Let’s Stop the “No Pain, No Gain” Approach to Eating

Last week, I talked about how alarm bells go off in my head when someone tells me that they are “good” during the day when it comes to eating.

Why? Because I know “good” has come to mean restricting portions, drinking chalky protein shakes instead of eating actual food, and cutting out gluten, sugar, or whatever is the current evil of the day.

How is this different from the person who works out twice (or maybe three times) a day, spends hours on the treadmill and ends up injuring themselves so that they’re down for the count for weeks on end?

We need to stop this “no pain no gain” approach to eating.

A few years ago, I came up with my Top Two Secrets to Healthy Eating. I consider them “secrets” because they’re what the typical diet plans don’t tell you. A diet plan might tell you what to eat, how much to eat and sometimes when to eat (OK, more like when not to eat), but most won’t tell you how to make it happen. In fact, some will even shame you if you can’t make it happen, but that’s another blog post for another time.

Diets are definitely “no pain, no gain” – if you can survive drinking only lemon juice for 30 days straight, or cut out all carbs, caffeine, alcohol and packaged foods, or meticulously measure everything you eat, eventually you’ll drop all the pounds and you’ll hit the magical maintenance phase, where you can go back and enjoy your life again and live happily ever after.

In today’s edition of The Truth Hurts, I’d like to let you know that…

There’s no such thing as maintenance phase.

Healthy eating is not like the Olympics, where you train and make sacrifices for one pinnacle, life-changing moment. If you have diabetes and your doctor puts you on medication to get your blood sugar under control, you will still need to stay on your medications to keep them there. The same goes for general health, but in this case, your “medication” is your lifestyle.

Healthy eating is not the Olympics. You're not training for one moment, you're living for a lifetime. Click To Tweet

Let’s face it – whether you call it a diet, a cleanse, or a detox, they suck. They make us feel miserable, but when it’s over, it feels good because you feel morally superior to everybody because you did something that sucked and you survived. (And you might have lost some weight, so it feels like it is worth it.)

But can it really be considered a success when the weight piles back on (with a few extra friends) in a matter of weeks, or even days?

All this to say, I’d like to introduce a third “secret”: pleasure. I don’t mean Women Laughing Alone with Salad – I mean actually enjoying your food! If we’re in this for the long haul, there’s no way we’re going to keep it up if we’re not having a bit of fun doing it.

Instead of beating yourself up for having that piece of chocolate, or those cupcakes in the breakroom, embrace it! It’s a part of living. I often talk about the 80/20 Rule: Yes, you should aim to be eating your vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats 80% of the time, but allow that 20% where you are going to have pizza for dinner, or wine with your girlfriends. Of course, there’s something to be said about finding joy in that 80% too, like a sweet, juicy, perfectly ripe peach, or the care and love that goes into a homemade meal shared with family.

Stop dieting and start living. Sure, you might lose weight white-knuckling it in the short-term, but for long lasting outcomes, the real benefits come from healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Stop the #NoPainNoGain approach to eating. When you go all or nothing, you usually end up with nothing. Click To Tweet
Have you taken a “no pain, no gain” approach to eating? What are some ways that you can find joy?


  • Jen @ Pretty Little Grub on Aug 18, 2016 Reply

    I found myself nodding my head the whole time while reading this. And that olympics analogy is spot on!

    • Vincci Tsui on Aug 18, 2016 Reply

      Thanks for your kind words, Jen!

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