How to diet by not dieting

  • I was certain I knew how to diet
  • Food situations need to be easy
  • Why do we go to extremes?

The other day I saw an article titled: How to diet on your vacation.

It could have read:

How to diet on your birthday.
How to diet on your wedding.
How to diet on your graduation.
How to diet on your anniversary.
How to diet during your annual cottage weekend.
How to diet when your neighbour drops off cookies.
How to diet when you celebrate your promotion.
How to diet when you’re on a vintage crawl and every store has beer and cake.
(I was on one lately and got a bracelet from the ’80’s that was made in New York. Picture at the top of this post.)

All the standard weight-loss advice, dished out for every occasion, should be re-titled:

How to put a damper on every happy occasion.

But standard weight-loss advice sets you up to fail. Why? Dieting is all about restricting yourself. But restricting is a short-term solution.

For 10 years I restricted what I ate

… and the whole time I was overweight. When I was a chronic dieter, I’d stay away from food I thought was forbidden. Food like ice cream, cookies or cake. I also avoided red meat, olives, cheese, avocados and anything else high in fat. Or I’d eat too many of these fatty foods and restart my diet the next day. There was never any in between. It was always one extreme or the other.

If I resisted higher-fat foods I’d feel deprived. But think I was being “good.”

If I ate higher-fat foods I’d feel guilty. And think I was being “bad.”

But before I arrived at either end of these extremes of dissatisfaction, I’d waver back and forth in a tug of war, trying to decide what to do.

Being on a diet is preoccupying

Sadly, the whole time I was wrestling with what to eat, I wasn’t really present. Instead of giving an opinion or considering another angle, I was going with the flow. I’d nod and smile and say the right things to carry myself through the conversation. But I wasn’t really there. I wasn’t giving my full attention to someone who deserved it.

I should have been learning and growing by getting stuck in. Being present is so important.

Nothing is worth more than this day.

Goethe, writer

How many opportunities do we miss while trying to decide what to eat?

Healthy habits make eating easy

All the confusion around what to eat comes from the how to diet information we’re bombarded with. But the truth is, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, the amount of each type of food you eat should be roughly the same.

Eat balanced meals made of whole foods! Then you’ll meet all your body’s energy and nutrient needs.

Eatwell Guide - the10principles

When you meet your body’s needs:

  1. Your body works at it’s best
    Then it’s easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  2. You stop feeling hungry
    Then you can concentrate on all the great things going on around you.

Make eating balanced meals made of whole foods a habit. Then eating in a way that helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight becomes second nature. Even if you’re at an all-you-can eat buffet. Just like humans can get in the habit of eating a bag of chips and pop, or rice cakes and diet soda, we can get in the habit of eating balanced meals and snacks.

Fat is part of a balanced meal. And just like all the other types of food you eat, the fat you consume should be from a natural source. Stay away from processed foods! Eat cheese, olives, red meat and avocados. Just make sure that when you put them on your plate the food you choose is balanced.

It’s also no big deal to eat ice cream, cookies, cake or another sweet treat. Being flexible is part of a healthy approach to eating. If you restrict yourself, you’ll end up overeating.

Why do we go to extremes?

If you avoid high-fat foods, including the occasional treat, your body will crave it. In other words, if you don’t respect your body’s basic needs the signals your body sends will become stronger. When you finally meet this need you’ll likely overeat because your body’s become desperate for the nutrients found in fat.

Restricting drives you to extremes.

In Summary: How to diet

Don’t diet! Whether you’re home or away, eating balanced meals that include higher-fat foods prevents you from overeating. When having balanced meals becomes a habit, your choices are easy no matter where you are, who you’re with or what you’re doing. Bring on the pool parties. Attend the art openings. Go to your favourite restaurant. Enjoy your holiday!

When I stopped trying to figure out how to diet and reintroduced fat into my meals and snacks, I reached a healthy weight.

Ignore diet rules, tips and tricks. Instead build healthy habits! Here’s a strategy.



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What’s your earliest memory of being told how to diet?