Today is a good day. And it’s the day I’m sharing with you the key to successful dieting. Ready? Here’s how…

DON’T. That’s right. Don’t diet. Just stop it. What? That’s crazy, right?! Well, here’s the thing. Or, rather, here are the 5 things…the reasons I say quit dieting. For good.

#1 A diet has a start and, thus, a finish. So what happens after we end the diet? We go back to eating carbs. We go back to drinking our nightly glasses of wine. We go back to eating out or eating cheese or eating sweets or eating everything and our body does only what it knows to do…use what it can, store the rest.

We’ve all experienced it. We diet for a couple weeks or a month this time because we were really in the groove. We lose 3 or 5 or maybe even 10 pounds. Then we stop. We go back to eating our pre-diet, normal-life foods. And we gain back a pound in the first day or so. Yikes. By week’s end another one has rejoined its friends. Seriously?! WTF. Before we know it, we’ve gained back those pounds and maybe even more…because the body has a funny way of playing that trick on us. And we fall for it every time.

Learn to eat healthfully at least 80% of every day. Starting now. Finishing just days before your obituary runs in the paper.

#2 Diets are restrictive. On a good day, few of us get the recommended vitamins and minerals we need from the foods we eat. When we diet, we usually get even less of those vital things. We tend to get in a habit of blending up the same breakfast smoothie with the same ingredients each morning. We grab the same handful of almonds each day before lunch. We dive into a familiar salad midday. Then finally follow it all with a dinner that, if we’re lucky, may be the most exciting and varied thing we eat each day. So, though we’re squeezing in under the calorie limit that My Fitness Pal tells us is our stopping point, we’re not properly nourishing our bodies. And, likely, we’re borderline starving ourselves.

Healthy eating is about choosing nutrient-dense whole foods with variety, in celebration of the abundance of beautiful ingredients and foods available to us. No one should ever feel like they can’t eat an apple or have another serving or vegetables if their body signals to eat something or eat more regardless of whether MFP says we’re at our calorie limit today. And no plan worth following should close off entire food groups or colors of foods or other such nonsense.

#3 Dieting is a form of deprivation. Food allergies aside, there is no world in which I would want to live where there are things I cannot eat. I like choice. Feel the same? Why can’t you have a glass of wine with dinner Friday? Why can’t you have a scoop on brown rice atop your plate of grilled veggies tonight? Why can’t you eat _______ every once in a while? Because Dr. TV-Paleo-Zone-Ideal-Watchers-21 Day Whatever told you no?! What kind of living is that?

Ever notice how when you diet certain foods start talking to you? The brownies your coworker brought in start whispering. Then taunting you. Now they’re screaming. And you don’t even like brownies. An occasional brownie never killed anyone. The daily brownie probably has though. That talking food is a sign of deprivation. When we fixate on foods (even healthy foods…but that’s a topic for another day), that’s not living. And now we’re having to exert self-control while we’re weakened. And, believe it or not, self-control is something we have in limited daily quantity. Once its used up, it’s nail-biting time.

Back to the same point in #1. Learn to eat healthfully…most of the time. Everything in moderation. More good stuff. Less “bad” stuff. But an occasional brownie or beer or borrowed calorie doesn’t hurt. Research says the 20% that balances the 80% healthy eating can actually be good for us.

#4 We typically don’t know what we’re doing when we’re dieting. Who told you what you think you know? With so much diet and weight loss information out there, it’s hard to weed through all the dos and don’ts. The two biggest pitfalls I see when most people diet is that they don’t know how many calories should be eating and they don’t focus on good calories. As a result, we end up losing weight, but also compromising health. And in my opinion, the ultimate goal is health…whether that comes in a size 16 dress or a size 6 one.

Just because the online calculator tells you to eat 1,200 calories daily to lose a pound a week, that doesn’t mean that’s the right target for YOU. Some women need as much as 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day at the beginning of healthy weight loss. In fact, because we typically increase our exercise level when we go on a diet, 1,200 calories for most people would be on the really low end of a target range or not even in the healthy range at all. While there is weight loss to be had in that scenario, because of the amazing workings of the metabolism, the ideal metabolic balance lies in the theory of exercise more, eat more or exercise less, eat less.

When you don’t know, don’t go to the Internet, ask a professional for help.

#5 Diets don’t address behavior. Why is a nightly glass—or three—of wine your habit? Why do you like that snack late at night before bed? Why do you struggle with food especially when you’re stressed? Diets don’t help answer these questions. A diet simply temporarily makes that behavior off limits. Back to will-power. And now you know we have limited supply of it. Getting to the root of these habits. Learning about ourselves and why we do what we do when it comes to food and exercise is the key to dumping dieting once and for all.

This is where the real work starts. Weight and health status are the result of our eating and exercise habits. Changing our habits means changing our lifestyles. Changing our lifestyles means coming to understand the WHYS in our lives. And then building strategies for altering our course so we don’t keep repeating the same bad behaviors and self-sabotage with nutrition and exercise.

So, yes, nightly wine-ing is not healthy, but an occasional glass is. Daily late-night snacking is detrimental, but every-once-in-a-while frig raiding in the dark isn’t terrible. Stress eating through every stress is, well, stressful to our health, but a random breakdown doesn’t derail everything.

The origin of the word “diet” is Greek and means “way of life.” Moving forward, I encourage you to stop dieting and start changing your way of life. If you ever have questions how to do it successfully, that is exactly the support a health coach can provide. My expertise as a certified health coach is to help you weed wack though the info overload and dig into your habits to help you learn your triggers and bring about positive behavioral changes to improve your health and happiness. Want to turn your dieting ways on end? Let’s FLIP YOURS™!