May 6 is International No Diet Day, a day established to challenge the cultural attitudes and values that contribute to chronic dieting, weight preoccupation, eating disorders, and size discrimination.
Those sound like pretty lofty goals, so let me simplify it a bit. Today is a day to taste freedom from restrictive, unsustainable rules about eating and exercise. You see, No Diet Day is not a day for breaking your diet, but for getting a glimpse of what it's like to break free from dieting altogether.
Short-term thinking vs. long-term solution
In my old diet days, I started each diet feeling motivated and committed, convinced that I was making a permanent lifestyle change. Somewhere along the line I'd find myself thinking, "How long can I stick to this?"
Dieting is a short-term strategy to address the long-term goal of getting healthier. People will eat shakes and bars; eliminate entire food groups; weigh, measure, count, and log everything they eat; avoid parties, birthday cake, and favorite restaurants; and make numerous other sacrifices that they're willing or able to tolerate for only a short period of time.
The problem is you can't diet yourself into a healthy lifestyle! Each round of restriction, deprivation, cravings, emotional eating, bingeing, and guilt, moves you further from the healthy, balanced, mindful life you crave.
What Sustainable Choices Would You Make?
What if, instead of the unsustainable, "I can tolerate anything for a short period of time," approach, you started acting as if you are already the healthier, mindful person you want to be?
- Would you skip meals? Would you replace meals with a bar or a shake? (Maybe, but only occasionally when you were on the run.)
- Would you have that piece of birthday cake? (Probably. Would you have to second or third piece? Maybe not today.)
- Would you track everything you eat? Would you scan the labels, log it in, and talk about your diet incessantly to anyone who will listen? (I doubt it. You would be too busy living the life you crave to bother with all of that!)
- Would you postpone your life, waiting until you had somehow earned the right to live it?
Don't diet today. Instead, begin living the healthier life you crave right now, one decision, one meal, one bite at a time. No Diet Day by no diet day, you will build a sustainable No Diet Life.
Michelle May, M.D. is the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle and the founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training.