Six Small Nutrition Changes to Make For Big Results
When you read the words ‘big results’ in the headline of this post, you’re probably thinking that I’m going to give you a couple pointers on how to sneakily cut calories for weight loss.
Unfortunately in our culture, ‘big results’ where eating is concerned, generally means ‘dropping pounds quickly’..which is more than enough of a promise for a lot of people to click on this post.
But losing more weight, quicker, is not what this is all about.
Because that’s not what life is all about. At least, it shouldn’t be.
To clarify, when I refer to ‘big results,’ I’m talking about in terms of wellness:
Living your best life without being afraid to eat.
Making some tweaks to some potentially harmful habits you might have picked up during the past year.
Dumping the people who tell you that you need to punish yourself in order to be presentable in a bikini.
Feeling like you’re living your best life.
Unclenching your jaw and really dealing with what’s bothering you.
These things are my version of ‘big results.’ It doesn’t have to be about weight loss.
Are you with me? Here are the six changes you can make for big nutrition results:
Not drinking so much wine.
Listen, I know.
Research (and here) (and my Facebook feed) shows that alcohol has helped a lot of you take the edge off the stress of a global pandemic. And I know I might be telling you something you don’t want to hear, but I’m going to say it anyways:
Stop drinking so much. Please.
In addition to the negative physical health consequences – excessive alcohol use has been linked to liver damage, heart disease, brain damage, and certain cancers, and women are even more susceptible to these than men – there’s the effect on mood, as well.
Alcohol is a depressant, and while you might feel relaxed while drinking, long-term mental health effects can include depression and anxiety.
We are getting sick more and we are dying more of alcohol-related illnesses. Alcohol has become part of our culture, and so has over-drinking.
If you frequently drink (or eat) emotionally, you need other tools in your coping toolbox.
A therapist can help you with that.
Taking care of your business.
As I write about in my book Good Food, Bad Diet, we tend to focus on the physical aspect of what we’re eating: which weight loss diet is popular, how many pounds we can lose, how we look, what size clothes we wear, etc.
But if you’re a chronic dieter, going on another diet isn’t going to help you get down to the real reason why you feel the way you do about food and your body. Diets are just a band-aid on what’s really bothering you.
You need to fix your relationship with food and your body before making any other lasting, meaningful change to your physical and emotional wellness.
Figuring out your negative core beliefs (something we do in the book, right at the beginning, because it’s the most important work) is where you need to start.
Why do you feel this way about food?
Who made you hate your body?
What are your beliefs around how you fit into this world, the way you are?
I’m not going to sugar coat it, this work can be tough.
But so is punishing yourself by going on diet after diet for the rest of your life. And, telling yourself you’re not good enough. And, teaching your kids that thin equals worthy, and continuing that negative cycle for them, too.
Give yourself over to the process of figuring this stuff out, and break the cycle.
Not going on another diet…even one that claims to not be a diet.
I recently covered a local ‘diet expert’s’ diet plan, which is clearly a weight loss (starvation) diet that they tell everyone isn’t a diet at all.
Same with Noom: my review (read it here) uncovers the plain truth that this eating plan, which is marketed as a non-diet, is very much a diet.
Know the red flags of diets:
Cutting out bread, pasta, rice, and other carbs…or being made to feel guilty about eating them.
Mentions of ‘detoxing.’
‘Clean eating,’ or having a ‘do not eat’ list.
Having a specific calorie budget.
Using fear tactics to convince you that certain foods are ‘toxic’ or not worth eating.
Focusing on weight loss as a measure of the ultimate success.
Have a ‘tough-love’ approach that’s like a punishment.
Having a short-term duration – like 12 weeks – to lose weight or complete the ‘program.’
Being instructed to weigh yourself every day, and/or record everything you eat.
Following a specific food plan that tells you what to eat, when.
If you’re so desperate to lose weight that the thought of starving your way into a ‘beach body’ is okay with you, please 1. ask yourself why you’re ready to hurt yourself to look a certain way and 2. please reconsider.
The reasons why I’m telling you to stop going on these (or any) diets, are:
They aren’t sustainable.
They usually end up with rebound weight gain.
A ‘beach body’ is any body on a beach.
They aren’t fun. Yes, eating should be enjoyable.
They just make any food issues you have, worse.
They’re horrible for your mental health, leading to guilt and shame around eating.
