While trying to lose weight many people beat themselves up when they go off their diet and “splurge.” Not me, well, for the most part not me and here’s why.
I refuse to call what I am doing dieting. A diet quite simply is “the foods a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” according to the Oxford American Dictionary. What I am doing is altering my diet in order to lose weight. Why get so hung up on semantics? Because what I am trying to accomplish is a lifestyle change and my manner of eating versus a temporary reduction in calories (i.e. dieting). Both will achieve my goal, but one is lifelong, the other is fleeting. So if I am changing my eating habits it is still okay to have that ice cream, go out to dinner, or have that cookie—in moderation. To me diets are equivalent to punishment, but changing your lifestyle means that exceptions are allowed. With diets you end up restricting yourself so much from the simple pleasures. By changing your overall behavior, the occasional splurge is perfectly acceptable.
This has been sitting at the top of my mind recently because of a few events. The most recent was last night when my husband and I went to dinner at Ciatti’s, a local Italian restaurant, where I had a glass of wine, pasta, and tiramisu for dessert. That would send many dieters reeling into a downward guilt spiral. Here is where the lifestyle change versus diet is key. Instead of opting out of dinner to “stay on my diet,” I instead made conscious choices about my food selection. I ordered pasta with grilled shrimp and fresh tomatoes—no heavy cream sauces—and I only ate half of it. Okay, I had the tiramisu too.
The other recent events where I “went off my diet” were a couple of weeks ago. Saint John’s University, where I work, has an annual Food Fest for students, faculty, and staff where all sorts of food vendors come in hawking their wares looking for votes. Items with lots of student votes are considered for introduction as menu items for the next year. My colleagues and I don’t vote, but it is something we look forward to every year. Do I count calories? No. Do I beat myself up for it? No. The third event was also work related where we had an impromptu going away party for a colleague going out on medical leave. We had Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Did you know that a slice of DQ ice cream cake has 500 calories?
Calorie counting and journaling tend to go out the window on those days, or at best I record what I can. Thing is, I don’t beat myself up over it. If you’re too restrictive your prone to binge. Not to mention that the idea of fitness and good health is about energy and enjoyment, and shouldn’t be viewed as punishment. While I watch my calorie intake, food choices, and portion sizes like a hawk now, I don’t restrict my diet to an insane level. I don’t cut out all the fun stuff. I enjoy burgers and brats, ice cream and other treats. I just am careful with how much and how often. I’m also far more forgiving of myself when I eat the fun stuff on nights I run. A five mile run burned off those ice cream cake calories.
Finally, my weight loss and fitness goals are a journey: the goals are not part of an eight week diet plan just to lose weight for some event. My goal is to change how I eat and how much I eat, and most importantly, I have introduced exercise into my regular routine. Exercise allows me to take in more calories, release stress, tone my muscles, and increase my overall fitness level. So don’t feel guilty about a once in awhile indulgence, it’s all part of life.