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How to Eat Healthy Without Dieting

Last week, I watched as Facebook-land threw all manner of diet-industry craziness at a close friend of mine.  She’s been having difficulty with her weight lately (due primarily to medical reasons, which of course no one on her Facebook feed was qualified to speak to – including me), and was venting her frustration and looking for some helpful suggestions. I watched as fad diet, after detox, after clease, was suggested. Juicing, Whole30, paleo, 21 day fix, ketogenic, zero-sugar, etc. The list went on and on. And my heart sank for her. While each might work for a short time, they ALL have a fatal flaw. So I thought I’d create a post to show a good starting place for someone who wants to eat healthy WITHOUT dieting via the next fad diet craze.  

First Though, What’s Wrong With Those Diets?

I realize that some people reading this might think “Pssh, whatever, XYZ diet worked GREAT for me!” And that’s fine. I’m never here to here to pee on anyone’s parade. 🙂 If something has worked wonderfully FOR YOU, and makes you happy, then keep doing what’s working! This post isn’t for you.

If, however, XYZ diet worked well but only for a while, then this post is for you. If you’ve been around the dieting block a few times and have struggled with maintaining your weight loss from any of the various diets, then this post is definitely for you.

Do you know the one fatal flaw every single one of those diets has?

SUSTAINABILITY

All diets are really the same at their core. When you boil each and every one of them down, they amount to 3 things:

1 – Creating a calorie deficit in some way. They all have different “magic” ways of doing so, but the underlying basic premise is still always the same: eat less.

2 – Decreasing processed foods and increasing whole foods (even if some of the whole foods have been turned into a now-processed vitamin shake, but I digress…). Essentially, they find creative ways of getting you to eat more nutrients.

3 – Instilling a lot of unnecessary rules that become difficult to stick to in the long term for MOST people.

And that last point is the fatal flaw. Because if something starts to suck, you’re going to stop doing it. And when you stop, you’ll halt or reverse any weight loss you had. And when the weight creeps back up, you’ll find another diet that makes all the same glorious promises, and the cycle starts again. 

You don't need to diet to eat healthy. Diets don't work because they suck to sustain. Learn how to eat well for life instead, using practical healthy strategies.

There’s a Better, Easier Way

Wouldn’t it be the best, most effective, approach to get the benefits of the first two points above, without the drawbacks of that last KEY point?

In a nutshell: learn to shift your diet to include more whole foods, while taking in less calories overall.

There are no strict rules, and there is no “perfect diet” or magic secret.

To lose weight, you have to improve your diet in a way that does not suck. If you do it in a way that makes you miserable, you won’t stick to it, and any weight you lose at first, will just come right back.

I’ve talked about this before, here, here, and here, and well, everywhere really. Because with so many diets having a cult-like following, there has to be a voice of reason somewhere!

It’s coming to my attention though, that while I’ve been railing against the diet industry nonsense in my various posts, I’ve not really given you an alternative of what to do instead. “Improve your diet in a way that doesn’t suck” is good advice, but it’s not super practical if it doesn’t tell you HOW.

HOW Do You Eat Healthy Without Dieting?

There are many skills and strategies that go into creating a healthy eating lifestyle, and I can’t touch on all of them in one blog post. So for today, let’s focus on the crux of your daily eating: your actual meals.

We want our meals to be ones that fuel us up, satisfy us, and nourish our bodies. So we need to know how to build those meals to hit all those points.

Here is a secret… The only difference between eating healthy to lose weight and eating healthy in general is QUANTITY. All the rest stays the same.

[bctt tweet=”Only difference between eating well to lose weight and eating well in general is QUANTITY.” username=”raisingnutritn”]

There is no such thing as a food you “can’t” have while losing weight. Anything can fit into your plan, we just need to be mindful of portions. Georgie Fear, my awesome mentor, has said “There is a weight loss portion of every food” and it’s so true. The weight loss portions of cheesecake and nutella may be smaller than you want them to be, but they do exist.

Here is a Rough Guideline for Building a Healthy and Balanced Meal:

1 – Start with the veggies/fruits. Aim for about ½ your plate.

Come on, you knew it was coming. As I mentioned above, all the diets listed increase your intake of whole foods in some way (even if they’ve liquefied them). Since veggies and fruits are less calorically dense than other foods (and oh yeah, packed with nutrients too), it makes sense to have them as a cornerstone of your intake. They fill you up without adding a ton of calories, and they give you many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Win, win.

No, they don’t have to be organic or grown in your own backyard. All the research that has shown health improvements by adding fruits and veggies to your diet? They’re done with conventional produce. Please do not let the organic industry scare you into thinking regular produce isn’t good enough or is covered in pesticides. Organic ones are covered in them too, they’re just different ones that are on the “allowed” list (and it can be argued that the organic pesticides actually have a higher toxicity, but that’s an argument for another day). So no, you don’t need to be a caveman or pay twice the price for organic. Just pick up some extra regular produce at the store.

2 – Make sure to get in some protein. Aim for about ¼ of your plate. 

I know that many people grew up with big plates of pasta and sauce for dinner, or just cereal for breakfast. But a meal that is primarily carbs isn’t going to be nearly as satisfying as one that includes protein (and those fruits or veggies from point number 1). Protein triggers different satiety mechanisms than carbs do, meaning you’ll feel full a little bit sooner (and likely eat less), and due to protein’s staying power, you won’t be hungry again in an hour.

3 – Use the starchy carbs to fill in the rest of the meal. Aim for the other ¼ of your plate.

Carbs are NOT bad, and they definitely get to be included in your meals. Just keep them more along the lines of a side dish than the main event. Carbs have their own satiety mechanisms that they trigger, and many people don’t feel quite as well fed with a meal of just protein and veggies. Having some starchier carbs in there helps to hit all the various satiety points, and there’s a definite enjoyment factor in there too! So go forth and have some pasta if you love it, just be sure to get some protein and veggies in with it (like this example, or this one).How to make healthy meals template and guideline. You don't need strict rules or to eliminate food groups. A simple meal structure works wonders.

So there ya have it… a template of sorts to help you create healthy and balanced meals without needing to eliminate anything or otherwise drive yourself nuts trying to follow various rules. This isn’t a new concept. You can find a bazillion mentions of this same idea all over the internet, especially Pinterest. But the premise, while not as “exciting” as a new magical diet, is a solid one.

Need More Help?

If you need some ideas to get you started, check out my Recipe Page. You’ll notice I do a lot of mixed meals, or one-pot meals, which makes the visualization of ½ or ¼ of your plate a bit tricky. For meals like those, think of it in terms of ratios in the overall recipe instead of the plate. Is the recipe heavy on veggies? Does it include enough protein for the number of servings it makes? Is the starchy carb ratio somewhere around ¼? You certainly don’t need to go crazy here (the whole point is to make you NOT crazy)! Think of it as a guide.

And if you need a little bit more help and a few other strategies for building healthy meals (and making them EASY), click HERE to get my FREE guide of 5 simple strategies to Make Healthy Meals Easier Than Take-Out (and access to my entire freebies library)!

Cheers to your health, and sanity!

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