So today I don’t want to discuss what diet is best or what foods you should be eating. Instead I want to discuss HOW to start making changes toward a healthier diet.
I also want to make note that when I say “diet” I don’t mean a fad or a restricted eating program. By diet I mean “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.”
When you want to change your lifestyle, there isn’t just one way to do it. Every person has to make healthy lifestyle changes in their own way.
But I have found that there are two basic diet approaches that work best for most people.
The ALL OR NOTHING APPROACH:
With this approach, you create a meal plan with everything planned out so that you know exactly what you are eating and when you are eating it. You may even cook and/or prep everything for the week on Sunday so that it is all ready to go.
This is great for people who don’t like having to make decisions. For many, having to figure out what to eat at the end of a long day, or when they are hungry, leads to disaster and binging. Having everything set out ahead of time helps alleviate the stress of making decisions and allows them to more easily instill new habits.
They also don’t mind eating the same thing numerous times a week and do better when they don’t have a ton of different options around the house.
I’ve found this works best for people who are triggered to binge by having “a little” of a food that tempts them or reminds them of old eating habits – this works best for people who think about their new diet as the foods that they CAN HAVE not the foods that they now CAN’T or SHOULDN’T HAVE.
This may also be a great option for someone who is trying to lose weight fairly aggressively for a specific event (while I don’t like when people crash diet for events, sometimes a big push to get the momentum going can help lead to a long-term commitment).
THE TORTOISE APPROACH:
The all or nothing approach doesn’t work for everyone though. Many feel very RESTRICTED when they have a set meal plan because all they can think about is the foods that AREN’T on the schedule.
So the other approach that I often recommend to clients is what I call the Tortoise approach.
This is honestly my favorite way to make diet changes when dealing with clients who are trying to make an overall lifestyle change.
I call it the TORTOISE approach because it reminds me of the story of The Tortoise and The Hare. Slow and steady wins the race. For these people, sprinting ahead on a meal plan or with very strict guidelines, leads to binging and ultimately to failure. They can’t keep up the pace or feel like they are so ahead that they can rest for awhile…just like the Hare. They do much better with a slow steady pace that allows them to adapt to each change before making the next one. The slow steady pace helps them stay on course the entire time and achieve their ultimate goal…just like the Tortoise.
For people like this, having basic guidelines to follow while being able to eat technically whatever they want allows them to never feel deprived (even if they never actually indulge) because they have the OPTION of eating something if they really want it.
So now the question is…Which way will work best for you?
Unfortunately, no one can answer that but you. And maybe you even need to give both a shot for a month or two to figure out which works best.
But before you choose an approach ask yourself two important questions:
- Do you feel deprived and only think about the foods you CAN’T eat? (YES, then you are a Tortoise because meal plans make Tortoise feel restricted. They like to feel like they can eat anything while staying within basic guidelines.)
- Do you get completely derailed by even just a bit of a food you don’t want to consume on a regular basis? (YES, then you are an All or Nothing. All or Nothings can’t have just a little of something and stay within guidelines. Just a little leads to binges that won’t stay within guidelines.)
Made a successful lifestyle change? Which approach did you use? Or did you maybe even combine them?
(I have had people do meal plans to get things going and then ease off to guidelines once they’ve gained some momentum.)