Being a twenty-something year old female, a lot of my social conversations involve complaining about unsuccessful diets and weight loss regimes. Recently, something struck me that I was surprised I hadn’t picked up on before- at the heart of all of my friends’ unsuccessful efforts was not that they skipped leg day or decided to act like an un-chaperoned child at a birthday party when doing the weekly shop- it was that they were all asking the wrong questions about their exercise and diet. As with all things in life, if your question is wrong the solution will also be off the mark, so why should dieting be any different? In light of this, I’ve compiled a brief list of the most unhelpful questions we often ponder with diet and exercise, and more helpful questions to replace them with.
- How many calories/fat/carbs are in that? I’m not going to lie and say that weight is unrelated to calories and that it isn’t beneficial for people to be able to understand nutrition labels. It is. My point is that your calorie intake can vary so much depending on a multitude of factors, and that hunger should be your guide. I became very depressed when I found out how many calories were in banana bread (I’m not going to tell you because it ruined the better part of 2013 for me). I knew it was bad, but having a calorie number just meant that I couldn’t eat it without being wracked with guilt even if I deserved it. Better questions to ask of your food are where is my food from and is my body telling me I need it? if it’s unprocessed and you know each ingredient in it, and if you have earned it, chances are you’re not going to blow your food budget and your body will thank you.
- What’s my weight? Again, your weight is an arbitrary number, yet so many people seem to pin their self worth and success to it. A much more helpful question to ask yourself is how are my clothes fitting. Others aren’t going to see the number on the scale, but they are going to see you. How you look and how you feel about your body are far better indicators. You often can see changes before the scales notice them, so get your validation from there.
- What weight should I be? Don’t look to BMI guides to tell you what weight you should be at. A better question to ask is what weight am I happiest at or what weight do I function best at? This may or may not be a “suggested BMI”.
- What are my diet dos and don’ts? Looking to professor google to tell you what foods you should be eating is bound to end up in disaster, or even worse with you living off kale. Having strict “do” and “don’t” foods restricts your social life and acts like the forbidden apple (and we all know how that ends up, don’t we). A monotonous and narrow diet can also deplete your stores of particular nutrients over time, which can have some serious health consequences. A much more helpful question to ask is what do I feel like eating? We don’t give our bodies enough credit- if we listen close enough they give us pretty clear signals as to what we should be eating. Chances are that if you are really craving something that there is a nutrient in that food that your body is deficient in.
Remember- the right solutions never come to those who ask the wrong questions!