"Our diet starts tomorrow!"
It's an obscure reference, but anyone who has seen the video "Boys will be Girls" by the comedy group Harvard Sailing Team understands. You know what, just so we're all on the same page, If you don't know what I'm talking about do yourself a favor and watch this clip before we go any further, specifically from the 1:15 - 1:50 timemark.
Great, now we can move on.
That quote is actually a rather accurate summary of my eating habits sometimes. It gives myself permission to eat whatever I want in the moment and assumes that a traditional diet will somehow be the solution to any weight loss or physical changes I’m desiring. Let’s start busting through those ideas.
As a human, and more specifically as an artist, our ability to create, rehearse, audition, perform, and inspire is intrinsically connected to how well we are taking care of ourselves. Without a doubt, artists can push through on 2 hours of sleep and a bowl of ramen to create some pretty amazing things, but that’s not the ideal way to create and it certainly is not a sustainable way to live if we hope to continue achieving great things and feel decent mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. In the realm of our physical wellness, what we put into our bodies makes a BIG impact on how we feel, look, and act.
As a personal trainer I’m asked frequently for tidbits of diet advice for weight loss or muscle growth. Most times they are seeking a nugget of truth that will be the silver bullet they’ve been missing to transform their bodies quickly and easily. The irony is that basic advice is simple, but follow through is where the trouble is.
For the purposes of this post, let us for now set aside any discussions on precision diets for elite athletes or other people who have spent years achieving specific goals with their bodies. For right now, I want to talk in terms of us common folk looking to make a change; those of us who don’t eat with much intention or awareness, who can’t really recall what they’ve eaten over the course of the day or week, and those who eat sporadically because their lives are inconsistent or overwhelming and just need to get some kind of sustenance in their mouth!
A diet (in the traditional sense) is not necessarily your solution or your friend. The only successful diets are the ones that make a lasting difference. Let me say that again. The only successful diets are the ones that make a lasting difference! If you go on any (fill in the blank) diet for 30 days or a couple months but then give up or go back to your old habits once you’ve lost some weight or started feeling better, you haven’t created lasting change and will spiral into the same feelings of frustration, lethargy and struggle you felt before.
Stop thinking of the word DIET as a program for short term change; your DIET is the way you eat. Period. Whether for good or bad. To be your healthiest you will need to make changes to your diet, but you’ve got to find ways to take ownership of new and healthier choices to make them stick. Start by making one or two changes this week that you could see yourself sustaining for the rest of your life! Ideas:
- Change your morning beverage. Is it filled with sugar and fat? Find out and then switch to something like drip coffee with a pump of sugar free syrup and a splash of almond milk. Make sure it’s a concoction you actually enjoy!!
- After 9 pm only eat veggies. Food eaten at night doesn’t suddenly have more calories than food earlier in the day, but as we move into the evening our will power weakens and our perception of quantity & quality struggles. Give yourself permission to eat at night if you have the nibbles, just define ahead of time what your food parameters will be.
- Ditch the cereal. I know, it is delicious stuff! A bowl of Cinnamon Life is literally LIFE! But it is not the strongest start to your day and, at least speaking for myself, it is so hard to stick to a serving size. Instead, start creating a habit of eggs in the morning, roasted veggies, overnight oatmeal, or other healthier choices.
Once you’ve made one or two smart changes, if you don’t stick with them for a day or two don’t beat yourself up; get back to your new, healthier, and more interesting choices and keep moving forward. Once you’ve spent a couple weeks implementing these new choices, amp it up and add a third or fourth tweak to your weekly eating habits. At that point, we can talk about more serious ways to shape your diet, but for now start small, be proud of your changes, and start to feel the difference in your body and mind. You won’t know what to do with all that creative juice you’ll have flowing!