Has anyone ever told you about some new diet thing they are doing, and they go on and on about how it works so well for them and tell you how you should try it too? Have you ever jumped around from one diet trend to the next, hoping this next one will be the answer?
So often when we want to make a change, we get so overwhelmed with all the different things we feel like we need to work on. We just want someone to give us the answer, or tell us some secret formula to success.
When it comes to changing our eating habits, so many people will seek out a diet that “works wonders” or “guarantees success”. Afterall, it is so much easier when someone else has laid out all the framework and you just need to learn the dogma of that diet and implement it, right?
Maybe not. What if I were to tell you there was no diet that works the same for everyone. There is no perfect diet. There is no superfood that is going to solve all that ails you. There is no “secret sauce” when it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes.
When you are changing your eating habits or your lifestyle, it might feel like you are in a space between old habits and new habits. It is uncomfortable because change is hard. It can even feel scary, especially when you need to change because of a new medical diagnosis. The idea of facing a significant change and trying new things can make it feel like you don’t know what you are doing. It can feel messy. That is why so many of us turn quick fixes and crash diets to give us the answers. But, to quote the wise Brene Brown: “The middle is messy, but that’s also where the magic happens”
We are all different in what motivates us to change, we are also all different in how we live our lives. We all value different things. We all eat for different reasons. We all like different foods. We all react differently to what life throws at us. Behind the idea of “dieting” (or diet culture) lives the notion that there is something wrong with how you eat or live your life. But don’t worry, whoever is selling this idea can also sell you the fix to correct all your wrongs! At least that is what they will have you believe.
When I was around 13 years old, a middle aged woman said to me that she was sick of failing on all these weight loss diets... so on January 1st, she would go to the store to buy every weight loss product she could find. She was sure that this would finally be her answer. (which leads to the discussion around propagating body image ideals and diet culture to our youth, but that is a whole other blog post)
The thing is, that how can we expect long-term change from short-term solutions? How can we know that a “detox reset” is going to lead to any meaningful, sustainable change? What makes anyone so sure that a cookie-cutter, quick fix solution does anything to address the root cause?
When you want to change your behaviour, you need to learn why you behave and react the way that you do, so you understand your influences. If you just slap on a new behaviour, you are bypassing that important step.
Learn to be okay with that messy middle, that is where you learn all those valuable lessons. You might have some slip-ups. And is okay. Normal eating means being flexible. It means being compassionate toward yourself.
When you have a day that you find yourself feeling uncomfortable from eating more cookies in one sitting than you were hungry for, try not to let the shame monsters take over and guilt you over your lack of “willpower”. Instead, play detective and investigate what was going on that day that might have lead you do open up the cookie jar. Use that experience as a sacred lesson, so that when you are feeling like that again you can react differently. But always knowing that normal eating also means having cookies sometimes, because they taste darn good!
If you find yourself wondering what foods you need to eliminate or what “superfoods” you need to eat every day, just remember that healthy eating is about balance. It is about including a variety of foods, paying attention to when you are hungry or full, and best of all… enjoying the food you eat.
Figuring out what is best for you and your health can take some trial and error. But we need to shift our mindset away from “15 days to fitness”, and toward learning to take those small steps in the direction toward a healthy lifestyle that will last you many years.
Yes, the middle can get messy, but that is where you find out so much about yourself that will help you to keep those changes going strong for years to come. Because remember, that is where the magic happens.