I don’t wear a white coat or carry a prescription pad. I don’t have an office where those seeking a food solution to prevent or manage illness come to see me. Instead, we meet in the comfort of their homes to chat (and eventually chew). Step one is an extensive evaluation in which one of my first questions is, “What are your goals in working with me?” Nine out of ten times, weight loss is numero uno on the list (whether that person needs to lose weight or not). We gab about personal health history, family health history, relationship to food (as in what their diet was like growing up, who cooked, etc.); we touch on exercise and dive into what’s eaten in a day before I once again ask, “Can you rethink what your goals are in working with me?” And most of the time the answer is something like, “To gain a better understanding of what a healthy diet is for me [and my family] and to shift my eating habits to support my overall health.” Hallelujah! And then there is a pause before they ask, “Do you think that I will still lose weight?” After years of working with people from all walks of life, I can tell you this: With the right help and a real commitment on your part, you can get healthy and stay healthy.
I don’t believe in dieting. By definition, dieting means to restrict oneself to small amounts of food or special food in order to lose weight. I can tell you that based on years of experience (even with those who need to lose weight), the simple word “restricting” is a trigger for most. And it’s at the heart of all dieting nosedives.
So let me spin this a little differently for you; let’s lose the word “dieting” and replace it with “re-inventing food lifestyle”—the center stone of my work. And please understand that “sticking to” begins with truly understanding what you are doing and why. As I can’t work with everyone one on one, Chapter 16 in my book can be this guide for you and it starts with a food diary and plan of action (that includes some critical reflection questions).
However, I know how deeply complicated shifting food choice is and can be—working with people for almost two decades has given me great insight. But I can, with confidence, say that whether your challenges are time, access, cost of eating healthfully, or confusion over choice, getting an edible education is the true foundation to shifting food lifestyle and being able to stick to it. Knowledge, in the end, is power. Realizing that this authentic edible education was hard to come by as many health experts interests are skewed by corporate influence (i.e. a popular morning show nutrition expert pushes trans-fat and sugar-filled Skippy peanut butter as part of a healthy breakfast), I wrote the how to guide to offer my readers the tools to understand the ins and outs of navigating food choice, thus giving them the tools to shift food lifestyle.
But surely be my guest and choose the 5-Day this or the 21-Day that, but when you’re finished with those fads, you will likely go right back to the same old unhealthy structure you came from. And the cycle repeats. Most plans are not tailored to you (don’t forget, you are an individual) and certainly they make promises that they can’t keep—nor can you— as they are flat-out unrealistic.
So, how do you stick to a diet? Never go on one again! And start re-inventing your food lifestyle by spending some real time looking into what is “broken,” whether solo or with the support of a trained nutrition expert, as this will give you the best shot at fixing it and shifting long-term to support your health.
I wish I had that quick solution for you. But there is no such thing. True nourishment takes time, education and thoughtfulness. So I urge you to breathe deeply and dare to be different!
To stay connected with Stefanie, sign up for her blog — bi-weekly ruminations, radio shows and recipes, and follow her on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Her book,What the Fork Are You Eating? (Tarcher/Penguin Random House) is available wherever books are sold. You can also catch Stefanie’s recent TEDx Talk here.