Dieting in College without Counting, Part 4: Mentality (2/2)
By Ari Snaevarsson, Feature Editor
In last week’s article, I argued that counting your calories is not only not unhealthy but could actually be one of the better lifestyle changes you can make. With that idea cemented in our minds, we can dive headfirst into the instructional section on actually implementing an optimal dieting mentality.
I will organize this by discussing four vital attributes of an optimal dieting mentality; I will briefly cover why they are important and how you can go about exercising them in your dieting efforts.
- Your diet fits into your life, not the other way around. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I see peers’ diets fail before they even begin due to this one paramount mistake. The reason we see around 75% of dieters regain all the weight they lost, and then some in most cases, is not that “diets do not work,” but rather that people hold themselves to ridiculously high standards when it comes to dieting.
Think about it like this. We know full well that even with the best study habits, we are not likely to earn a 100% in each class, because we are only human and some level of error is to be expected. How then could anyone go into a diet, with the limited dietary knowledge and experience symptomatic of most first-time dieters, expecting perfect compliance?
Do not beat yourself up over days you overeat slightly, do not meet your protein goals, are not able to make it to the gym, etc. Concern yourself instead with the more general trends in the right direction like long-term weight loss or even simply long-term realistic diet adherence. Always remember to see the forest for the trees.
- You are never “on the diet” or “off the diet.” Unless you have extensive experience in dieting and have a legitimate reason for it, dieting should never denote short bursts of perfect adherence to some arbitrarily stringent rules (i.e. no carbs before bed). Dieting is a long-term lifestyle change and should be something you can stick to without unnecessarily rigorous restrictions.
It is absolutely imperative to learn the difference between “appetite” and “hunger,” and some level of self-restraint is going to be unavoidable in an effective diet. But a diet that day in and day out makes you dread getting through the day is destined to fail.
- You practice dietary mindfulness. If there is one thing I would love for my readers to take away from my articles, it would be an increased sense of mindfulness in your eating habits. This is one of the biggest takeaways from calorie-counting for most people; they realize how much those high-calorie snacks and drinks add up and are more cognizant of their dietary choices.
Enough cannot be said for the value of being mindful of what you put in your body. I resent the notion that we, as adults, cannot practice some basic self-control and moderation in our eating habits just because “college is stressful.” If your response to stress is actively making your body worse at dealing with stress, that is a problem.
- You are not brooding over food all day. Getting through a diet means not always stuffing your face when you feel like it; there is no way around this. If you are implementing all of the methods I have prescribed in the articles of this series and still find that you are constantly hungry, there is not much I can do that will magically make you stop thinking about it other than telling you to stop thinking about it.
I can tell you that your fasted state, if you are following the guide outlined in this series, is the best time to be productive. If the meal times I laid out in Part 2 do not fit well into your schedule or you find you are craving another meal each night, consider pushing the meals back a bit (or whichever necessary accommodations are in order).
Due to the neuroplasticity of our brains, the more often you practice self-control in your diet, the more habitual and effortless it will be to do so in the future. While I will admit that dieting itself, at the extreme levels at least, never gets easier per se, it can absolutely become something you need not apply much thought into each day; it eventually just becomes routine.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this mini-series on Mentality, this does not do much to cover all there is to know about dieting mentality. Certainly, I have left quite a few stones unturned. But my hope is that I can shed some light on one of the more important aspects of dieting that so often goes unstated.
This concludes the “Dieting in College without Counting” series, but there will likely be some addendums and responses to FAQs coming in the future. If anything throughout this guide was even slightly confusing, do not hesitate to contact me and ask for clarification. Stay tuned for more!