy, the penny has dropped. Rather than trying to make ME fit a generic diet, I need to make my nutrition and exercise fit me. It's like I got a PhD in Rocket Science! The thing is, there's so many aspects of us as complex humans that determines what we're likely to eat. The trick is to examine these keys and understand how to use them to unlock better health.

Fit within your lifestyle

Have you ever tried to follow an eating plan that just doesn't fit your lifestyle? It pretty quickly becomes ridiculous. If you're someone who eats out often due to a busy work schedule or as part of your social life, a meal plan that includes hours in the kitchen or weird processed meals delivered to your door, may not be sustainable. I've learnt to choose from what's around me and prepare ahead when I know I'll be on the road.

Eat to your taste

One of the reasons that last diet failed me was it was designed for someone who eats meat and wheat. I am vegetarian by beliefs and wheat-free by necessity, so it just was unworkable. Instead, I now choose the healthiest options from the foods I love - healthy Indian curries and wholesome soups and salads.

Address the issue

Diet programs tell us what to eat, but usually we fall down for reasons other than lack of knowledge. When I eat chocolate it's not because I think it's healthy, it's because I'm tired or upset or feel I need nurturing. When I eat crisps it's not part of a plan, it's a response to stress and overwhelm. No amount of instructions help, but having a strategy for stress and upset makes a huge difference.

Differentiate between food triggers

Not all food triggers are created equal. It's entirely feasible for me to eat a small slice of cake, or none at all. But if you open a bag of vinegary crisps near me, I will not rest until they are eaten. I can be moderate in drinking wine, but when I used to drink caffeinated soft drinks it was a choice between daily or never. So for me, I can plan my nutrition to include these foods and be extra healthy elsewhere, or avoid them entirely. I chose to keep chocolate and ditch soft drink. It comes down to knowing ourselves. If you struggle to cut back on a particular food, consider that you have an addictive relationship to it, and handle the situation from that perspective.

Identify the influences

We know that understanding healthy nutritional options is only part of why we choose a food - it helps to bring awareness to some of the others. We are influenced by our environment. If your home is filled with a certain food, it is likely that will be the food you eat. If the shops near your work sell junk, you'll need to be prepared with better options. And your environment is social too.. what are your friends, family and partner eating? Where are the situations that will be challenging to make wise nutritional choices? I know that keeping junk food out of my house reduces my intake by about half, and if I don't have healthy snacks with me in the office, my 3pm munchies will drive me to the box of fundraiser chocolate. Like all these points: know yourself, and plan ahead.

Are we even making conscious choices?

Some of my food choices make no sense in my current life. Vinegar crisps?? What am I, 15 and my parents have left me alone for a weekend? What kind of a food choice is this for a naturopathy student? Our food choices are about our history, our stories, the advertisements we see, ingrained habits. I try to stay away from advertising in all its forms and keep awareness of myself. We may not always be conscious of what drives our behaviour, but we can play with our patterns. If you can't skip chocolate, at least only eat it when you're full from a healthy meal first.

Stop the crazy talk

Ever noticed the crazy way we talk to ourselves? Here's an example, "Oh now I've eaten a piece of pie, I might as well give up and eat the whole lot". Ummm....no. Just no. I mean, can you imagine saying that to a child whose health was in your care? "Yes Jimmy, sweets are bad for you and now you've had 1 you might as well eat the whole bag!". Didn't think so.

Play the long game

What goes up, must come down. If we go on a diet, we must go off it. Most diets aren't going to fit into our life long term. Which is why so many people lose a few kilos only to put it back on when they resume normal life. Give up the diet and look at your real life for opportunities to take good care of yourself instead.Form new habits and a new way of living in the world that sustains and nurtures your body.

All you need is love

In the past, all my attempts at diets came from a place of dieting to be good enough. Talk about setting myself up to fail. Here's the better way... decide from now on that you love yourself and your body; your food choices will fall into place when you are deciding what to eat based on how you want to feel and how you want to take care of yourself.If you would like a free journal page to explore how to apply these ideas to your diet and self care, sign up below.Now I'd like to here from you.. which idea will you be implementing to love your body with better nutrition today?

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