As we close out the decade, and look forward to the next 10 years with a renewed resolve to really change our lives for the better, let's spend a few moments thinking about that oft-uttered four-letter word. The one that shows up with great regularity toward the end of the Christmas season: DIET.
My colleague Sally Hicks points out that diet books, like management books, are written according to a fairly standard formula:
- The author claims that this plan is going to be The One, the diet that magically erases your cravings for donuts, normalizes your cholesterol levels and blood sugar, peels off weight without exercise, and leaves you feeling svelte, energized, and unconquerable – all in just six weeks.
- The One Diet is a previously undiscovered or under-appreciated use of some "magic bullet," be that cabbage soup, some [expensive] supplement, the combining or separating of categories of foods, or the adoption of a new, complicated exercise regime.
- If you can't comply with The One Diet, and it leaves you feeling hungry, irritable, overwhelmed, obsessed, exhausted, or sore, well…the fault is yours.
- If your doctor thinks it's insane, that's one more proof of The One Diet's cutting-edge genius. Really.
Fad diets don’t really work.
Does the person who e-mailed you their last crazy, magical diet look appreciably better a year or two later? Probably not. Here are a few kinder, gentler approaches to achieving better nutritional balance:
- Buy a cookbook designed for making meals for one or two people, so that you're making appropriate-sized meals and not faced with the choice of wasting expensive food or eating the same meal for a solid week.
- Remember that the phrase "watch what you're eating" can be taken a number of ways. In this case, I mean really pay attention when you're eating. Enjoy your food. Slow down, chew, and savor.
- Resolve to eat less by leaving behind on your plate a fourth of everything you served yourself.
- Use the money you might spend on a diet book or online membership to purchase a consultation with a nutritionist instead. Bring to your first visit a list of foods you actually like eating, and let your nutritionist design a meal plan that incorporates these foods in the right quantities. If you hate bran muffins, you won't eat them, so get someone else's help devising an alternative.
- Keep it interesting: find a lunch buddy, and take turns bringing healthy, varied lunches from home.
- Store fresh fruit in a cooler in your car or office. And then eat it occasionally.
This is a start...please send other great ideas to share. And have a joyous few days planning a 2010 with moments to celebrate that you're alive, in this time, in this body.
Yours in health,
Robin Y. Swift, MPH
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative
Photo Credit: Flickr/Playingwithbrushes