Diet or the "D" word

As a personal trainer I hear the word "diet" quite a bit from clients, friends, and even people I don't know. Do you have a diet that will help with this or that? Is there a diet that will burn this off?

That "D" word has become such an icon and so significant to people who want to lose weight, particularly those who want to lose weight super fast. Diet is defined in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary as "food and drink regularly provided or consumed, habitual nourishment." Be it a diet of twinkies or a diet of fruits, it's a diet.  It does't have to be bad, tasteless, prohibitive, or restricting (unless there are specific reasons such as diebetes or high blood pressure.) It is simply what we eat everyday.

I was crawling through different sites today and came upon this article written by Michelle May, M.D. and posted in the Calorie Count website.  It highlights five important diet myths.  Read it, highlight it, post it on your fridge and every time you start to question your diet, read it again.  Very informative.

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5 Diet Myths and What You Can Learn from Them

By michelle_may_md on Apr 21, 2011 10:00 AM in Dieting & You

Diets are filled with rules about when, what, and how much to eat. While “the rules” may make sense on the surface, unless you understand why you do certain things, you’ll break the rules as soon as the temptation is greater than your motivation.

Let’s examine some of these myths, where they come from, and how to make long term changes that work for you.

Myth 1: Don’t Eat After 7pm 

Your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01 pm so why is this rule so common? Many people who struggle with their weight overeat in the evening after dinner so they aren’t snacking because they’re hungry. They’re snacking because they’re bored, watching television, rewarding themselves, or feeling lonely.

Rather than using a temporary rule to address those habits, when you feel like eating in the evenings, ask, “Am I hungry?” If you’re truly hungry, eat, keeping in mind that your day is winding down so you don’t need a big meal. If you aren’t hungry, think about why you feel like eating anyway and come up with a better way to address that need. Ken, a man in one of our Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating workshops, realized he was just bored so he started doing stained glass to entertain himself while he watched TV.

Myth 2: Eat Small Meals Every 3 Hours

This rule is based on the fact that many people who don’t struggle with weight issues tend to eat frequent small meals. However, they don’t check their watch to tell them when it’s time to eat; they eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. Since that tends to be a small-ish meal, they get hungry again in a few hours.

Instead of watching the clock, begin to tune in to the physical symptoms of hunger and fullness to tell you when to eat and when to stop. Your stomach is about the size of your fist so it only holds a couple of handfuls of food comfortably. By relearning to trust your body’s signals, you can learn to follow a frequent small meal pattern naturally.

Myth 3: Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry

A corollary to myth 2, this rule is based on the belief that overweight people are incapable of controlling themselves when they’re hungry. In my experience with thousands of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating workshop participants, the opposite is true.  Once people learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger, they begin to meet each need more appropriately. Perhaps the rule should be “Don’t let yourself get too hungry” since it’s harder to make conscious choices when you’re starving.

Myth 4: Follow Your Diet Six Days a Week Then You Can Have a Cheat Day

Hmmm…what if you were a harsh, overly strict parent six days a week then completely ignored your kids every Saturday? It doesn’t make sense to try to be perfect Sunday through Friday while obsessing about everything you’re going to eat on your “day off.” Then when Saturday comes, you overeat just because you’re allowed to so you end up feeling miserable all day. Personally, I’d rather enjoy eating a little of the foods I love every day, mindfully and in moderation.

Myth 5: Carbs are Bad… or Fat is Bad… or ______ is Bad

“Good food, bad food” thinking can lead to feelings of deprivation, cravings, overeating, and guilt.  All foods can fit into a healthy diet using the principles of balance, variety, and moderation to guide you. Use nutrition information as a tool, not a weapon.

A sustainable personal approach trumps short term rules.  Rather than walking a tight rope that you’ll fall off of sooner or later, dig a little deeper to better understand why, when, what, how, and how much you eat. You’ll gradually create a more flexible, personalized approach to making decisions that both nourish and nurture you.

Your thoughts....
Did you, or do you, buy in to any of these myths? 

Michelle May, M.D. is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Dr. May is also the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant, healthy life.

Stay Well,


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