A guest post by Royal at Avocadoo – a service that helps people discover indie bloggers and new recipes (with the exact nutritional information!).
Every year, like clockwork, hundreds of thousands of people wake up and decide that they are heavier, slower, older, and weaker than they were the year before – so they decide to change that. I don’t know if it is the concept of another metaphorical page being turned or if it is the idea of starting over, but everyone seems to think this is the time to do it.
And if it takes New Year’s to force someone to want to be healthy, I’m not going to complain. However, I do want to recommend something that might, at first, seem counter-intuitive.
That is, don’t go on a diet.
Diets are a sham or, at least, they are in the way that we generally think of them. There are who shelves of books written on dieting by people with many letters after their name and famous schools on the wall of their office. But every few years a new diet comes out that sweeps across the western world and convinces millions of people to massively change their diet – Atkins, no-fat, no-carb, paleo, etc – many of them coming from books or named after their creators.
However despite those diplomas on the wall, the letters after the name, and the noblest intentions of the dieter, the overwhelmingly vast majority fail or enter a diet yo-yo. A diet yo-yo is the state (one I am am sure you have seen in at past some of your friends) wherein the dieter makes progress with a diet the neither burns out or is content with the results and wants to return to her old eating habits. Naturally the weight returns, she gets unhappy, and then starts the diet again. This is not a good place to be as you are either unhappy with your body or unhappy with your food.
Diets work, on occasion, for people with a strong will or with a relatively slight problem.
Now I want to look at this problem from a wholly different perspective – the first postulating that the majority of people that try diets fail and remain unhealthy. Now I want to pose a question:
How many fat vegetarians or vegans have you met?
Now, dear reader, please don’t leave, this isn’t an article proselytizing veganism or the like – I am sure someone has already tried that on you. Perhaps they made you watch a gross video of a slaughterhouse or tell you about the living conditions of chickens. I shall do no such thing. Rather I want to look at why they are skinnier and, generally, healthier than normies like us.
I spent 6 years as a vegan. I t was a long six years, but it put me on a track to where I am today. Healthwise, anyway. And, even after quitting, I still remained a healthy weight and didn’t go back to the rather poor eating habits that I maintained earlier.
This is because I managed to hold onto the main skill that one learns when he is vegan. That is, I learned to think about what I was eating before I ate it. This seems like a trivial skill, but how often to you sit down and ask yourself what, exactly, is in that Hot Pocket or Mcdonald’s meal? Or even that health bar?
As a vegetarian, or even moreso as a vegan, one has no choice but to think about exactly what he is eating every single time. There is no way a around it. If you mess up then you are beaking this ethical code that you have instilled within yourself. You won’t be able to say ‘I haven’t eaten an animal product/meat in X months or years.’ So in this way you are forced to analyze every meal, to read the back of every bar, to wonder if that beer is vegan or not (yes, this is a thing).
After a few weeks you develop an unconscious habit of thinking critically about everything you eat or drink. And this works wonders. Pretty soon you start you’ll pick up a french fry and actually consider what a french fry is.
Once you start thinking critically of your food it is hard to stop. It becomes a kind of sixth sense that you don’t even really need to think about. You look at something and you decided I am not eating that, it is unhealthy. The difference is now you know why it is unhealthy and why you should not eat it. As a vegan or vegetarian you have the nice crutch of literally not being allowed to eat it. As an omnivore it is a little harder.
This is what the Atkin’s diet, Weight Watcher, and Veganism all do to you. You wonder ‘Can I eat that, does it fit in with what I am allowed to do.’ Veganism just more fully ingrains this idea in you. This is because there are animals products in so many things that you would think are devoid of them. So you simply must read the back of every bar or ask the waitress at every meal.
This is the kind of mentality you need to get in to succeed at changing eating habits. Just starting a diet and telling yourself that you change as little as possible to meet the constrictions of the diet is doomed from the start.
You don’t need to become vegan, but you do need to teach yourself to stop and think critically about everything that you eat. Everything. Eating is a necessity of life and can be very distracting, so our mind automates most of the process itself. You might sit down and make a pot of pasta after work without really considering if it is the best thing for you to eat considering you didn’t exercise today.
You need to break this automation if you want to succeed.