I’ll get the ugly side of this article out of the way right now: I despise the term “diet.” I never use it, and I want to clock someone in the face if they use the phrase “I’m on a diet.”
And I’ll tell you why.
First of all, there’s a certain stigma attached to the phrase. When I first started healthy eating, I said it all the time. It wasn’t so bothersome during my gap year after school, but in my first year of University, I had to say it all the time, turning down drinks, Maccas runs, community dinners, and so on. And people would just look at me strangely.
When you say the phrase “I’m on a diet,” people immediately assume you’re following the “flavour of the month” diet. A fad. Like the lemon detox diet, or the CSIRO diet. It implies that you’re doing something short-term for a quick fix, and people know that doing a fad diet is a stupid move because you’re just going to pack weight back on afterwards.
Which brings me to my most important point: Saying you’re on a diet implies it is temporary. A “temporary” diet is absolutely the wrong approach, because it means you have not learned anything. It means you think that putting on weight was a silly fluke, and that you can return to old habits and not exercise, and won’t suffer any consequences. It sounds silly when you word it like that, but people subconsciously believe it without realising.
When you lose weight, you should not be following a temporary “diet;” you should be rethinking and overhauling your entire lifestyle. Losing weight is not as easy as a quick fix – it’s changing everything.
Five years ago, I was eating toast or cereal for breakfast, sandwiches and treats (biscuits, yogurt, cake, etc) for lunch, and a cooked meal for dinner, which almost always included pasta or rice.
Today, I usually skip breakfast, eat a rump steak with cooked veges for lunch, and eat a salad with chicken breast fillet for dinner. I’ve sustained that lifestyle for over four years now, and do not plan to return to my old eating habits. Even if I do proverbially “cheat,” my days remain structured, eating cooked meals that involve meat and vegetables amid the bad food. And the next day, I’m back to my healthy eating all the way.
To the outsider, my former eating regimen sounds perfect, because it’s the government-approved, status quo image we have in our heads of a day of meals. But what we should be eating is lean meats and vegetables. In fact, when I do eat breakfast, people scoff when they see I’ve cooked a stir-fry or a salad. “How can you eat that for breakfast?,” they ask, “Isn’t that really heavy?” Well, no, because I’m giving my body what it actually needs. Cereal or toast will load your body with sugar and dense carbohydrates, which makes you feel shit for the rest for the day of the day.
(NB: I know I said I skip breakfast whenever I can, and this makes me seem like I’m saying breakfast sets the pace for the day; what I’m saying is this breakfast affects your wellbeing during the day. Skipping breakfast and fasting is my choice, because it’s specific to my goal of leaning out. It is not recommended for everyone, but it works for me.)
This discussion brings me to my next point, which is one of the things I want to stress more than anything in this article.
When I tell people about the progress I’ve made (at my lightest, I lost more than 40kg), they ask about what I did. And when I tell them the stuff to avoid (gluten, sugar, grains, potatoes, carb-rich foods), they ask the golden question: “What am I meant to eat?”
That’s when my heart drops, because I realise what I am about to tell them is, in their minds, complete madness. I am accustomed to my way of life, and I am comfortable with it. But when I heard the madness for the first time after 18 years of life, believing that my eating was just peachy, I felt like someone just told me that they raped a child. No bread? No pasta? No rice? No potato? What the hell?!
The people I talk to… They are not prepared to hear it. They want me to tell them to cut out just one or two foods, because they don’t want to give up the foods they find so yummy. They want to believe that bread, pasta, rice, potato, oats, grains, etc, are good for you, because they taste good and trigger a hormonal response that provokes pure pleasure.
Of course, some people take the information well, and actively start taking steps to change their lives. That’s maybe 25% of the people I talk to. There’s a 50% margin of people who are simply reluctant, but, with persuasion, might give it a go. But then there’s the 25% of people, who hear me, but are not willing or prepared to step outside of their comfort zone. They don’t want to budge from their routine, because they’re brainwashed to believe their diet is already perfect, and they do not have the willpower or motivation to change.
I have no patience for the latter 25%, because they’re so defensive and vicious, that they often take offense. They just don’t want to hear it. And they are the ones who asked for the fucking advice in the first place.
Decide which camp you are in.
If I was to tell you the specifics of how to eat properly, this article would wind up being as long as a book. So you’re better off reading a book from someone a lot more qualified than me. Try the writings of Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain, Mark Sisson, Chris Kresser, or Greg Everett. Or all of the above. I’m just saying that people need to fix their attitude towards healthy eating, because I’ve dealt with a lot of losers and it makes me lose faith in humanity.