Food Will Always Be There
— One Thing Most “Dieters” Don’t Consider
My coaching philosophy is based on non-attachment and empowerment.
If learn to make your own decision, you’re ahead of the curve.
There’s no manual for life. You figure it out as you go. Making mistakes along the way is part of the process. We think in black and white extremes. Doing so means we cannot see the opposite end of a dichotomy, or worse create false versions, and I can think of few things more disempowering.
The fitness industry thrives on these extremes.
We are all humans with biases, and I am no different. I do, however, try to keep my bias out of decision-making — which the deeper you think about that, the more it feels impossible.
We see people in positions of influence who have had negative experience with tracking food and creating restrictions around caloric intake who revert to the other extreme entirely — the belief all dieting is bad, which it is not. While I appreciate the underlying message, it is just the same mistake in the reverse — the inability to understand context.
When we attach our identity to something, we make it impossible to understand any other viewpoint.
Logging calories is not bad, for example. Maybe now in life is not the time to do so, or you keep placing unrealistic expectations on yourself, or you have carved a false identity that you are the “fitness” person in your group and you should look as such. Consider that the need for perfection along with the inevitability you will break these uneducated and arbitrary “rules” are what is skewing your relationship with logging calories, or whatever goal you set meaning your relationship with food can never prosper.
You will never “diet” your way out of a hole you dieted your way into, but that’s another story.
Many of us have very lacking mindsets — around sex, money, relationships and our body is no different. We need to be in a place to allow abundance into our lives if any goal is going to enhance that.
Is making a lot of money bad?
Or is it more appropriate to say the illusion it would solve every problem you have makes the experience less enjoyable?
Those of us who get out of toxic diet cycles owe it to the consumer to offer a pragmatic breakdown of both sides of an argument, regardless. The answer is never as black and white as they seem.
We tend to over-simplify complex problems based on our own perspective. I would prefer you to understand nuances and complexities is drive your own behaviour, rather than just listen to what I say.
It’s perfectly OK to present our own experience to people in the hope it prevents them making the mistakes.
It is not OK to present our ideas as facts, and that going against them somehow makes you a villain — the “them versus us” mindset.
I can’t tell you how many people have taken fat-burners, starved themselves for 16 weeks, done a photo shoot, wouldn’t socialise, wouldn’t eat out or travel and due to a bad relationship with food have regained every pound back, and then some.
As someone who has experienced all of the above, I can tell you the goal itself was not the enemy — my perception of what it would do for me was.
So here are 7 things most dieters don’t consider
1.Setting a goal
2.Food is cultural
3.Food is the central theme
4.Food will always be tasty
5.We will need food until the day we die
6.Food is experience
7.Food is the ultimate privilege
You can also check out episode 138 of the podcast to learn more about similar topics to this blog
SETTING A GOAL
I make my weight-loss clients aware of some things prior.
One of which is food will always be there.
This statement is ambiguous.
The goal you set is only as enhancing as the mindset and principles on which you build it.
If you attach your identity to it, define yourself by it or expect to sacrifice the half of your life you enjoy, then it won’t be fulfilling.
Similarly, if you think you can just act without consequence, you won’t get very far.
The only way I have found you can do this whole “food” thing wrong is to not think for yourself. That’s it!
Your size or weight does not matter.
If you can acquire the knowledge, mindset and consistency to think for yourself and adapt to all kinds of situations, few things are more empowering.
You’re not the same person in the office at 9am as you are at your best mate’s hen or stag or when you role-play with your partner, and you will not be the same person every year, every place or even every setting. Decisions change based on many factors — environment, age, mindset, company being some examples.
I could sit here from a Personal-trainer moral high-ground and tell you to disassociate food from emotion, but then how come every Friday I love a glass of vino or three with my lovely better half?
Food is emotional. Our relationships with it are complex.
I’ll sleep better tonight if you take a nugget from this piece that makes you see it (and yourself) in a different light, and it has nothing to do with how you look or what you weigh.
FOOD IS CULTURAL
My girlfriend, Orlaith researches new places we visit thoroughly.
