The title of this blog is something that is so simple yet people have such trouble actually abiding by it. I first heard this quote from a trainer that I work with. I hear him say it from time to time to other clients when I’m in the gym.
Many people struggle to attain the health goals that they want to achieve. Whether those goals are losing weight, lowering cholesterol levels or just getting into better overall health, the foundation for those goals is a healthy diet.
Diet is a four letter word. I’m not sure if you’re aware of that. When people hear the word diet, they cringe. They immediately think it means you have to eat very little, and the food that you’re allowed to eat must taste terrible. I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case.
When I talk about diet I mean diet in its most basic meaning. The first definition of diet listed in the dictionary is as follows:
Diet (n) – food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health.
It’s not about breaking down what you’re eating a cutting a bunch of it out to lose weight. It’s about the quality of the food that you are putting into you mouth and how it will affect your overall health. It truly is about your habits with regard to food.
When patients come into my office diet is always something that we modify. Patients come to see us for a wide range of conditions, but dietary change is almost always necessary. There is the occasional patient that already has a perfect diet, but they are few and far between.
Patients are very motivated at first to change their eating habits because they are very motivated to feel better. As they get into their programs motivation dwindles and people begin to miss their comfort foods. It really is amazing how much people depend on food to make them happy. It should not be that way. Food can certainly be a source of joy. There is nothing better than a good piece of steak or a tasty chicken breast sometimes. However, if foods become your only enjoyment there is a problem. Food should be nourishment, not your sole source of pleasure.
Patients, even when they are achieving the results they desire, complain about the dietary changes they’ve been forced to make. Of course the alternative is to continue down the path they were on, eat as they wish and continue to feel bad. Either way they feel trapped. This is where the mind set needs to switch. They need to finally realize that they need to eat to live, not live to eat.
If a person can understand that concept, accept it and then apply it, dietary changes are easy. You are eating to be healthy and therefore happy. Not the other way around. Patients that have the hardest time changing often do not accept this concept. They don’t want to give up ice cream, candy, cakes, etc. because they get enjoyment out of consuming them. There are physiological reasons for this of course, but even when those are addressed the mindset does not change. If one can decide to use food as a tool to get healthy rather than a tool to be happy changes occur much faster.
Remember this concept: food is fuel for our bodies. We need it to function. We need it to live. We can certainly enjoy it, but it should not be a tool to make us happy. We should view food simply as something that can nourish our bodies and make us healthy. Viewing it this way makes it much easier to make good choices. Inevitably people who choose “comfort foods” make bad choices. When was the last time you heard that someone over ate chicken breast? It doesn’t happen. People over eat the bad stuff like donuts, chips or ice cream because they are eating for joy, not for nourishment. Abiding by the eat to live, don’t live to eat mantra will serve you well because it will help you make the right diet choices for the right reasons.