Derek Flanzraich is Greatist’s founder and CEO. What’s Good Weekly is his take on the news, trends, and issues worth talking about in health and wellness, published every Monday. Sign up and get the column (plus puppy GIFs and other funsies) delivered early.
Diets have failed us, guys. But what if we’re thinking about them in the wrong way?
I ate dinner this week with someone who’s been on the ketogenic diet for six months. Suraj (name changed) is amazing, because wowza, it’s hard to imagine keeping that diet up while engaging with the world around you. (Basically, you can’t eat any carbs that don’t come from veggies, for one; and the gas is terrible, for two.)
In many ways, this is true of most—if not all—diets. The average American supposedly diets three to four times a year (!), and my guess is you don’t know a single person who’s still sticking to that diet she started in January.
So what does that mean?
Diets suck, so stop them! They don’t work!
I’m not so sure…
I definitely don’t think “mindful eating” is the most useful solution—at least, it hasn’t been for me, much as I’d like it to be. I see that as more of a life achievement goal.
Instead, we should rethink what the point of a “diet” is, and how we approach it.
Back to Suraj. His wife joined him in doing keto for three weeks, then stopped. In that time, she learned a lot. She learned you can eat certain foods (fat, e.g.), and not feel hungry the whole day. She learned there are unexpected carbs in all kinds of things (no, not the carrots!). She learned different ways to cook meat at home.
Whole30 is my favorite example of this important new movement, a movement away from a diet you’re on forever (cofounder Melissa Hartwig says it’s not meant to be Whole365). It’s a short-term program you go on, not for the purpose of losing weight (though that may very well happen), but to learn a few things that you can stick with long term. That’s right. The future is short-term diets for long-term learnings.
Maybe you’ll be introduced to new, healthier foods you love. Maybe you’ll realize how much sugar there is in Sriracha (sorry). Maybe you’ll learn that your body reacts to some foods differently than others. Maybe you’ll realize all you need to skip that third drink you didn’t want in the first place is an excuse.
All of these learnings, when you add them up over time, expand. There’s that magical moment when you realize you don’t need to get fries on the side but can ask for something else instead. Then that moment repeats itself for the rest of your life—and you’re healthier for it.
I’m excited to see more and more “diets” packaged this way. My guess is we’ll continue to see it. (BTW, a newer, maybe trendier, example of this is Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix.)
I’m all for this and think we should all be a bit like Suraj’s wife trying the keto diet: Embark on a three- to four-week food journey with a friend to learn something about yourself and your body. Come away with a few new habits you’ll stick with for the rest of your life.
That’s pretty compelling, right? It’s also the only way I’ve found really works.