Yo-yo dieting. (*shudder*)
It’s a phrase we’ve come to know all too well, and as a personal trainer and weight loss coach, I hear from a LOT of frustrated women who have been on this up and down dieting journey for decades.
Improving your health can be an incredibly positive and rewarding journey, but when you’ve tried all-or-nothing diets and failed at them over and over again, it’s hard to believe that it’s even possible anymore.
I want you to realize that it IS possible, and it’s possible for YOU.
So let’s tackle this topic head on, talk about a different approach, and give you real-life ways to get started.
The Best Diet
I believe that the best “diet” (let’s just call it a way of eating) is the one you’ll stick to.
For most people, that means making manageable modifications to what they’re currently eating, rather than a wholesale change to their food routine.
Just for a moment, imagine the healthfulness of eating along a spectrum.
The Eating Spectrum
On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the unhealthiest foods, like, say, a bacon cronut burger (what’s that, you ask? It’s this. Gasp!). The foods on this end of the spectrum are highly processed and have loads of added sugar, hydrogenated oil, and trans fats.
On the other end, you’ve got the best foods out there, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Chances are, you fall somewhere in between the two on any given day. You don’t eat 100% perfectly (no one does), nor do you always eat the unhealthiest foods.
There’s also variation from one day to the next. On the days you eat really well, you might land towards the right side of the spectrum. On other days (ahem, holidays), you might splurge on unhealthy foods and land further to the left.
Here’s where traditional diets come into the picture.
The All-or-Nothing-ness of Diets
If you’re familiar with yo-yo dieting, you know that most diets take you to the far right side of the eating spectrum, where you can only eat the “best” foods while avoiding all others. There are often strict rules about what’s ok to eat and what’s not.
Sure, they’re tolerable for a couple weeks and you’ll likely lose weight, but somewhere between the celery and smoothies, you wonder if there’s ever a world where you can have cake on your birthday again.
It’s no wonder the idea of going on a diet sounds miserable and stress inducing. It is!
Some diets combat this by creating “cheat days.” You know ‘em well: these are days where you’re “allowed” to eat whatever you want one day a week.
If we think back to the Eating Spectrum, these kinds of days swing you from one end of the spectrum to the other: Sunday through Friday, you’re on the right side of the spectrum, and Saturday brings you over to the left side.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here; this all-or-nothing dieting will drive you crazy and make you feel like a failure, especially if you’ve done it for decades.
You *CAN* have it all
It’s time to get off the yo-yo dieting train and move towards something much more sustainable.
Ultimately, I know you want the best of both worlds: you want to enjoy your life, celebrate your birthday with cake (a birthday without cake isn’t a birthday, in my book), and drink wine with your girlfriends. You ALSO want to be healthy, feel great, and have energy to do the things you love.
Mark my words: you CAN have both.
It’s time to switch from a short term dieting mentality to a long term healthy eating plan.
First, identify where you land on the eating spectrum right now. Are you eating processed foods and meats on a daily basis, or mostly whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables with the occasional splurge?
Wherever you are right now, I want to challenge you to simply move 20% to the right on the eating spectrum.
You don’t have to eat perfectly. You just have to eat a little bit better, at least to start.
20 percent might not sound like a lot, but it can make a world of difference in long term health. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that a 20 percentile increase in diet score (improvement in diet) reduced total mortality by 8 - 17%.
These aren’t major changes in eating habits, but they are major improvements in health.
Taking the First Step
Shifting your mindset away from yo-yo dieting and towards making small improvements to what you eat can be life-changing. Rather than having pressure to make each day of eating 100% perfect or 100% eating whatever you want, it brings you to the area between the extremes.
It means that, with each meal or snack you eat, you ask the question,
“What’s a 20% better decision I can make here?”
What could this look like?
- You could start eating two fruits a day instead of none.
- Drink water instead of soda or lemonade.
- Switch from eating pretzels as a snack to cucumbers dipped in hummus
- Instead of eating bread + cheese, eat apples + cheese
- Switch from ordering pizza to making your own pizza
- Instead of chicken sausage and eggs for breakfast, switch to overnight oats with fruit a few times a week.
- Have a cup of decaf coffee instead of dessert a couple times a week
You don’t even need to do all of these at once. Start by choosing one and build from there. Remember: progress, not perfection.
I hope this new framework helps you recognize that making a major impact to your long term health and how you feel on a daily basis doesn’t require extreme changes to the way you eat. I hope it empowers you to start your journey to better health on your terms, rather than continuing with what the yo-yo dieting culture tells you.
It’s time to take action. You can do this!