Diet v Lifestyle
What’s the difference between a diet and a lifestyle?
No, it’s not a trick question with a smart Alec answer.
Sometimes we use diet to refer to a way of eating as in, ‘A Mediterranean diet is generally regarded as very healthy’; or the Scottish diet traditionally features oatmeal for breakfast - referred to by Samuel Johnson as “Food for horses in England and men in Scotland”’.
More often we hear, ‘I’m on a diet’, meaning that we have temporarily changed our way of eating because we want to lose weight, or sometimes because we have discovered that we have food allergies or sensitivities, or are we are in the process of finding out whether or not we have such allergies or sensitivities.
On this interpretation a diet refers to a change in eating patterns that is temporary and limited: a lifestyle refers to a group of categories including diet that define the way a person has chosen to define their life. The patterns that embody a healthy lifestyle are often listed as food, exercise, sleep, social connectedness and stress management.
Clean Eating is Not Enough
I have for several years now been a fan of Clean Eating. Heck, I even wrote a Kindle book about it. The key ingredients of a Clean Eating lifestyle include avoiding processed foods, avoiding toxins in food and food environments and eating more fresh food. Clean eating also involves, in my view, becoming more aware of what you are eating and how your food and drink affect your body and your emotional well being so that you can fine-tune what you eat and drink to optimise what works best for your unique needs and wants. While there may be common general principles, there is no one size fits all: we are each unique.
Obesity has become a common complaint
While in developing countries fat people are a rarity because the struggle is to get enough to eat, in our developed countries, the opposite is true - fat or fat-ish people, including myself, are the rule and we have the opposite problem - we have too much to eat and those amongst us who tend to pile on the weight don’t seem to have found our Stop Button!
It can be a mystery, as I found out for myself when I decided I wanted to lose 5 kilos and almost immediately began to gain 5 kilos.
Enter Bright Line Eating
I was ripe for a new approach. Enter Dr Susan Pearce Thompson, a neuroscientist with her own weight issues who has successfully lost weight using her knowledge of the brain and how it works and, most amazingly, has kept the weight off for umpteen years. Sorry, remembering exact figures is not one of my stronger competencies.
I took her Susceptibility Quiz (www.brightlineeating.com) and discovered that I was in the upper ranges, meaning that I was susceptible to food addiction. All well and good. But it was the knowledge that I had unwittingly gained weight when I was aiming to lose it that made me look further and decide, at least for a while, to give Bright Line Eating a go.
So, what exactly is it?
There are four Bright Lines, meaning ideally absolute prohibitions. They are:
- No flour
- No sugar
- Three meals a day, nothing in between
- Bounded quantities - use a kitchen scale to weigh your food.
In practice, this means keeping a food journal of sorts in which you write down the night before exactly what you plan to eat the next day and when the next day comes, you eat exactly what you have planned in your journal.
Objections and my experience
Now, before you start raising objections - and Susan Pearce Thompson would be the first to say that Bright Line Eating is not for everyone - let me share my experience to date.
I have been following a Bright Line Eating lifestyle now for about six weeks and during that time I have lost 5 kilos. I am now back to the point earlier this year (don’t ask me when exactly because I can’t remember) when I decided I needed to lose that amount of weight. So this is a milestone for me.
Have I kept to my Bright Lines absolutely? Well, no, I haven’t: there probably hasn’t been a day without some, usually minor, infraction of the rules. Despite these lapses, I have lost weight.
Over the course of the six weeks I have noticed a few things about myself.
Yes, I probably am a bit addicted to food and unregulated in that respect. Sometimes I seem to feel both full and hungry at the same time.
Weighing my food hasn’t been the issue I expected it to be. Once I obtained a reliable, easy to use kitchen scale, weighing my food has become part of my routine.
Committing to planning and eating these weighed meals three times a day has somehow removed a burden I did not realise I was carrying! I now realise how much energy I was putting into thinking about food and what I would or would not like to eat at the next meal.
Have you ever had the experience of going grocery shopping, seeing something you would like to eat, and finding once you have brought the item home, that you no longer fancy it? That frequently happened to me. It’s been a relief to decide beforehand what I’m going to eat and then just buy the stuff.
I’m also realising just how often I made a cup of tea or had something to eat because I was bored, or upset about something, or just wondering what would work best to do next.
How does it work?
Dr Susan Pearce Thompson is a neuroscientist. She knows a lot about the human brain.
Three major factors. She has read the research on will power and habits and convincingly explains how this research applies to our eating.
Secondly, she argues that overcoming an addiction, whether it be food, smoking, gambling, drugs, involves a change in how we see ourselves.
She also recognises that we are all social beings. We need each other to support our sense of who we are and in order to become who we would like to see ourselves as. She has created and maintains a community of practice that is there to support everyone who decides to have a go at Bright Line Eating.
- Automatic supportive habits rather than willpower. We all run short of will power. I was relieved to hear that his has been scientifically shown to be the case and wasn’t just a personal failing. Rather than rely on will power, we need to make our actions part of an automatic routine that we just do normally as part of who we are.
- Changing our Self identity, the kind of person we aspire to be. ‘I am a person who … ‘ By affirming who we are in terms of our best self, we find that it becomes easier to find the will power to develop the habits that support us in being our best self.
- Resourcing and community support. This is a major strength of the program that includes numerous always compelling videos from Susan herself, a secret FaceBook page where support is always available, regular coaching and coaching calls, encouragement to reach out for support as well as to offer support to others, and a research program to document the whole process.
Find out more
Go to www.brightlineeating.com and take the Susceptibility Quiz now.