It seems there are as many diets out there as there are grains in the sand. Each diet has their own principles, types of food that are “in” and “out” and varying degrees of scientific research behind them. So how do we tell a good diet from a bad one? Should we be dieting at all? Or is there another way forward for developing and sustaining healthy eating habits?

I am proposing a new form of “diet” which I all a “Diet +”. What is a Diet + I hear you say (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)? Any diet that also meets a few important psychological principles, based on research that we KNOW about what a healthy way of eating looks (and doesn’t look) like*.

If your diet DOES NOT meet these principles, research shows this is what you’re up for (after the short term improvements, of course):

X Lower metabolism, energy, and immune function
Lower body-image, self-esteem, and mood
Lower sensitivity to hunger and fullness cues
Higher unhealthy preoccupation with food
Higher External, Emotional, and Binge eating
Weight gain and weight regain

Be mindful that this is what happens to the AVERAGE person when dieting. Not the “failures”, this is the NORM. When you look at these results, it’s hard to see it that we fail diets and not the other way around…

So, if it’s harmful to dieting, what do we do? Just eat what we want? Well let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater (has anyone ever actually done that?)…if you take your current eating plan and ensure it fits the Diet + principles you’ll be well on the way to creating healthy habits you can sustain for life….

For your diet to become a Diet + it must meet ALL THREE principles**.

+ All foods are allowed. Forbidding foods increases psychological preoccupation (the “forbidden fruit” effect) and overconsumption when you do eat them (the “what the hell” effect), both of which result in more eating over time, not less. Of course, if you have a food intolerance or allergy that will make you look like Prince Joffrey after he drank the wine at his wedding, that’s a different story…but you get the principle. This also does not mean you have to eat all foods, it means you have a freedom to!

Calories are balanced. When your calories are too low, you become preoccupied with food, hungry, and you can even turn off your own fullness mechanism! This happens because your body is smart and doing exactly what it should do when you undereat – encouraging you to eat more!!! Work with your body to create balanced energy intake you can sustain 🙂

Eating is regular. Getting in touch with your natural start and stop signs – your hunger and fullness – further ensures you are working with your body and creating sustainable changes. This is what we call “intuitive eating” – you can think of your nutrition from your eating plan and your intuition from your body as like two oars of the boat – make sure you use both and you’ll end up where you want to be.

I have been holding my public and professional workshops at home, and we’ve been having our catering done by Primal Pantry a wonderful Paleo restaurant in Teneriffe. On speaking with their staff, I was comforted to hear they are actually “Paleo +” in their thinking! Tracey, the head chef, told me “It’s a principle, not a prescription”, and one of the (several) cheeky waiters said “we have to cater for the Teneriffe natives, so you may be able to hustle up some milk if you ask the right person 😉 ”. So maybe if you have the CSIRO book you can do a “CSIRO +” diet, or if your dietitian favours a Mediterranean eating, you can follow a “Mediterranean +” way of eating. All you have to do is adapt your diet to fit these simple principles and you’ll be well on your way to creating a way of eating that your mind, body, and spirit will love.

*The smart cookies will realize that a “Diet +” is what psychologists call a “non-diet”. Many people take exception to the word diet, as do I mostly, but a Diet + moves back towards the original meaning of the word diet, from the latin word diaeta, which means “way of living” 😉

**Note – doing your diet without making it fit all three principles will likely end the way all of your other diets have EVEN if you say you’re not doing a diet, and call it a lifestyle change…a rose by any other name is still a rose…

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