Lately, I’ve been struggling with this idea. I’m someone who has always tried hard to live a healthy lifestyle. I rarely eat fast food, work out when I can and would much rather snack on hummus or fruit than on popcorn or cookies. I would classify myself as healthyish. I’m not the type who would turn down pizza on a Saturday night, but it’s not something I like to do on the regular.
As someone who will soon be going abroad to the Castle, I’ve been trying to dedicate the rest of my summer to losing a few pounds and slimming down. I started off by going on a “diet,” which consisted of limiting my carb intake to one meal; a banana or yogurt for breakfast, salads with fruit and nuts for lunch, and typically stir-fried chicken and veggies with multigrain rice for dinner. I felt that, if I didn’t title it as a “diet,” I would be lazy and give up easily. This turned into a competition with myself; every time I was hungry, but opted to go to the gym over snacking unnecessarily, I was washed over with immense pride. I could do this! But when the scale was stubbornly unmoving, I got frustrated. What was the point of eating so little and healthy and going to the gym multiple times a week if it wasn’t going to do anything?
This is where I started recognizing the difference between healthy eating and dieting. For me, the problem with dieting is that it puts too much pressure on an individual. “Carbs for just dinner” sounds so easy, but then when you break that even once, you lose hope and confidence. You think, I already failed, why bother continuing? In a lot of the diets in which we partake, from guided ones like Weight Watchers to self-guided ones like paleo diets, our daily routine revolves around never wavering. We have to be perfect, never giving into cravings and keeping our eyes on the prize at all times. That is a recipe for implosion. And even when we allow for cheat days, those days sometimes lead us to eating way more and much unhealthier than we might have had we been eating more balanced meals every day.
The idea of balance is the key to differentiating between healthy eating and dieting. Healthy eating is so much more effective because it’s all about balance; maybe you ate a lot of protein and fruit for breakfast. Well, then maybe some veggies and grains for lunch. And if you ended up eating a lighter dinner, maybe you can have some frozen yogurt for dessert. You aren’t controlling the quantity or quality of what you’re eating. No more calorie-counting or food-deductions, just balanced eating that leaves room for some cravings, but incorporation of all important food groups. Even if you have a “bad day,” you can always balance it out the next day with healthier meals and a trip to the gym. Healthy eating is a lifestyle, whereas dieting is a temporary phase. It puts less pressure on you to abide by self-proclaimed rules and recognizes that we’re all humans with cravings. Life truly isn’t worth it if we never allow ourselves to eat the foods we really love, even on occasion. And it’s not fair to reprimand ourselves for giving in to a gooey plate of nachos or a moist slice of chocolate fudge cake.
In my new version of “getting my body ready for Europe,” I’m not going to force myself to not eat when I’m hungry and say no to something if I really really want it. I’m still going to try my best to eat beautiful foods that are good for my body, drink as much water as I can, and work out a few times a week. But, on the weekends, I’m going to treat myself to breakfast sandwiches, Rocky Road ice cream, and late-night Maria’s because life is too full of delicious eats to say no.