I live in Los Angeles, which means I'm always hearing about other people's diets. Raw food, $75-per-day juice cleanses, space food, the cookie diet...you name it, and there is a good chance I know someone who has tried it. When the paleo diet swept through my circle of friends, I felt a little like an outcast, still hanging onto my whole grains and legumes. I know I am a healthy eater — yet it was hard to resist the judgement that I was somehow eating a "bad" diet.
So it was a relief to read a thoughtful, honest article by food writer and former naturopathic doctor Winnie Abramson on why the paleo diet — and diets in general — don't work for her.
When Abramson wrote an article about why she abandoned the paleo diet after trying it for about a week, she received a stream of critical comments about what she had done wrong. In response, she wrote "An Open Letter to Everyone Who Eats," a clear-eyed explanation of why dieting just doesn't work for her.
"It's nothing personal," she starts off saying. After many years spent severely restricting her eating in an attempt to lose weight, following the rules and restrictions of a diet — even one based on healthy, whole foods — returned her to that old, unhappy mindset. She would much rather eat her usual healthy diet of whole foods from all food groups, with the occasional slice of cake or other treat when she feels like it.
Listen to your body, not to the author of the diet du jour. Eat plentifully of wholesome stuff and don’t eat so much of the stuff that’s not. Your body needs food (all different kinds and plenty of it) to do everything it needs to do. Don’t eat too few calories. Or fats. Or carbohydrates. (I’m serious about this: there's a good chance you're not eating enough, especially if you're a woman.)
Don’t deny yourself real foods that you enjoy. Make sure to move your body, get lots of deep sleep, and work on managing the stress in your life. Strive for balance instead taking healthy habits to extremes.
This describes my own eating beliefs in a nutshell. It isn't flashy, it isn't headline-worthy, and no one is going to pay $75 a day for it, but it works for me. Of course, many people report feeling healthier, happier and more energetic after switching to a paleo diet, which is wonderful. But I love quinoa, I love beans, I love rice — and I don't think giving them up would make me any healthier or happier.
What do you think? Have you found that dieting just isn't for you? Or do the rules of a diet help you stick to healthy eating habits?
(Image: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock)