I hardly need to quote statistics to convince you that we live in a perpetually dieting society. As a dietitian, I have seen it all. The grapefruit diet. The cabbage soup diet. The Atkins diet. The list goes on and on. And what do all of these diets have in common? Calorie restriction, elimination of foods (or entire food groups!), hunger, boredom, cravings… Though such diets all promise quick weight loss, the eventual punch line is almost always regain.
But why? Diets are designed to be a temporary means to an end. Most folks who “go on” a diet hope to at some point “get off” the diet. Unfortunately, this kind of temporary lifestyle change can only guarantee temporary results, causing many dieters to lose and regain the same 10, 20, 30 or more pounds over and over again. Dieting becomes a lifestyle in and of itself, leaving many individuals wondering what “normal” eating is like.
Good nutrition boils down to three main principles: balance, variety, and moderation. This is just good common sense. When you envision a healthy diet, what comes to mind? Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, healthy fats—a balanced diet incorporates all of these foods, forbidding none. This sort of variety will not only ensure that your body is fueled with every essential nutrient you need for health and wellness, but will also look and taste great! The final principle, moderation, is what brings it all together. Anything in excess spells trouble. The key is to load up on nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories and limit your indulgence of energy-dense foods, which are high in calories but provide few nutrients. Pay attention to serving sizes. (Ever measure yourself ½ cup of ice cream?) All foods can be a part of a healthy diet, but the ever-important question of “How much and how often?” will make all the difference in your health and waistline.
By following these very basic principles of good nutrition, you can get off the dieting rollercoaster and make changes that will last a lifetime—improving both the quality and length of your years. So take inventory! Take a minute to assess your current eating habits and look for areas of improvement. Create a list of changes you would like to make and get started on your own nutrition makeover. As Adelle Davis once said, “We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.”