I started dieting when I was 10 years old. I still remember my aunt coming up to me, waving her favourite women’s magazine in front of ‘my face. ‘Just look at this, it’s so easy!’ she exclaimed. ‘You only eat grapes, and they say you’ll lose at least 10 pounds in the first week. Let’s do it together!’
I’d never really thought of dieting before, but was painfully aware that my parents saw me as adorably ‘chubby.’ I also felt flattered and excited by my aunt’s invitation to join her in this very grown-up game. More than anything, I remember the thrill. The idea of eating nothing but grapes made me feel superior, disciplined and even noble. It also held an unspoken magical promise: If I could do this, everything else in my life would be perfect, too.
We only lasted six hours, but for years afterwards I yo-yo dieted to various extremes. Only in the last few years, after also struggling with compulsive overeating, have I finally made peace with food. That peace is what the Swap & Drop concept, at its core, is really about.
Our national obesity epidemic
A recent poll by the Heart & Stroke Foundation found that almost two thirds of Canadians have tried losing weight in the past five years. Most of those who succeeded ended up gaining the weight right back. And more than a third of dieters followed a regimen that, like my aunt’s grape diet, restricted or eliminated essential food groups or types.
Fad diets’extreme diet prescriptions that promise quick weight loss’don’t work and never will. Sure, you’ll probably lose weight in the short term, but it won’t last. It can’t. These diets aren’t designed for the long term, and you would likely harm your health if you tried.
Diet pills aren’t the solution either. Any time a patient shows up in my medical office requesting this kind of prescription, they get a conversation with me instead. It’s human nature to want a quick fix with no effort, but it will never get you where you really want to go.
Despite the huge number of Canadians trying to lose weight, we’re more overweight than ever. Additional data from the Heart & Stroke Foundation indicates that almost 60 percent of adults over 18’that’s 14.1 million Canadians’are overweight or obese. The numbers of obese and overweight children are also increasing at a terrifying rate.
The financial costs are rising, too. Statistics collected a few years ago indicated that obesity-related chronic conditions accounted for $4.3 billion in direct and indirectly related costs. That doesn’t include the cost of failed diets; the poll I mentioned earlier found that 42 percent of adults spend more than $500 per year on their weight-loss attempts.
Canada doesn’t need another fad diet. We need to transform our relationship to food. We also need to permanently change our lifestyle.
Why a no-diet diet is best
When Bonnie Munday, Editor-in-Chief of Best Health, first shared with me the fundamentals of Swap & Drop, I was pleased to see that it was based on solid wellness principles. In fact, it’s not really a ‘diet.’ Well, okay: It is a diet in the sense that if you are overweight and you follow it, you are very likely to lose weight. But more than anything this is a guide to creating a healthier, happier relationship with food’and your body’that lasts a lifetime.
It’s time to stop being afraid of food. The day I hit the lowest point in my dieting life, the deli where I bought my daily low-fat no-fun lunch didn’t have their usual whole-wheat bread. Instead, they made my sandwich using a multigrain loaf studded with sunflower seeds. Terrified that the fat-rich seeds would irreparably damage my calorie limit for the day, I picked the seeds out, one by one.
Soon after, the man I was dating at the time insisted ‘I visit his sister’s dietitian. Her advice was about making a simple change, and it transformed my relationship to food, and my body, forever. She gave me a radically simple prescription: ‘Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.’ She assured me that as long as I followed this principle and generally made healthy choices, there was plenty of room for treats, too.
As you’ll learn in this book, your body takes 20 minutes to turn on satiety signals, so this won’t work if you shovel in first and second helpings in a rushed 15-minute meal. Take the time to enjoy your food slowly, really tasting it, and check in with your body every few forkfuls. You’ll be amazed how well this works.
When the dietitian first explained this to me, I didn’t believe her. Wouldn’t I gain weight, instead of losing it? She assured me that I had to learn to trust my body. I had studied nutrition since I was a teen (and later went on to get a degree in dietetics), so I knew how to make healthy food choices. And over the years, as long as I followed this principle and engaged regularly in moderate exercise, I was able to maintain a healthy weight.
How connected are you to your body? Do you pay attention to when you start to get full? Are you able to tell the difference between a craving and true hunger?
Heal your relationship with food
In my work as a life and wellness coach I frequently help people heal their relationship to food, in addition to helping them transform other key areas of their lives. I’m regularly amazed by how distorted and disconnected people’s interactions with food are. One client might skip breakfast, then blame her lack of will when she binges on sweet snacks instead of eating a healthy lunch. Another might regularly eat every bite of a supersized restaurant meal with enough fat to last a week. Typically, she’ll have no idea how many calories are in this favourite dish and is more focused on cleaning her plate than checking in to see if she’s full.
Eating three healthy, tasty, wisely portioned meals a day, along with the right kind of enjoyable, well-chosen snacks, is a powerful ‘dieting’ strategy. If you faithfully follow the Swaps and the other principles described in this program, building new habits around healthy foods and activities you love, you’ll be amazed by how easily you ‘can succeed.
Most diets also fail because it’s incredibly hard to change a lifetime of habits overnight. My coaching clients have big goals and dreams, but we focus on getting there one small step at a time. This is another reason why the Swap & Drop concept works where many other plans flop. Small and steady victories, with minimal sacrifice and suffering, are the best way to create lasting change in your weight, your health and your life.
Some people say that no piece of cake tastes as good as thin feels. In my experience, slim should not be the main goal, but a nice bonus. Because nothing compares to how good healthy feels, when you follow nutrition and lifestyle practices that honour and respect the needs of your body. Learn to love and trust food, your body and yourself again. I am cheering you on!
Did you know you could change your life in 12 weeks? This simple 12-week step-by-step plan serves up no-nonsense strategies and easy lifestyle changes that tackle one meal, one change… one day at a time. Order your copy of Best Health’s Swap & Drop Diet today!