The 'No Diet' Diet Review

Sunday 11 December 2016

Why do you judge and criticize yourself for eating certain foods or eating too much? Why do youalways need to know exactly how many calories you’re eating? What would happenif you stopped trying to lose weight? – A question I always ask myself and a question asked by the lovely Lulu who runs the health and wellness website Body Meets Mind.

I first met Lulu at my old CrossFit gym in Wellington. Lulu’s passion project to help people be at ease in their bodies. Something that a lot of people; including me, struggle with. So when she asked me to take part in a challenge she was running, I was in!! The challenge was called “The No Diet Diet.” It goes off the idea that most people follow some kind of diet. Or at least identify themselves as a particular kind of eater. I myself follow a paleo and primal diet and try to stick to three meals and two snacks a day. The No Diet Diet challenge appealed to me because I struggle with feeling bad about eating something that it is not considered healthy. Although I enjoy it at the time, soon after I start to feel guilty and beat myself up. Lulu sums this up perfectly by saying that “the common denominator in all diets is creating a “good” and “bad” list in your head. Certain foods will make you feel good and righteous, while others will make you feel like a failure who’s fallen off the wagon.”

The challenge aimed to take the mental judgment and charge out of food choices and banish them from tainting your personality and character. Meaning you will connect with your body above your mind. As Lulu says “rather than letting your mind do all the talking and jumping moodily between applauding or berating yourself, just eat what your body feels like. Enjoy food without self-judgment. Enjoy feeling free.”

The challenge was guided by Lulu through her website. Participants were set up with an account that we could log into and we received emails every week, with a link to an informative video telling us what we needed to do. The first challenge was my favourite and the biggest eye opener for me -writing a food autobiography. Reflecting on how we’ve grown up eating and what we think about food. Here are a couple of snippets from mine (which was a novel):

I’ve grown up eating a well-balanced diet, well at least I think I have. We had your typical kiwi kid lunches with luncheon sandwiches, a piece of fruit, a yoghurt and a muesli bar. Every Friday we were allowed to order our lunch from the school canteen – I’d usually opt for a chicken and apricot panini, a cookie time cookie and a chocolate milk. We had vegetables and meat for dinner and treats were treats. Treats like Gran’s lolly jar or Grandma and Grandpa taking us to McDonalds for lunch. I was a greedy child – when no one was looking I’d take extra lollies from the jar, or I’d offer to serve everyone ice-cream so that I could eat spoonful’s whilst serving. If we ever had a block of chocolate in the fridge – I’d sneak pieces and say it wasn’t me (I’m pretty sure they knew it was). Things got worse when I had an eftpos card, my friends and I would buy bags of lollies on bike ride to school each morning! I never ever considered this to be wrong.

I never thought about dieting and losing weight until high school when two of my best friends were obsessed with FAD diets – they tried fasting, the lemon detox and healthy inspirations. During the lemon detox diet they both went home sick – so I was quick to realise that starving yourself was a stupid idea. Although I didn’t eat fantastically at school I was so active with sports and dancing that I was able to maintain my weight. I knew I wasn’t skinny, I didn’t feel great next to all of the girls at ballet who were sticks, but I never felt bad enough to change what I ate/I didn’t have any goals/aspirations to do anything. I was just enjoying being young, food was far too good.. My favourite thing to eat was a mocha and a raspberry and white chocolate muffin from McCafe. I also worked in an ice-cream parlour – I’d eat ice-cream for breakfast. Ice cream in a waffle cone with cream and chocolate sauce! Sometimes I’d even have two in one day. Man that is absolutely gross thinking about it now. My family knew I was greedy, my younger brother who was a stick would always say “Emma, do you really need that?!” whenever I went for seconds.

When I started working at Glassons I became more concerned with my weight and body image and started more of a “diet” approach. But I didn’t really know what was healthy, and I’d eat things and then skip meals to make up for it – like a counting calorie approach. During this stage, I thought frozen yoghurt was healthy and I’d have massive bowls of porridge with dried fruit on top. I’d also always have sauces on my dinner and eat a lot of bread and sugary smoothies from cafes.

I moved to Auckland and met Alvaro whilst working at Glassons and Hallensteins Head Office. He was a CrossFit freak and had just done a transformation challenge. I spoke to him about how I wanted to lose weight and how I wasn’t making any progress. He taught me about the world of paleo, gave me a protein cookie and took me to CrossFit. It was a great journey, I was becoming more and more interested with the world of food. I got down to 70kg but I wasn’t in a good state of mind. I was restricting myself and feeling hungry all the time! I would drink up to 3 coffees a day to try and fill up on this and source energy from the caffeine. In an attempt to make up for the lack of sweet foods I was no longer consuming, I was eating a bunch of protein bars and shakes that are laced with a mixture of toxic chemicals. I’d get afternoon headaches and feel pretty crap.

I started free from refined sugar healthy baking and grew my blog embracing it. But my relationship with food got worse, I’d say to myself that I could eat one piece of baking…and I’d end up eating the whole cake. I’d feel sick and miserable but think, I’ve eaten badly why stop here. I’d rummage through the pantry to find anything I could – usually my flatmates chocolate. Then I’d cry and get angry at myself for what I had done. It was a horrible state to be in.

I kept baking because it was therapeutic, but I’d taste test something and spit it back out. At this point I was also weighing myself every day, my day was ruined if I had gained from the day before.

When I re-read over this I was able to see how far I have come and how far I still have to go. Which is where the next challenge really helped. I had to write down my beliefs about food and observe my behaviour, to see if it reflected on those beliefs. For example, I believe that you should be allowed cheat meals and eat food that is good for your soul. Yet I struggle to do it myself. I also believe that you shouldn’t restrict yourself from food, yet I follow a meal plan. I spent time thinking of where the beliefs came from and how they were bringing negativity into my day to day activities. Lulu helped me recognise the limiting beliefs, spend time with the beliefs and let go of those beliefs. Something I have been needing to do for a long time. Not only do you get support from Lulu, you get to do the challenge with a friend! When you sign up, your friend gets a free pass.

The challenge gave me the chance to reflect on myself, something that I have always been too scared to do. Although, at times I still feel guilty after eating something naughty, my mind has shifted. I have been eating more food, like coconut ice cream and enjoying it. I highly recommend partaking in the “The No Diet Diet” as it will open your eyes to your relationship with food and give you the mind shift necessary to distinguish the difference between a happy and maintainable lifestyle, and dieting.

If you’re keen to give one of Lulu’s challenges a go, sign up here