Removing the Dieting Hand-Cuffs
July 30, 2014
by guest nutritionist, Yvonne Morales, MS, RD
The weather is finally warm, the sweaters are hiding in storage. I love it, but it’s also around this time every year that I start getting frantic calls from friends and family who say they need to lose 10 pounds in the next two weeks. Every year they get a similar answer from me: let’s work on small changes. This is usually the point where I get silence or complaints on the phone. They talk about a weight loss competition on TV where contestants lost a lot of weight every week, or they know a girl who went on a magical cleanse and now looks super healthy and, most importantly, incredibly thin. The silence is now on my end of the phone. Once again I feel defeated by unrealistic expectations. The discussion on why as a culture we are obsessed with reaching the unobtainable level of thinness we see in the media will continue elsewhere. I want to make the case for leading a balanced lifestyle year-round and not just trying to crash diet two weeks before the start of bikini season.
Liberating yourself from dieting can feel like being released from a self-imposed prison. I went on my first diet the summer I turned 15. As a Mexican girl, that year is full of formal parties commemorating the coming of age, and I wasn’t nearly as petite as my friends. The dieting continued until I was 23. What had started as a quest to fit into an exquisite dress turned into eight years of counting calories and avoiding anything I thought would be remotely fattening. Then one day something clicked. Maybe I was just tired, but I made the deliberate decision to stop dieting and start enjoying foods that would nourish my body. I felt like my shackles had been removed and I confirmed that not only did I not gain weight but I had more energy and felt better overall.
The end of dieting for me meant the start of an exploration into a myriad of flavors in nutrient-dense foods. Stepping into the kitchen armed with quality ingredients and a small library of cookbooks enables us to build a healthy relationship with the food we eat. The kitchen is a great classroom where we can learn to expand how food can taste and what you can do with it. To do this I soaked up knowledge and inspiration from wherever I could: from cooking shows on TV, to reading cookbooks to even modeling cooking styles from a friend’s mother. My mother unfortunately never developed a liking for the kitchen – so, no offense Mom, but you have many other wonderful talents! I sat and listened and absorbed any wisdom on how I could take ingredients and transform them into a meal that would nourish my body.
Liberating ourselves from dieting means we can enjoy decadent foods in moderation. Leading a healthy life has a lot to do with learning how to balance. Knowing that some foods can be enjoyed once in a while makes holidays and special occasions enjoyable, and not worrisome. There is no need to create a battlefield where dessert is the enemy. Slow down, listen to your body and remain mindful of what you are eating. With time and practice these strategies become second nature, and indulging doesn’t have to mean overindulging anymore.
Changing our mindset from dieting to leading a healthy lifestyle can be the most important step we take towards taking control of our health. It’s ultimately a shift in perception. Our relationship with food is one part of a well-being strategy. How we feed our bodies affects how we feel about ourselves and in turn how we treat ourselves. So let’s take the first step and break free of the dieting chains.
Yvonne Morales, MD, RD, is an assistant account executive and registered dietitian with FoodMinds. Yvonne received her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and wellness at the Institute Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, ITESM, in Monterrey, Mexico and her master’s degree in nutrition from Boston University. She also completed her dietetic internship at Boston University. Yvonne is currently working on several teams at FoodMinds, including Welch’s, Hass Avocado Board, American Meat Institute, Applegate and Can Manufacturers Institute. The views expressed in this blog are her own.