More than anything else, dieting to lose weight is about awareness and control. You have to be aware of everything that you are eating and you have to take control over what you eat, the amounts you eat, and to some degree, when you eat. Having that awareness and control will allow you to make changes and adjustments to your daily habits in order to get (or keep getting) the results you want. They become your power.
Once you have awareness and control, you then have a lot more flexibility when it comes to implementing an effective diet. Flexible dieting is eating from a variety of different foods while still maintaining control over your total caloric and/or macronutrient intake. It gives you the option to still have a few favorite items, plus the ability to intake a broader range of beneficial nutrients. It is not a license to include as much “junk” as possible into your diet. It is simply a more realistic, lifestyle approach to following a diet that can be easier for a lot of people to adopt as well as maintain.
It is a myth that a diet must only consists of a limited number of specific foods that you must endure until the end. The body simply doesn’t work that way and the mind often rejects that type of overly structured approach. Plus, the more you limit your selection, the more you limit the range of nutrients you ingest; vitamins, minerals, trace elements, etc., and the more likely you are to create nutritional imbalances in your body because of your diet. The truth is that most people can diet effectively on a wide variety of foods and that this will often make staying on track a lot easier.
Dieting, contrary to popular old-school teaching isn’t just about total calories. Certain foods can and will effect your body differently and therefore effect your rate of progress differently. That’s where awareness and control come back into play. You must be aware if a particular food tends to make losing more difficult for you or causes you to crave more foods that you don’t wish to have. Then you can control the amounts of them or whether or not you even have them. But you do have the option of having a range of foods in your diet while still keeping it effective. That’s the benefit of flexible dieting. It gives you the freedom of choice, just as long as you understand the cause and effect relationship of your choices and maintain awareness and control.
As I’ve stated many times, the body is in charge. It will tell you what is working and what is not, what you can get away with and what you can’t. So yes, you can occasionally have a little ice cream, a few chicken wings, or a slice or two of pizza. You just can’t have it too much for your body to still respond and it will gladly tell you when that is, you just have to listen. Everyone is a bit different. Some people simply can’t process dairy while others are fine with it. Many people think that a weight loss diet can’t have fruit, but that’s not what has proven to be true for many, although some people can have more than others and still progress.
The point is that there are no magical foods. There are no foods that you have to have everyday, and no foods that you can never have and still be successful. Start with keeping a food log to become aware of your current habits; what you are eating, how much, and how often. Then try to make an adjustment by reducing the things you may be having too much of to be good for you, and including more of the things that you feel would be ideal for you. From there you can add the additional items (more protein, healthy fats, etc.) that will give you the ideal balance and structure you need for success.
It’s not hard to practice flexible dieting as it is a much more natural approach for most people. If you are one of the people who do best on a very structured approach with limited options, that’s fine and you should do what’s best for you. Just be aware of any nutritional limitations this may create from a nutrient intake standpoint and try to address those. But for most people, the practice of flexible dieting will not only work effectively but be a lot easier to implement initially as well as maintain over time.