Written By: Andrene M. Taylor, Ph.D.
I’ve never been on a diet. Okay, not for real. A few years back, when the South Beach Diet was all the rage, I tried it. I purchased the South Beach Diet book and the cookbook. I was excited. I read the book; leafed through the cookbook and picked out recipes; and I went to the grocery store to purchase all the ingredients.
I lasted three days.
Looking back at the diet, I realized it was far too challenging for me. Suddenly, I felt restricted, and I was inundated with too many new foods at once—silken tofu and tempeh (all these years later, I am still not a fan of tempeh). The South Beach Diet was not for me.
In fact, no diet is for me.
Besides, I would tell myself, I don’t really need to lose weight. I want to lose weight diet. I’ve maintained the same weight +/- 10-12lbs since I was sixteen. Like most Americans, I am slightly obsessed preoccupied with my weight. Right now, half the country is on a diet and two-thirds of the country is overweight or obese (Ornish, NewYork Times, Eating for Health, Not Weight).
Eating a balanced diet and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise four days a week is a simple prescription to ward off heart disease, diabetes, a ton of different cancers, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Doing what it takes to maintain a healthy weight is simple, but it’s not easy.
The South Beach Diet wasn’t easy or simple. It didn’t work for me because I am a real person. Diets aren’t for real people. They are for fake people we love to hate. You know those people. The ones who can do anything—temporarily that is. They can climb mountains, scale buildings in a single leap, and or survive on a liquid diet for days—at least 30 days, just enough to drop those 15lbs that sent them over the edge. But, they can’t stay on the diet long enough to address the real source of the problem: poor eating habits.
When I stopped doing the South Beach Diet, I reverted back to some of my own poor eating habits. (Just for the record, I am not and have never been a junk food eater; one would be hard pressed to find me in a drive through.) At the time, I was an undereducated eater who didn’t know how to consistently eat balanced meals. While I heard about the importance of having a high fiber diet, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and proteins (limited animal proteins), I had no idea how to include these foods in my diet. I certainly didn’t know how much of these foods to eat on a daily basis. And, I know that I am most like Americans. So, what did I do about it?
I had to learn how to eat.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about learning how to eat is that we have to take foods out of our diets. That’s not true. Most of us need to begin by adding foods to our diet. By adding foods, I don’t necessarily mean going to Whole Foods and buying silken tofu, tempeh, and 3 lbs of Swiss Chard. I simply mean adding breakfast to your daily meals, adding a fruit during lunch, a salad and another vegetable during dinner. Learning how to eat is about experiencing abundance, marveling and enjoying all that is here for us to consume and enjoy. It’s not about deprivation like most diet plans would have us believe. In the end, it’s not about a diet at all. It’s about lifestyle. Eating foods that nourish and replenish your body is about transforming your relationship with food. It’s really about gaining peace and joy in your life because the food that you intake supports your life. The food is yet another ingredient in recipe that you have devised to live a healthy life.
With this is in mind, I welcome you to the 90 Un-challenge Challenge!
The Un-Challenge Challenge is broken into 30-day increments. Each 30-days builds on the other. The first 30 days we are going to focus on doing what we, individually, want to do to improve our diets (e.g., eating breakfast; drinking more water, eliminating caffeine, soft drinks, or sugar; reducing our flour intake, or eating late). The second 30 days asks you to focus on adding one thing that we are told to do to improve our diets (eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing our intake of animal products and processed food). The third 30 days asks you to find a physical activity that you would like to take into your old age (swimming, cycling, rock climbing, yoga, tai chi, hand dancing, salsa, etc.)
Unlike most challenges that ask you to take on an unrealistic task (like scaling tall buildings in single bounds or drinking protein shakes instead of eating real meals) that you are bound to backtrack on, I ask that you think about things that you’d like to do to improve your overall health and well-being. We all already know what to do. I simply ask you to do it. Basically, it’s all about BE-DO-HAVE.
BE (brave, fearless, powerful, courageous, driven, energized, etc.) the person who does that one thing to improve their diet and health
DO (implement, add, etc.) the action needed to become that person so that you can
HAVE what you want: a peaceful and healthy life.
Most people think they have to be peaceful and healthy to do the things that they want in their lives so they can eventually be the person they really want to be. It’s really the opposite. We have to BE the person we want to be, DO the actions so that we can HAVE the lives we want.
So, as we prep for the eating season—the period between Halloween and New Year’s Eve—I challenge you do the BE-DO-HAVE Un-challenge challenge. Rather than begin the eating season with a new diet that you are statistically going to fail, let’s work together to do one thing at a time to ensure that we reach our goal: live healthier more fulfilling lives. For me, that one thing is three committed weighed and measured meals a day. I am challenging myself to eat the way I know makes me feel good not only in terms of what I am doing for my health and weight, but also what makes me feel good about who I am BEING in the story of my life. I simply want to be the person who does things that nurtures her mind and body. Eating 3 committed meals a day makes me feel like I am thriving in my life.
What are you add to your diet so that you can thrive?