As a holistic wellness coach the two questions I get the most are:
What diet do you follow? + What diet do you recommend for me?
And they are also the two questions that I don’t answer.
I don’t know about you but the word “diet” does things to me. Bad things. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs – you say “diet” and I…how I can put this gently…react. It conjures unhappy memories of crash-dieting as a teenager, deprivation, struggle, and unhappiness. And I want to scream:
If I could, I’d erase the word “diet” from our vocabulary. It’s not a happy, positive, encouraging, sustainable word. I frequently hear things like: “I couldn’t last on your diet.” “What diet are you on?” “Is ____ allowed on your diet?” “How long are you going to be on this diet?”
I googled “diet” just to see what happened and I was slammed with over 490,000,000 results. That’s a whole lot of dieting. That’s 490,000,000 examples of not being good enough, thin enough, being “bad”, counting calories, restriction, and self-destructive behaviors.
As far back as I can remember dieting has been mainstream. There are diet aisles in the bookstore, magazines are always covering the next great diet, and we are obsessed with calories and fat. And I was completed immersed in the diet world for far too long. Diet pills, excessive exercise, non-fat foods, calorie counting, devouring celebrity diet secrets, obsessing over my weight…been there, done that. And I never felt comfortable, healthy, or strong in my body. In fact, most of the time I downright hated my body. My confidence was defined by how tight or loose my jeans were.
What years of these negative thoughts did create was a separation from my body. Between not liking my body and feeling sick with stomach pain and migraines, I became numb. I didn’t feel happy or sad – I didn’t really feel at all. I definitely went through the motions without a true connection to my life. And my body suffered for it. I wasn’t mindful of how I was treating my body. I was eating food that I knew made me feel sick, not sleeping enough, not moving enough, and not nourishing my soul. This just created more distance. And the cycle continued.
A typical Sunday included eating a package of Oreos, hating myself with every fiber of my being, ordering a pizza since I’d already blown the day with the cookies, and vowing to be better on Monday. I’d start the week off “strong” with black coffee and a fruit cup, salad (no dressing) for lunch, and cereal for dinner. By Wednesday I’d be hungry…really hungry. And by Sunday I’d be back to Oreos, self-hatred, pizza, and promises.
And I was always on a diet. Vegan. Pescetarian. Vegetarian. Raw. Everything in moderation. Special K diet (a bowl of Special K cereal for 2 meals a day…seriously). Diets felt safe. I could identify with the diet. They had rule after rule after rule and all I had to do was follow. But I never could. And then I’d feel like a complete f*ck-up, binge on cookies and ice cream, and move on to the next diet.
What I’ve come to realize is that I wasn’t failing at the diet – the diet was failing me. It was designed to be restrictive and not at all about what my body and mind needed. But letting go of the”diet” mentality isn’t easy. People are constantly asking me what diet I’m on and our world is SO label obsessed. It’s a practice and some days it’s easy and some days it just isn’t. I am striving to eat what my body really needs and wants and not what I think it should need or want. That means some days it’s all about the greens and some days it’s all about the pancakes.
I’m also letting go of the foods that truly don’t serve me instead of “treating” myself to pain, bloating, and digestive upset. And being unapologetic about it. Is it convenient to have dietary restrictions? Nope. And it is really easy to feel the pressure or want to defend yourself when people are poking you about being on a diet. But instead I am working to stay in my own lane and focus on what I need to do for myself.
And it’s fluid. One day I feel best without grains, the next I feel good with some oatmeal. One meal I’m vegan, the next meal I’m paleo. And I am completely okay with that. I am allowing space to follow my intuition and try foods out – allowing my body to take the lead.
So, what diet am I on? The Stephanie diet.
What diet should you be on? The You diet.