The One Diet That Works For Everyone

If it weren’t for the calendar – or the dreary, grey, rainy Seattle days – I’d know what month it is by all of the commercials and morning talk show segments focusing on weight loss. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but it seems to me that the news media offers less and less actionable “news.” Perhaps it is the result of the current 24-hour news cycle and social media environment – media outlets seem to need to clamor for ratings more than ever. But many of the “news stories” don’t really seem to tell us anything.

Case in point: during the first week or so of the new year, every station and program seemed to offer a segment on New Year’s Resolutions – specifically weight loss and fitness. But every segment – and every expert – said the exact same thing: No one diet is right for everyone. Eat good foods. Avoid bad foods. And exercise.

Please forgive my ignorance, but how exactly is this “news?” Don’t we already know this? And how does this provide any new actionable information for viewers?

The truth is that there is one diet that will work for everybody. That “diet” is called tuning out (i.e. stop “consuming”) all of the cultural ideas and messages about calories, weight loss/gain, good food, bad food, etc. so that you can tune into the wisdom of your very own body. All the experts agree that “no one diet works for everybody” because every body is different. So the most effective and efficient program possible is for each individual to connect with and follow the guidance of his or her own unique body.

“Well that’s all fine and good in theory,” you might say, “but what do I do?” There are two answers to that question, depending on the type of person you are. Are you the type of person who has no weight or body image issues that haunt you and negatively impact your sense of self and your life experience? If so, you probably aren’t reading this right now. But just in case, the answer is basically the same – it’s just more condensed.

Step 1: Exercise every day. Find some activity – or activities – you enjoy and get moving. Use this time to practice becoming physically embodied. Feel what it feels like when your heart rate goes up – and comes back down. Feel what it feels like to work and stretch muscles. Feel what it feels like to be in your body.

Step 2: Continue to practice being embodied – for this is how you hear the signals and impulses coming forth from your body.

Step 3: Follow your body’s guidance. It will tell you what, when and how much to eat.

And what if you’re the other type of person? The kind of person for whom the body and weight shame tortures you every time you go to get dressed, reach for something to eat, enter a gym, engage in a social activity and keeps you up at 2:00 am? The basic principles are the same – we just have more junk to work through.

Step 1: Change the underlying paradigm from which you live your life. Recognize that your body is not a caloric balance sheet – nor is it a simple “chemical factory.” Your body is a complex system of living intelligence that is always trying to optimize itself. Yes, you are responsible for what you eat and what you do for exercise. But that does not mean that you can control your body’s size and shape through diet and exercise. Your weight is neither your fault, nor to your credit. Your body is ultimately in charge, and the best way of achieving your weight loss and wellness goals is by partnering with your body.

Step 2: Find some sort of physical activity you enjoy (or can at least tolerate) and use it as a way to become embodied. Exercise is not about “burning calories” or “losing weight.” That thinking is part of the old “transaction-based” diet and exercise model that creates the underlying pain and dysfunction. In this new “relationship-based” model, exercise is like a date with your body – it’s a way for you to spend time with your body and get to know it better.

Step 3: Continue to cultivate the relationship with your body so you can hear its messages that are unique to you.

Step 4: Trust your body and follow its guidance – it will tell you what, when and how much to eat.

“But what about results?? I want to lose weight! I can’t trust my body – look where it got me! I’m freaking out!” you might say. To which my reply would be:

The pain you feel is real, but you are not in pain about your body or your weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 pounds or 500 pounds. The pain you feel is in the gap between what you see now and the vision of what you want to be in your head. And that will always be there – no matter your size, shape or weight, you will always have that trigger moment when a pair of jeans feels tight, someone posts a less-than-flattering photo on social media, or you catch a reflection of yourself from an awkward angle. Even when you hit your goal weight (or size) you will have these moments. And there is nothing you can do to change your body in that moment. Even if you did decide to do some crazy diet or exercise program, that still wouldn’t change your body in that moment. The only thing you can do to relieve the pain of that moment is to change yourself. To find a thought or a change in perspective that soothes your state of being, to go for a walk and get some fresh air, to take a nap, to cry on someone’s shoulder, or dare I say…to eat something. Your power in that moment of pain is the power to help yourself feel better. And then, in that next moment, you will have a new set of circumstances, opportunities and choices from which to navigate your life. And when you move forward in time and space feeling better, time just seems to fly and your results just seem to “manifest” themselves.