When we arrived in Vietnam, we went on a food tour. We were brought to various restaurants, street-food vendors, and even people’s own home to try some authentic Vietnamese cuisine. I can’t tell you what half the dishes were called, nor what they were, but the experience will long live in our hearts, and not in a million years would I buy something I don’t recognise off a cart on the street in Ireland, but doing so in Asia, whilst celebrating with Italians, Russians, Americans and Israelis being embraced proudly by locals was a wonderful experience, and one to savour, not fear.
FOOD IS THE CENTRAL THEME
Birthdays, weddings and funerals — we use food to celebrate life and we use it to celebrate death, not to mention love. It is the central theme of almost all gatherings worldwide. It’s very unlikely to go to a gathering of any sort in any country in the world where food is not the central theme that bonds everyone.
FOOD WILL ALWAYS BE TASTY
Next in 7 things most dieters don’t consider is that the yo-yo dieter often indulges in what I call a “last supper” — eating to excess in the hope it’s the last time ever. The informed “dieter” knows that food will always be tasty, and that any restrictions placed upon its consumption are done so from a place of understanding that the option of its reintroduction, or the removal of its restricted quantity is always an option if desired. Food appeals to a whole host of emotions, some not so desirable like boredom or sadness, and so understanding you can eat it, and still not “fail” (Psssstttttt that word doesn’t exist in eating) is useful to remember. Give yourself a break. There will be days where you succumb to the more pleasurable aspects of food. I say, embrace it, then move swiftly on, without guilt.
WE NEED FOOD UNTIL THE DAY WE DIE
If you eat 4 meals a day, you eat 1460 meals a year or over 14,000 in a decade.
Over a lifespan, that’s a lot of food. The idea we can eat perfect is flawed, but the goal to have our eating driven by a healthy relationship with food is certainly not. It takes work granted, just keep in mind, if you’ve been a “dieter” who repeats panic 6-day detoxes or 6-week shreds, think a little more about your lifespan and making it a little more about that. You do not need a new diet. You already have one. The goal is to get to a place where food takes up as little of our conscious/anxious thought as possible.
FOOD IS EXPERIENCE
It ties in with the idea of culture — some of my best memories on holidays are social. They involve tapas in Barcelona, pizza in Rome, pretty much everything in New York, and also some of the delicious and colourful fruits and veg I’ve had in the beach areas of the Philippines and Thailand. Sharing those moments with some dear friends have often created the illusion that certain trips were better than they actually were, due to that moment being so wonderful in an otherwise average place.
FOOD IS THE ULTIMATE PRIVELEGE
I spent Christmas in the Philippines, and whilst I was begged for money by a homeless person trying to survive the night, I was also receiving Instagram messages around fear of fat gain. We can only view the world through our experience and conditioning, so understanding just what a gift it is, and how many people will starve to death because they have none is the a massive dose of perspective that we all need. Food is wonderful. You and I take it for granted too much.
Perhaps this isn’t your standard “21 ways to lose fat” headline that I think we are all done with, but you get the idea.
The other question then becomes, when is the time to create restrictions, to log calories, to “diet”?
During Christmas in the Philippines, I found myself drinking cocktails from a coconut that were dense in calories. It was also a time I was a little over my comfortable weight — the one I’m happiest at, but that’s what weeks of travel can do.
Christmas was not the time to feel guilt, nor the moment to create restrictions — for me.
No one could have come along and made me feel guilty about it. They were choices I made, that made me happy — the best bit being I wasn’t kidding myself. Every decision has a consequence. Choose that action, accept that consequence.
Since then, I’ve regained more structure, because that’s how I want my life to be during my normal working life.
I understand that food will always be there, so I choose my moments wisely. There’s a certain liberty to understanding life isn’t one big diet, but it’s not one big party either.
If you’re like me and have that emotional connection with food, maybe it’s time to start embracing it in a way you’ve never done before, because if you ever do set a fat-loss or body-composition goal, you’ll be doing it in a bed-rock of knowledge, perspective and a little more wisdom then you’re old uninformed self.
When I’m 90, I will never look back and regret the cake or cocktail I ate on holiday, but I also won’t regret being a well-informed, active person. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, as is often made out.
You don’t have to think in either extreme.
Sometimes you want some cake, and many other times you just want some fruits and vegetables. The devil is always in the details.
Don’t be in such a rush. Food will always be there!