|There really should be water in the glass. Sorry dairy lobby.|
1/5th — Foundation work
1/5th — Exercise
3/5ths — Diet
I've saved the hardest one (my hardest one) for last mainly because it's something that I struggle with, but also because I couldn't figure out how to jump into it. That is until this past xmas and I was talking with my dad (hi Dad!).
Dad and I always talk to each other a lot–and about a wide range of topics. I think his least favorite topic is when I start talking to him about his health, or about how many of my issues with food, exercise, and my body were inherited from him and my mom (check out "Discovering Dad" Part 1 and Part 2!) (this is in the spirit of understanding, not blaming).
Turns out that dad really hates the word "diet" as in "What's your diet like?"
Dad associates the word "diet" with fad diets and/or deprivation (like the time when he went on a super low fat diet; got results but was miserable).
I'm kinda on the other side of "diet" being a loaded word (thankfully). I've been able to disarm the bomb that is the word "diet" and see if for what it really is (my definition): the stuff you choose to put in your mouth, how much of it, with the intent of it helping you live (a healthy) life. The thing is, the focus of the definition is on the word "choose." Let that sit for a second.
Some people may choose to be vegetarian or vegan. Some people may choose to be paleo, do whole 30, or suck air. Some pick choose to pick up a magazine with pretty photos and promises of results. Some people choose to believe government guidelines. That's their choice.
But... what leads up to that choice? (what follows is my opinion)
(1) your attitudes about food (such as certain cultural beliefs, your preference/taste, etc.)
(2) your knowledge of what your own body needs (your relationship with your body/mind affects the decisions you make regarding food–do you need more calories one day? do you need to focus on getting a particular vitamin? etc.)
(3) your relationship with food (is it fuel? is it an emotional issue? etc.),
That feels super complex, but most of those choices happen subconsciously. When we feel that we need to change our diet for one reason or another, we begin to pay more attention to how the question of choice breaks down. We bring consciousness to our beliefs and habits. And sometimes it's gentle and constructive, sometimes it's harsh and detrimental.
We examine those ways we can choose what we put in our mouth and how much and for what purpose:
(1) Can you change your attitudes about food?
(2) Can you change your knowledge of what your own body needs?
(3) Can you change your relationship with food?
I think this is what most people are really doing when they "go on a diet"–they are reexamining those questions not through their own process and examining within, but instead relying on outside information rather than examining within.
I don't want to promote any diet over another. Everyone has different needs. But I do want to advocate everyone looking at their diet and asking themselves if it's working for them. And if it's not, I hope you feel empowered to try and make small, sustainable changes. Your body has a wisdom all its own–listen to it.
As for Dad, I drew my handy dandy quadrant diagram (still a work in progress). The whole point of it is that all foods can be put on a spectrum and you have to know how to rate food. In terms of volume (feeling full) you want nutrient dense but caloric efficiency. You can have red meat, but understand that as compared to some other proteins, you should probably have less of it because there's less "bang for the buck."
Long story short–"diet" is not a dirty word. It's the word that describes how we fuel our lives.