No Diets Allowed – Just Stay Mindful.
Have you ever (like me and probably the entire population of the Western world) tried one of the many weight-loss diets that exist?
Was it a wonderful, satisfactory experience, that enabled you to reach your goal weight easily and smoothly? (You may have already noticed a bit of sarcasm here...)
Have you kept your weight stable since then, feeling great about yourself, fit and healthy while enjoying your food?
Do you feel in control of your eating?
Chances are it wasn't all it's cracked up to be by diet gurus, and that their rules and restrictions are just not working for you...
At least, that's how it was for me!
I realised that I have a few internal guidelines, which I have gleaned over many years, and that really work for me.
They are not diet rules. I don't believe in diets or processed diet 'foods'. I don't think they are good for you or that they even help you to maintain a healthy weight.
No, these 5 'rules' are more about the mindset that I have arrived at when it comes to eating and drinking.
I was hesitant to post this article because I recognize that I have never had a serious weight problem. At my heaviest I was about 10 kilos than I am now. But in my late teens and early twenties it was enough to have me feeling totally obsessed and unhappy about how I looked and felt.
I eventually turned that around when I discovered yoga, a complete mind-body-spirit practice, and a real form of self-love (although I didn't realize that at the time.)
So here are my 'rules':
- Keep it simple!
- Set your own limits
- Notice the effects
- Create windows
- Clear your stuff
Keep it simple!
I eat pretty much the same thing every day during the day and then vary the evening meal. That may sound a little strange but it’s what works for me.
This could be along the lines of ‘Successful people – no men, it must be men - wear the same clothes every day.' Well, not the same clothes, but you know what I mean!
At the moment this is what that looks like (and please, please, please don’t, for one moment, think that I am telling you to eat like this. This works for me...you have to discover your own way!):
I start the day with fresh orange juice and then, until lunchtime, just eat fresh fruit. As much as I want during the course of the morning. And I drink water and I allow myself two white coffees. (Yup, with caffeine.) For lunch I have brown bread with olive oil (after all I do live in Spain) or butter (because I love it), and tomato (with a little salt and black pepper). Yum. Also a carrot! Sometimes some broth too. In the afternoon I have a cup of tea with milk (as I am English!)
Then in the evening I stick to the guidelines of ‘food-combining’, or rather, ‘non-food-combining’ as I prefer to think of it. I choose either proteins or carbohydrates and eat them (as much as I want) with salad and/or vegetables. I use salad dressing and sometimes butter on the vegetables to make them more delicious.
If I drink alcohol in the evening (not during the day as it makes me so sleepy) I again don’t combine. Either red wine or white wine, or beer or gin and tonic (which doesn’t count as a combination! I’m English!)
‘And that's it? You never break this pattern? What, never?’, I hear you cry.
Like the Captain's Song in Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Pirates of Penzance'. (Listen to it here.)
‘Well, hardly ever….!!’ (‘He’s hardly ever sick at sea...’)
Now, I am pretty religious about this, but not to the point of spoiling things when I go out or am travelling. I might go for salad and bread at lunchtime (wheeeee!!!) or even combine from time to time. But although I am a little less ‘rigid’ I normally still stick to the ‘only fruit until midday’ rule and choosing either proteins or carbs. I find that I can then eat plenty without overeating and finding myself ‘stuffed’ at the end of a special meal or party.
Because I know that the next day I can choose something different, I never feel deprived, so I don’t feel the need to binge or go crazy.
Oh, and when I have a concert, I take an apple and lumps of cheese and eat them right before going on stage. My duo partner and other fellow musicians are used to me by now.
By now you might be thinking, ‘That’s nothing like enough food.’ or ‘My God, she’s the most boring person on the planet.’ Or any number of things.
I just know it works for me. I’ve eaten like this for about twenty-eight years now and have maintained the same body weight (apart from my two pregnancies - and remember, the second was with twins!)
About 55.5 kilos (122 lb) for my 5´4´´. Although I hardly ever weigh myself. I threw away my scales years ago as I used to be so obsessive way back when.
You have to work it out for yourself. For your body and your circumstances and your lifestyle.
