You guys. Dieting is exhausting. We’ve taken something (eating) that we have to do every day in order to survive and applied a set of restrictions, thereby creating a mini moral code, that are challenging to follow. We then feel big feelings, like guilt, when we don’t adhere to whatever diet we’ve decided to follow. We literally allow inanimate objects to dictate our feelings and our moods and it has got to stop.
From the Special K diet to the Atkins diet to the Paleo diet, the word “diet” now identifies a way of restricting what or how we eat. Instead of referring to something we do every day, “diet” is now used to impose a list of rules on how we eat.
I think it’s time for us to reclaim the word diet. To shift it back to its original meaning. To remember that, by definition, our diet is the sum of everything we eat. To realize that if we are “on a diet” rather than “having a diet,” we will always fail. Always.
This is not to imply that all restrictions are bad. There are people who make food decisions based on a moral code (like vegans), allergies (dairy- or gluten-free), or just preference (you really hate pickles, so you don’t eat them). The key here is that these food restrictions are easy to follow: as someone who is lactose intolerant, I know that if I choose to eat dairy, I’ll get a migraine. The decision is made for me.
Your diet is not a test. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t feel like you’re passing or failing or that you have to be “perfect” 100% of the time. You’re not “cheating” when you, as a grown adult, decide you want a cupcake or pasta or wine with dinner. You’re simply making a choice.
Instead of imposing restrictions on what you can or cannot eat, take time to listen to your body. Genuinely think about the choices you are making: Did you feel tired the last time you had beef? Does your skin look better when you eat more vegetables and healthy fats? Are your workouts easier when you’re drinking a ton of water? Think about your diet as the sum of everything you eat. The sum of all of your choices. Then, choose accordingly.
And if you really want a donut, eat the donut and don’t feel guilty. When it comes to your diet, it’s not cheating if you choose to do it.