The Anti-Diet: Looking & Feeling Healthier Without Restrictions
Here’s the thing I hate most about dieting: I don’t want to have to restructure my daily life around my diet.
Nutrition is an incredibly important part of health, and it is absolutely worth prioritizing. But you can be mindful of your diet without logging calories into an app every time you pop a piece of gum. You can have french fries with your dinner without guilt-starving yourself the next day.
A healthy diet isn’t always about restricting, cutting, and following a set of rules from an expensive self-help book written by someone who ultimately wants to make money. It’s not about eating kale for breakfast. It’s not about fitting into the next pants-size down. It’s about having control over your body, and treating it with the respect and care you deserve.
So, let’s get into it: the Anti-Diet. Or, as I sometimes refer to it, the Lazy Diet.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Something you can easily monitor is your intake of drinks that are high in calories. This was one of the easiest changes for me to make, mostly because water is always an option at any restaurant and it’s usually free. Buy yourself a water bottle and personalize it with stickers so you’ll actually want to take it everywhere with you. Tea is also a great option, because you can enjoy it hot or iced, and there are endless flavours you can choose from - something for everyone!
Don’t Watch Netflix While you Eat!
For a lot of us, it’s become second nature to turn on the television when it’s mealtime. But when your mind is more focused on the screen than the plate in front of you, your body will take much longer to realize when you’re full, causing you to keep on snacking long past what’s necessary. You’re essentially entering a state of mindless consumption, and it can be tough to recognize when it’s happening. My best suggestion is to find a window to eat in front of and let your mind wander while you gaze outside and give your eyes a much-needed break from all that screen time.
Eat Slower, Then Wait 20 Minutes
It can take up to 20 minutes before your brain realizes that you’re full. This time period is different for everyone, but it’s a fact that there is no switch that flicks on or off once you’ve consumed a certain amount of food letting you know when to stop. Zane Andrews explains in this Huffington Post article that it’s “not until food gets into the stomach and [absorbs] into the gut that [the brain] starts to release satiety hormones, which feed back to the brain to tell us we’re full.” It makes sense then that eating slower gives your brain more time to catch up so it can signal that you’re full closer to the moment when you’ve actually had enough. So slow down. Enjoy your food. Then give yourself a full 20 minutes before going for seconds or dessert.
Meal Prep At Least 1 Meal for the Week
Something that has worked super well for me is taking a few hours on a day off to cook one meal for each upcoming weekday. Doing this ensures I’m eating at least one meal a day that’s actually nutritious, and since I’ve portioned everything out beforehand, there’s no chance for me to overeat. It leaves me no way to make excuses to order take-out or not to eat at all. It also means I don’t necessarily have to cook every day - a task that I honestly hate. Setting aside 3-4 hours one day of the week to make sure you’ve got something healthy to put in your body during the week is a super small investment of time in the long run, and its rewards are huge.
Banish Treats From Your Home
It’s so much easier to eat garbage when it’s easily accessible at home. So stop bringing junk food into your house! If you limit your indulgences to “special” occasions, like buying popcorn at the movie theatre or a cappuccino and a croissant at your favourite cafe, you’re saving yourself some serious coin on junk food while still allowing yourself to indulge in treats regularly. Some people are social drinkers, so learn to be a social snacker. Go ahead and order whatever your heart desires when you’re out at dinner knowing you won’t binge on a ton of sugar when you get back home, because you don’t have any!
Frozen > Fresh
Okay, not actually; everyone knows fresh produce is way better than frozen. But if you’re constantly having to throw out expired produce you didn’t manage to eat fast enough, make space in your freezer for frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen produce lasts so much longer, which will save you money and food waste. Plus, you still get all the same great nutrients. Frozen fruits and veggies are perfect for smoothies because you want them to be icy cold anyway, and you can always add some frozen berries in your yogurt or ice cream.
Last, but Not Least, Don’t Count Calories!
Just don’t. It’s a waste of your time and mental energy. You’ll risk becoming obsessive, and you’ll focus on quantity rather than quality.
Whatever you decide, the best diet is the diet that works for you and your lifestyle.
My personal philosophy is that a life without bread and chocolate isn’t much of a life, but you should do whatever makes your body feel healthy and happy. Eating is such a personal and sensitive experience for so many people, so avoid judging others based on their dietary habits. Worry about your own body, don’t try to prescribe certain diets on others whose bodies affect you in no way. Most importantly, keep in mind that your body is not necessarily a direct reflection of your health. If you’re prioritizing your health to the best of your ability, no one else’s opinion matters.
Love yourself where you’re at right now. You deserve that.