This, then, is my second rule of thumb:
Set your own limits
’I believe in good, old-fashioned ‘Moderation in all things!’
And I say ‘No’ a lot.
It drives my children nuts:
‘Look, Mummy. I made a cake. It's absolutely delicious.'
‘Yes, it looks gorgeous.’
‘No, thanks, I’m fine.’
Notice the effects
When you eat or drink something what are the physical and emotional consequences?
Personally, I can eat bread and dairy (in moderation) without ill effects but I recognize that some people can’t.
So notice how you feel after meals or after eating certain foods:
- Do you feel lethargic or more energetic?
- How about the quantity? What are your comfort limits with that particular food?
- Do you have any physical discomfort or does your body feel fine?
- Does this food lead to craving more of the same or other foods?
- How do you feel emotionally? Good, bad or indifferent?
I have found that if I eat a lot at lunch, and especially if I drink alcohol, then it just knocks me out for the afternoon and I tend to feel somewhat grumpy. There are occasions when I do break my own rules (the other week we were at a wedding lunch, for example, and I drank red wine with the meal. I then slept a two hour siesta when I got home.) But I keep that to the minimum.
Here are some other of my 'cause and effect' foods and drinks:
- I have found that strong flavours, like raw onion or garlic, lead me to wanting to drink alcohol or sweet drinks or to eat dessert (which I don’t normally do.) And vice versa in fact.
- Chocolate one day definitely leads to craving it the next.
- Fudge; I can’t have in the house, but boiled sweets don’t even whisper to me.
- And coca cola…or diet coke in my case...
I started drinking it at the end of my teens when I was, well, shall we say, ‘chubby’. (And the diet coke didn’t help that at all.)
How did I kick the habit? Well, it was quite simple.
I had a private violin student who I used to teach once a week at her apartment not far from my home in Madrid. Every week I would arrive around five p.m. and she, or her lovely mother, would hand me a diet coke on ice at the beginning of the class. I loved it. I was totally addicted. I remember one (horrible) occasion when they greeted me at the front door with anxious looks on their faces.
'Oh my God, what’s happened? Is someone ill?'
No, worse than that. There was no diet coke in the house. Well, I got through the afternoon and luckily for them there was no repetition of that awful event.
So, how did I stop? As I said, the ‘cure’ was simple. Elena, my student, grew up and went to Harvard to study!
And I stopped having the Monday afternoon triggers and so I stopped drinking those, plus another couple of cokes, every week.
Anyway, you get the idea. Work it out for yourself and then do yourself a favour as often as possible.
And just to add. I don’t see any of this as restricting myself in any way. I just know it’s what makes me feel good, so it’s fine by me.
Well, I am not great on the deprivation thing. As I said before, diets never worked for me – the time in my life when I was at my heaviest (again apart from my pregnancies) was when I was pretty much permanently dieting.
OMG, the Scarsdale Diet. I still can’t smell black coffee or dry brown toast (yuck!) without remembering how hungry and cross and miserable (and plump!) I was when I was trying to follow that military regime!!!
So instead I say to myself, 'OK, you can have coffee, but only before lunchtime and only two a day.' (And it's white because of Dr Scarsdale!)
Or, 'Cake is fine, but only round about teatime, if I am hungry, and only one slice. And I'm going to enjoy it.'
That way I regulate automatically. Without saying a big fat ‘No’ to myself which leads me to feeling grumpy and to cravings and inner rebellion (the old, ‘What you resist persists.’)
And last but definitely not least...
Clear your stuff
In my next article I will go into the importance of this final 'rule' and share the tools and techniques that have worked for me and countless other people. Stay tuned...
In the meantime, start to create your own guidelines. Take notes, keep a diary, observe and find out what works for you. After all you are with you 24/7, every moment of your life. Who better to make the rules?
- Diets that focus just on the physical (calories in/out) don't work longterm
- Through observing what feels good and right for you work out your own rules and guidelines
- Rather than saying 'no' to yourself, set limits little by little and 'do yourself a favour' as often as possible
- Those limits can be around what you eat, in what quantity, and by setting time frames for yourself