They set a bad example for your kids.
They micromanage your hunger and eating…which, FYI: don’t need to be micromanaged, no matter what some ‘diet expert’ tells you.
They foster distrust in your body and how it works.
Do I need to go on?
Now some of you are probably thinking, ‘So if I want to lose weight, how do I do it without a diet?’
I’ll get you started:
First stop on that train: do your work around your relationship with food.
Next stop: check your expectations around what you want versus what’s realistic and will allow you to live your best life. Because a lot of times, those don’t line up for people.
Then, speak to a dietitian. Not someone who calls themselves an ‘expert’ with no nutrition training, but an actual expert.
Never forcing yourself to eat food you hate…or cut out food you love.
I swear, if I see one more person choking down cayenne and lemon water or nasty green pond water, because ‘they’re healthy!’…I’m going to cry.
It doesn’t make you healthier to force yourself to eat things you hate, especially when lemon water, ACV water, and chlorophyll are all bogus.
Don’t like broccoli or kale? Eat the vegetables you do like. Nothing bad is going to happen to you if the range of vegetables you consume is limited.
And of course, cutting foods out of your diet unnecessarily is the hallmark of a bad diet.
Gluten, wheat, and dairy are all the usual suspects that alternative providers generally like to cut from peoples’ diets…because INFLAMMATION! (except no, these foods aren’t inflammatory for the vast majority of people).
Be very skeptical of anyone who tells you – and everyone else – that you need to cut things out for no good reason.
Anyone who’s telling you to cut out bread or pasta because they ‘make your insulin go crazy’ or some other similar story has no idea what they’re talking about. Non-diabetic bodies can more than handle a moderate amount of carbs just fine.
Someone who goes on about how toxic and addictive sugar is, is also wrong. Listen – you might feel as though you’re addicted to sugar, but sugar isn’t a true addiction. And in small amounts, it certainly isn’t toxic.
Cutting out foods when you don’t have to can decrease satisfaction (which is different than fullness. Fullness is a physical sensation, satisfaction is psychological). It can also make you crave these foods even more.
Being told that you should avoid foods for no good reason can also create feelings of guilt and shame when you eventually eat them.
We all want to be healthy, but whittling your diet down to lean proteins and vegetables for the rest of your life, isn’t the answer.
Satisfying your hunger.
‘You’re not hungry, you’re thirsty!’ or, ‘hunger is just your body getting excited that you’re finally listening to it!’
Yes, there are weight loss and ‘experts’ who tell people this garbage.
When you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Period.
Ignoring that hunger is not only counterproductive, often leading to overeating later; it’s also demoralizing. Hunger is one of our most basic needs that should be met.
When you need to pee, you go to the bathroom, right? Do you hold back because ‘it’s not time to pee yet?’ Do you tell yourself you just peed, that you have to wait another couple hours before you pee again? No. You don’t.
So why would you try to talk yourself out of hunger, which is just another innate bodily cue?
Don’t let someone tell you that ‘once the sun goes down, you shouldn’t be hungry anyhow’ or that you need to train your body to be happy with less food.
For god’s sake, please EAT. And dump any ‘expert’ who tells you that you should be ignoring your hunger or suppressing it with any means other than actual food.
Knowing that you don’t have to choose the low-cal swaps.
Having a piece of fruit instead of the chips you really crave probably isn’t going to do it. And while you might get away with mashing cauliflower into your potatoes, what’s the benefit of that? Really?
Welcome to 2021. The year you’re going to satisfy your cravings!
I’m not here to tell you to dump the shiritaki noodles if you love them.
I just want you to understand that nothing bad is going to happen to you if your pasta isn’t made out of hearts of palm or your smoothie isn’t made with powdered peanut butter.
If you love powdered peanut butter, go for it.
But if it’s something you’re eating because you’re afraid of the real thing, please think about that. What are you missing by not eating the real thing? Is the alternative that much ‘better?’
Because nobody is eating cloud bread and really thinking that it’s as delicious as real bread.
While calories ‘saved’ might add up to weight loss over time, this isn’t a given. We tend to eat more when we choose lower-calorie options. Something about increased permissiveness, along with less satisfaction. It all tends to balance out in the end. And pleasure has to be part of the equation.
My philosophy? Eat the real thing. Move on. Be happy.