The Non-Diet Diet (March 2, 2013)

Either click here or keep reading for March 2nd’s piece on my Non-Diet Diet!

The Non-Diet Diet

Enough with the low-carb, no-carb, all-carb. Quit with the gluten-free, lactose-free, salt-free, taste-free. Stop eating copious amounts of rare lean beef and washing it down with raw oats (seriously, who thinks of this stuff?), and stop trying to figure out how many points your breakfast burrito has (and then typing into your phone while you’re walking to work). Do you know why you should stop?

It’s stupid.

Do you know why it’s stupid?

It isn’t sustainable.

It isn’t realistic.

And, most importantly, it is incredibly unpleasant.

Trust me. You name it, I’ve done it. Atkins? Check. Dukan? Yep. Paleo? Of course. South Beach? Big time. Raw food, grapefruit diet, Master Cleanse? Yes, yes, and yes. They don’t work.

Unless you ate plain boiled chicken breast by the pound before your diet, you probably aren’t going to keep eating it for the rest of your life. I don’t care how sincerely and thoroughly you’ve convinced yourself that you can keep up your all-radish-all-the-time diet, you’re not going to, and you’re going to end up quitting it with a mountain of nachos and a pitcher of margaritas.

Diets like this discourage us. They tell us that to be thin, we have to keep up a wretched diet completely unlike anything we’ve ever done. They tell us that it is hard, nearly impossible, to lose weight. That we have to eat in ways that are at best rigid, and at worse disgusting. That we have to be hungry to fit into our skinny jeans.

They’re wrong.

You know what I like? Cheese. You know what is really dull, tasteless, and generally gross? Fat free cheese. Eating it is like eating an eraser. And that is why I subscribe to my non-diet diet. I promise you it’ll change your life.

My general rule of thumb is this: 80% good, 20% naughty. And no, that doesn’t mean you can eat 80% of the Kraft Dinner that you normally eat. If you keep 80% of your diet really clean, you can cheat on 20% of it with the ooey gooiest, most chocolatey, cheesecakey, grandest dessert of your choice. Generally, I give myself three cheat meals a week. So, once a week, I get to have the most delicious, stinkiest, cheesiest cheese of my choice — with some fresh baguette.

And you know what?

I’m substantially more satisfied with that once a week than fat-free cheese every day of the week. I don’t suffer debilitating cravings that result in a crazy-eyed midnight drive to the grocery store for a brick of extra-old cheddar, and I don’t do this because I know if I really want it, I can really have it, without fear of derailing my diet.

Not only am I more satisfied (and frankly, less manic), but I’m thinner and keep a cleaner diet. The word “liberating” doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of eating this way. It will set you free. A lot freer than constantly typing into your food log on your phone, trying to add up your daily “points,” or getting your preservative-filled (not to mention completely tasteless) but low calorie frozen meals delivered to your door.

Now, this isn’t a magic pass. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and you’ve got to acknowledge that your giant turkey club doesn’t get to count towards your 80% goodness total. The secret to the success of the non-diet diet is that, to allow for the naughty, you’ve got to make up for it with the nice.

When I say it’s got to be clean, I mean it. We’re talking lean animal protein (wild fish, chicken breast, lean steak) and plant-based fiberous protein sources (by that, I mean a lot of beans, tofu, tempeh). These will not only fill you up, but they’ll help build lean muscle.

You want “whole” carbs that have a low glycemic index. This means adding quinoa, oats, sweet potatoes, and squash to your grocery list.

Most importantly, you’re going to want to buy up the vast majority of the produce aisle. When I’m doing my weekly shopping, the amount of produce in my cart looks borderline absurd. But that doesn’t matter. You truly cannot eat enough fresh produce. For any given meal, you want at least 50% of your plate to be filled with vegetables. Don’t forget that.

There is no magic pill, no protein bar with superpowers. God didn’t endorse one specific diet book, share it with the Victoria’s Secret models, and keep it from the rest of us. As much as we’d all like to find that elusive and perfect quick-fix, it simply isn’t out there. The closest you can get is my non-diet diet.

Now, you’re not going to lose 20 pounds in a week this way. But any diet that promises you the loss of 20 pounds in a week is either a) lying or b) telling the truth, but neglects to inform you that you’ll also gain a horrible attitude and 30 pounds within the month.

So stop writing off entire categories of food (especially the ones that you love). Stop alternating between weeks of torture and gluttony. Stop panicking, counting points, and crying while eating brownies and reading books about how carbs are the devil.

Calm down, treat yourself occasionally, and the weight will fall off.

And it will stay off.

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Non Diet Diet