A few weeks back, Jason Fitzgerald of the stellar running site Strength Running mentioned that he was going to be gluten free for a month starting August 16th. As usual, I took the challenge on as well.
This is where you may think I come out and say one of two things…
“I dieted like no other. I was amazing and lost 32.965436% body fat.”
- or -
“I failed horribly. I gained 20 pounds and cheated constantly.”
Well, neither of these have happened over the last three weeks to me and I will explain why in a bit. However, many people fall into one of the two groups above and often it’s the latter. This is a major philosophical dietary problem that I am going to (try and) solve today.
Falling Into Mediocrity
I don’t expect most people to want to run ultramarathons or climb Everest. That’s unrealistic. However, we can all strive to be better than we currently are. Otherwise, we are just falling into mediocrity.
So, why do we all have our moments, sometimes short and others long, where we fall into this doldrum?
Because it’s easy.
Our lives are full of chaos. “I need to get up, get ready, take the kids to school, go to work, drive in traffic….and, oh yeah, eat.” This chaos doesn’t lead us to making the right choice when we finally address the whole food issue. With this chaos comes the option of letting the chaos control our lives and our results or taking an active approach to positive lifestyle change.
Here’s the kicker. It really is fairly simple too. Sure, in the One Ingredient Diet you can learn all the in’s and out’s, but it honestly comes down to eating unprocessed foods, preparation and consistence. #BOOM as my bud Joel Runyon would say. It’s SUPER-SIMPLE and, yet, we still fall towards mediocrity.
So, if it is so simple there must be another reason why we fail at eating a healthy diet and end up not getting past mediocrity assuming we are even at mediocrity? I believe the answer lies in not what we eat, but our outlook of what we can’t have.
A major problem I see with diets is that they don’t focus on what we can eat. They focus on the restriction aspect.
Jason and I taking on this challenge is not so out-of-character for us, but someone who is 50 pounds overweight and struggles with basic dietary maintenance would inevitably struggle with a restrictive diet like going gluten free.
Jason is going to be recapping his 30 day gluten free experiment in the near future, but I thought I’d touch on why this approach is much more difficult for me than approaches and you might relate.
When I have a physique, health, or dietary goal, I tend to build a diet from scratch and often succeed (build = positive connotation). Whereas, experimenting with dietary approaches that focus on selective removal of foods leads to my inevitable failure or higher likelihood of such (removal = negative connotation).
I want to do a little experiment…
Read the next two reactions regarding dietary approach and think about which approach sounds easier.
“What?! I can’t have meat? I have to just eat all veggies, fruit, beans, and nuts?”
- versus -
“So, starting from scratch, I can have my favorite fruits, veggies, and beans. Then a week later, I can add in nuts.”
I’d put my money on the individual sharing the second reaction as they see the diet as a positively correlated action to their life rather than a negatively correlated one a la the first reaction. This despite the diet being exactly the same, but looked at from different angles.
How to Solve the Restrictive Diet Problem
As human nature dictates, when we are told we can’t have something, we want it that much more. How people and companies
can should create their dietary programs is from a “building” perspective. They can build this diet to have structure and form from the start. With a restrictive approach, you are taking a standing building, picking away from it and hoping that the whole damn thing doesn’t come crashing down on itself.
This doesn’t mean we can’t take on vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and/or some other random dietary approach. This is just saying it shouldn’t be our starting point.
We can’t and won’t solve diet issues by tearing down from the get go. We need to build, then readjust, then continue adding on, then readjust until we have reached somewhere past mediocrity but way long before insanity. We need to build that base then tweak it from there.
How This Effects My Gluten Free Approach
I am sticking with Jason through September 16th on this gluten free kick. My one caveat is that I do have one meal per week that is anything-goes. So, if it has gluten, I am not going to kill myself over it.
The reason why I can and do take on these restrictive dietary approaches is because I have built a primary dietary practice that has a quality foundation and allows me to have fun experimenting. I enjoy it and I know I am crazy for it . I didn’t start the general diet that I follow by “taking away” as much as “building” it from scratch and adjusted accordingly. This gluten free approach is just a temporary adjustment that will not drastically change how I eat overall. It’s just an experiment to get further from mediocrity.
So, what’s your take on this? Do you think restrictive diets are the one true way to success? Do you think it’s healthy that I try these different approaches out? Let me know in the comments and I will do my best to explain and/or experiment some more.