Diets, we love to hate them

Ever wonder why there are always new diets?  And why, despite their not-so-stellar reputation, we still find ourselves tempted to give them a try? Let’s explore some of the reasons why diets continue to appeal, because chances are if you’re a women over 40 you’ve tried at least one diet in your life…

Ooooh, this is new!

Novelty has a magnetic pull on us. We love the thrill of trying something new and different, especially when it comes to our eating habits. The idea of a quick fix or a set of eating rules that promises to be a game-changer can seem exciting. Whether it’s going low-carb, practising time-restricted eating (aka fasting), or exploring other unconventional approaches, the allure of something shiny and new beckons us to shift our focus away from whatever isn’t working for us.

It’s important to recognize that there’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring new eating approaches. Sometimes trying something new is just what we need to expand our palettes and learn to like vegetables (yes, it’s possible!). We’re all unique individuals, and what works for one person may not work for another. There is often a strong desire for a reset, a shift in focus, or a departure from our usual routine and this can be what drives our desire for a new diets. 

The danger is when we begin to under eat (1200 calorie or less diets, I’m looking at you!) and cut out large food groups; we can often miss nutrients when we do this and create health issues without realizing it!

Just tell me what to do (aka give me the rules)

Diets also provide us with rules – for some, a rule is a gift – it’s a plan, structure, something to follow. Others hate rules, so this aspect of a diet won’t resonate well, but for those who enjoy structure and routine, diet rules deliver. There is sometimes a strange sense of comfort in having a plan to adhere to. The rules of a diet can act as guardrails, guiding us along a defined path toward our health goals (or the health goals of the creator of the diet).

Less decisions? Yes please!

And part of why we enjoy rules is that it limits our other choices – essentially it makes a decision for us. As adults we make THOUSANDS of decisions everyday and chances are you’re tired of making decisions by the time the afternoon rolls around. A diet makes those decisions for you and can be a respite from decision fatigue. A diet takes away the burden of having to make food-related choices constantly, offering a predefined framework that streamlines our eating decisions. For those who enjoy structure and seek a sense of control over their eating habits, these rules become a welcome relief.

But keeping up with those diet rules can also create a sense of fatigue and then it’s a double whammy of feeling like you’re failing and also having to make more decisions when you’re hoping to make less. And if you’ve ever done a strict plan and ended up running out of time to grocery shop, meal prep and plan then you know the pain of having that structure but not being able to achieve it. Ouch. 

I hate this diet, time to move on

Adding to our love/hate relationship with diets is the opportunity to blame. When we follow a diet and it doesn’t “work” or we can only stick to it for a short period of time, we’re able to blame something that’s external to us. We can also hate the diet without offending an actual person, which is a nice bonus.

diets for women over 40

To be clear, diets are generally not designed to lead you to success in the long run. Diets are often designed for short-term gains, such as rapid weight loss (which I don’t recommend!), and more often than not are not sustainable in the long run. When the goal is weight loss, which 9 times out of 10 it is, you may find that the rules that appealed in the beginning become what makes it impossible to continue. 

Ugh, where do I go from here??

This is the million dollar question – what do we do once we discover that diets aren’t the answer but also feel lost when it comes to what to eat? 

For lasting and sustainable changes to your health and well-being, focus on making small, consistent changes over time. Gradually bring in more vegetables and fruit, see if you can add greens and whole grains. Focus on getting 28 grams of fiber each day, aim for 20-30 grams of protein at each meal and add a veggie to your plate. It sounds incredibly obvious but taking a balanced approach to eating that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and overall health needs is what will last. 

This is especially key in the menopause transition, as our decrease in hormones like estrogen also equal a decrease in protection for our heart and brain. What we eat plays an important role in our mental, hormonal and physical health – the latest and greatest diet is unlikely to have this in mind!

Remember, you are unique, and what works best for you may not necessarily be found in the latest diet fad. Embrace your individuality, make informed choices, and seek support from qualified health professionals who can guide you on your menopause journey to a healthier and happier you.

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