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Diets Are Stupid, And Other Things To Tell My Daughter

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DIET
Katy Dockrill
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"I dropped four dress sizes this New Year's by doing this," teased the subject line of the email from Oprah that landed in my inbox on January 3.

Spoiler alert: It's all about a white kidney bean extract apparently, but I'm not buying it. Sorry Oprah. There's no free lunch.

That's true for career, relationships and maintaining your ideal weight. On this, the fourth edition of my column, "Things to Tell My Daughter," and when the world is in New Year's Resolution diet mode trying to shed excess pounds, my message is: diets are stupid.

I'm referring of course to strict, January 1 diets and the "I-only-eat-Peanut-Butter-for-breakfast" diets and the diets prescribed by the celebrity du jour. And that's because they do not work.

On this second week of January when so many of us have thrown in the towel on our January 1 resolutions -- apparently only eight per cent of people actually manage to succeed with their New Year's goals -- I'm here to diss "The Diet" in favour of common sense, moderation and a few other nuggets of truth I want to pass on to my daughter.

My top-10 list of diet advice:

#1. Stop using the word 'diet.'
The primary definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is "food and drink regularly provided or consumed."

Dieting is no longer de rigueur. Hello, non-diet. Hip new wellness books shout the notion. Cameron Diaz's new The Body Book is subtitled "the law of hunger, the science of strength and other ways to love your amazing body." We like that.

Or Jessica Alba's "The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You.

Ditto Toronto-based nutritionist Meghan Telpner: she called her latest gluten-free and plant-loving book the UnDiet Cookbook.

#2. Listen to your body.
Always. Closely. If you have a tummy ache after eating or drinking something, stop eating or drinking it and focus on how consuming your food make you feel. Think before, during and after you eat.

#3. Strive to be healthy and strong.
Feeling strong is a powerful wonderful thing. And strong women are forces of nature.

#4. Pursue moderation:
I know it's boring, but it's such a good idea. And it's the opposite of pop culture's overwhelming consumerist POV, which makes it doubly difficult. Wickedly rich chocolate dessert in moderation, salty crunchy awesome potato chips in moderation, seared-perfectly rare steak in moderation... you get the picture.

That's not to say you shouldn't indulge. Life requires indulgence to be lived well. It's just that there are consequences with indulging too often in, say, too many mashed potatoes, piled with cream, butter and Parmesan. Or daily gelato. Or baguettes. Or wine. Or anything.

#5. Be patient.
This is hard. It is a wisdom learned over decades -- and one counter to your mother's natural state of being. Slow and easy win the race. Forget Oprah's "I lost 17 pounds in four weeks." I know it makes a great headline, but the slower the loss, the more likely you'll keep weight off. It's true whether you have four or 40 to lose.

#6. Practice mindfulness.
At mealtime and other times. Turn off the gadgets, the screens, the Snapchat and enjoy the people around you and what you're eating. Look your people in the eye. Remember why you love them. When you're in the moment, you're much more able to do all of the above too.

#7. Understand why you eat and drink.
Food is so emotional for so many people. In your own words, "don't stress eat." Maybe you need to go for a walk, not have a bowl of ice cream. Or go to bed. Or talk to a friend.

#8. Wear fitted clothes.
Ones with waistbands, preferably. Leggings and track pants are a slippery slope to not being in touch with your body. This is a truism expressed before by the likes of Mireille Guiliano in her best-selling book, French Women Don't Get Fat. Iconoclast Karl Lagerfeld famously quipped that "sweatpants are a sign of defeat." Fact.

#9. Embrace greens.
Eat twice as many vegetables as you think would be normal. Or even three times as many. Your skin, your brain, your whole being will love you for it.

#10. Know your body and love it fully.
Now. I don't want you to look back at all of your selfies 50 years from now and suddenly realize you were truly beautiful.

Illustration by Katy Dockrill

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