Why You Should Ditch the Diet Mentality and Aim for a Healthy Lifestyle

You asked: "A lot of people talk about ditching dieting for a 'healthy lifestyle,' but I’m never sure exactly what that means. How do you define it?" The Harper twins have the answer.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this, but in general, a healthy lifestyle is all about enjoyment, flexibility, moderation, moving your body and mindful eating. We define “healthy eating” as making the healthiest choices 80 percent of the time, and then relaxing 20 percent of the time.

The 80 percent is about choosing foods that boost your immune system, fuel your metabolism, provide the highest energy, fight off disease and slow aging. But that doesn’t mean giving up other foods you love — it just means finding a way to incorporate them into that 20 percent. No deprivation, and no guilt.

(Related: Tricks to Make Your Diet a Little More Mediterranean)

If you’re trying to be more conscious of adopting a healthier lifestyle, ask yourself these four important questions:

  • What does a healthy lifestyle mean to me?
  • What does nutrition and physical activity look like for me on a daily basis?
  • How much emphasis or focus do I place on what, when and how much I eat?
  • What value do I place on preventative health?

It’s also vital to remember these truths: The story you tell yourself is what you believe. You are in charge of how you handle your emotions (you always have a choice). Small changes to your daily choices all add up to creating a healthy lifestyle.

(Related: 25 Genius Ways to Get a Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget)

Two things, more than others, are key to thinking about first, when establishing a healthy lifestyle:

Mindful eating

One of our greatest goals as dietitians is to help people establish and achieve a respectful, enjoyable, balanced, healthy and joyful relationship with food and eating. Use all of your senses in choosing to eat foods that are nourishing and nutritious to your body while also satisfying, with NO guilt! Giving yourself permission to eat what you choose, without restriction, allows your body to help guide your choices, experience how you “feel” when you eat different foods and learn how to make healthy and balanced choices. It’s how you can learn to navigate your body’s cues for hunger and satiety, which will impact the choices that you make. Diet culture has impacted many of us throughout our lives; now is the time to learn how to heal our bodies, and our relationship with food by listening to what our own bodies are telling us.

(Related: What Does it Take to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle? A Nutritionist Reveals Her Secret)

Learning about set points

Your “set point” is the weight that your body naturally goes to when you’re eating healthy and being physically active on a daily basis, where you feel and look your very best. It is totally unique to you. So many people (especially women) get caught up on the number on the scale, but it is simply not a true reflection of your overall health.

What matters then? How healthy your heart is, the state of your immune system and microbiome (your ability to fight off disease), how much energy you have, and your personal narrative. That is how you take these important steps toward a healthier life.

Rebecca and Reisha Harper are twin sisters and registered dietitians with a special focus on nutrition for health, beauty and aging well.  

Next: 11 Foods That Have Extra Healing Power When You Need It

Originally Published in Best Health Canada