Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diets Create the Forbidden Fruit

The reason that most diets fail is that they work on the elimination of a food group. That food group then takes on emotional value within your mind, and it becomes the forbidden fruit. The forbidden food will always taste better, because of the desire behind it. Diets set short term goals that once achieved, allows the dieter to binge on the formerly forbidden food. It's best to look forward in the long run: if I eat well I can avoid many of the weaknesses that I associate with old age. I have a 79 year old father who eats well, and rides his bike voraciously. Aside from the occasional joint pain, he is in very good health for his age.
There are many long term goals that one could have to encourage healthy eating at any age. When someone doesn't achieve their short term goal with a diet, it results in guilt. That guilt cycles until it results in binge eating or another eating disorder. Eating moderately means being able to enjoy your occasional steak, your occasional piece of chocolate cake, or you can eat a little bit of those things daily. Deprivation is not the way to long lasting health goals.
It's best to eat well in general, not in the specific. What I mean is that if you eat well generally, but occasionally indulge, you will be more satisfied in the long run.
Here's a metaphor for crash dieting: cramming before a test. Does anyone honestly do well on a test after cramming the night before. I can guarantee that they will not have as firm a grasp on the material as someone who studied constantly throughout the semester. When the material links to a class later, the crammer is going to have a hard time comprehending the new material since they didn't know the basics all that well in the first place. Crash dieting works in the same way, it takes what should be a long term health goal and crams it down into a short period of time, but does little for health later on.
Diets that work on elimination usually fail, because the dieter doesn't have the energy to continue, elimination diets leave the person lacking vitamins and nutrients, and so they never gain the energy boost that comes with healthy eating in the long run. Taking a vitamin pill may help, but without fiber and other nutrients it does little. You could combine a fiber pill with the multivitamin, but then you'd end up living on pills. Who really wants to live on pills and meal replacement shakes. The best option is to eat real foods, but to generally choose healthy foods.
It is also important to remember genes have a role in our size and shape. Not everyone can fit into a size 0. Your goals shouldn't be based on size or shape, but on feeling better by becoming more healthy. The longer you live a healthy lifestyle, the more it will be habituated, and the easier it will get.
Try to gain health through moderation and you will end up happier in the long run.

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Heavy Metal Yogi by Nick Matthaes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.