We all knew the four-letter words which, when spoken, would result in quick punishment from our parents, the demand for an immediate apology and a shocked chorus of, “I don’t know where you learned to say such things!” As adults we have the freedom to choose what we say — or don’t say. But even now there are words that make our hair stand on end when we hear them, and among the most cringeworthy is the “D” word: Diet.
Just reading it might send a chill down your spine. Through no fault of its own, this little word has become a front-runner among its offensive peers. And when you think about how it’s used, it’s no wonder! We step on the scale and see numbers we never expected to see and think, “I’ve got to go on a diet.” Or, worse, someone else tells us that we need to diet, which we translate to: “I’m not good enough the way I am.”
The negativity surrounding diet as a word (or action) grows stronger by its connection to another four-letter word: Can’t. How often have you said, “I’m on a diet, I can’t eat that,” or “I can’t go out to dinner because I’m trying to lose weight.” When we’re on a diet, we perceive food choices as either good or bad, and our behaviors become grouped into can or can’t. An invisible but impenetrable line seems to divide everything into two distinct categories so that every decision is viewed as right or wrong. How did we let ourselves fall into this trap? Why do we trap ourselves between Option A (can) and Option B (can’t) when we have everything from C to Z available for the taking?
It’s time to reclaim control of our own weight loss journey! We must shift away from thinking that we have to give up our favorite foods and cut ourselves off from our social connections. Diets typically start on a Monday, make us crazy by Wednesday and turn into frustrated defeat by Friday. A weight loss journey, though, is a process that starts with changing how we think before making changes to how we act. We need to look at the big picture of how we live, and what we eat is just one part of that.
Weight loss (and life itself!) is about feeling good and being healthy enough to enjoy it. We need to start equating weight loss with the positive things that we will add to our lives rather than focusing on what we think we need to give up. And there is so much to gain! Physical, mental and emotional wellness, happiness, mobility, flexibility, and sleep (remember sleep?!), are just a few of the many positive changes we add to our daily lives.
It’s also important to remember that it’s a journey. Think about that for a minute. You could drive from New York to California in two days if you absolutely had to, but imagine how you would feel when you got there. But if you planned your trip on your own timetable and included all the things you really want to do, it becomes an adventure! Sure there will some last minute adjustments here and there, but taking an unplanned route can lead to unexpected and amazing gifts.
Not only is it a journey, it’s your journey. Take some time to consider why you are taking it and what you want to happen along the way. Consider the obstacles you might face (Late night snacking? Lack of time?) and figure out how to manage them, not just for this week but as part of your new lifestyle. Plan for what will happen when your journey goes off track. Will you panic and turn back, or stand strong and face the unknown? Think about what you will gain when you lose. The possibilities are endless!