Dieting. If we didn’t call it that, we probably wouldn’t worry about messing up or falling off the wagon.
So, how do we change this crazy mindset we created in the 1950s when the “you can’t be too thin or too rich” way of life became our mantra? How do we survive the insanity especially at holiday time when eating and drinking to extremes is considered the only way to enjoy the season and dieting is the last thing on our wish list.
A few years ago, I went to Italy with a friend who is the embodiment of what we all strive to be. She is beautiful inside and out and of course, thin. She is one of those enlightened souls who doesn’t dwell on the day-to-day drama of life; she accepts things as they come. To her, things happen in balance.
One morning, on the terrace of a magnificent hotel on the Amalfi coast while enjoying a beautifully appointed breakfast surrounded by oleanders and bougainvilleas, she laughed out loud at the sight of certain items on the menu clearly catering to the American palate. Specifically, the items were the low-cholesterol, low- fat, and low-carbohydrate foods.
My friend is Italian and splits her time between Europe and the United States. She, too, is in the healthcare field, so the menu opened the door for a conversation about American eating habits. She couldn’t believe we Americans are so preoccupied with what we eat. “Isn’t eating a joy?” she exclaimed. Well, for Europeans and those with beautiful, thin bodies, maybe it is, but not so for the run-of-the-mill American who is constantly struggling with weight under the scrutiny of peers and the media obsession with dieting.
The conversation with my friend struck a cord. Somehow, when I travel to Europe I can eat croissants, pasta, and pizza, and drink wine without the dire consequences of weight gain. And I’m not alone. Patients tell me similar stories about what happens when they travel to Europe and indulge in forbidden foods, breaking every rule of dieting in America.
Explanations for this European paradox abound. Among them: water, air, walking more, fresher foods, fewer chemicals — just to name a few. I’m sure there is some truth to all these possible reasons, but how can the European experience help us in the United States around the holidays, or even every day?
The Hormone Friendly Diet — which isn’t really a diet — is what I created to help us navigate and adopt lifestyle changes that allow us, average Americans, to enjoy what comes naturally to our relatives across the ocean. Eat forbidden foods, drink a glass of wine, and never feel deprived again.
Here are the highlights:
• Consider portion size.
Don’t obsess about what you should eat at holidays, at a party, or when you are just going out. Don’t leave home hungry. Have a snack and enjoy less food out!
For every week you fall off the wagon, take three days to detoxify. (Yes, it’s in the diet.) It resets your eating habits.
• Drink water.
Drink one glass of water before and after each alcoholic drink. You’ll drink less and your body will thank you for helping it detoxify the alcohol.
• Eat in moderation.
If you feel deprived, you crave foods that may be unhealthy. Eat a small portion of what you crave.
• Strike a balance.
Be kind to yourself and allow a little indulgence without gorging.
• Make connections.
You are unique and you must understand how your body works. Connect what you eat with how you feel. If pasta and cheese make you feel bloated, avoid them. If soda and alcohol make you sick, skip them. Water won’t harm you. Some people do well eating numerous small meals; others are fine with two or three meals a day. Try different eating strategies and see when you feel the best.
• Listen to your body.
Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat. Once you are hypoglycemic you will overeat and get sick and fat. Don’t follow the crowd. Follow your instincts. They won’t let you down.
• Seek hormonal balance.
If your thyroid is low or you are lacking estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone, you will pile on the pounds even if you starve yourself and work out all the time.
Life is too short to make it about dieting. We all get old, and if we find balance and take good care of ourselves, we usually enjoy all the perks, even at holiday and party time.
For more on the Hormone Friendly Diet, visit my website
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