Is it Really Normal to Eat Chicken and Broccoli?

 

Chicken and Broccoli

When I was in charge of a large wellness website, I wrote an article titled The Most Dangerous Diets Ever. Dieting methods included in the post included “The Tapeworm Diet” (exactly what it sounds like), “The Cookie Diet,” and the long-forgotten “Prolinn Diet” (a nice mix of starvation and slaughterhouse byproducts). It served as a sobering reminder of all the crazy diets that have come and gone, only to be reincarnated with new twists.

More than 4 million people clicked on the post in the first week. On the one hand, I had the impression that we had succeeded. My growing annoyance, on the other hand, shifted to something much larger: Are any of these articles really helping you improve your diet?

Sure, not reaching for a tapeworm or cabbage soup is a win, but I doubt anyone who chooses those options feels like they’ve discovered the perfect way to eat. Instead, they’re just looking for small victories, even if it means sacrificing some of their enjoyment of food in the short term.

The frustration and guilt I felt as a result of that article altered my career (I quit shortly after) and the way I wanted to help people. More importantly, it made me reconsider which diets are truly dangerous.

And, rather than starting with the obvious, I began to wonder if a time-honored favorite — chicken and broccoli — was contributing to the problem.

What Exactly Is Chicken And Broccoli?

It’s not so much a “diet” as it is a way of thinking about what you need to eat to be healthy. As you can see, the majority of diet coaches, registered dietitians, and nutritionists consider “chicken and broccoli” to be a staple of a healthy diet.

Why is eating chicken and broccoli regarded as the healthiest option? On the surface, there are numerous obvious and reasonable reasons. Skinless chicken breast is a lean meat that is high in protein. When it comes to vegetables, the “broccoli diet” is as old as time. Do you require a vegetable? Just toss in some broccoli.

The combination is high in protein, low in fat, low in carbs, and low in calories. It became a staple of old-school bodybuilding diets because the combination helps control body fat when substituted for multiple meals per day.

It became popular because it works…technically. Eating chicken and broccoli several times per day can help you lose weight and incorporate “healthier” options into your diet.

However, if eating a healthy diet was as simple as pressing the “chicken broccoli” easy button, no one would ever be overweight.

The reality is that sticking to a diet (of any kind!) is extremely difficult. A study compared four popular diets and discovered that the longer you were on the diet, the more difficult it was to stick to it.

It didn’t matter if the diet was high in protein, low in fat, low in carbohydrates, or some other variation of a balanced diet.

And some of it is due to a chicken-and-broccoli mentality. If you believe that eating a limited number of foods — and options that you may, admittedly, find less-than-desirable — will lead to burnout, then weight loss will be short-lived.

Why Dietary Goals Fail

Let’s go back to the concept of “dangerous diets.” It’s fascinating to consider because, despite the fact that many of them appear insane (who wants a tapeworm? ), people are still willing to try these diets.

The desire to lose weight, gain muscle, or live longer is such a powerful end-goal that we are willing to go to great lengths to try almost anything to achieve the desired results.

When considering your own diet, there are three critical factors to consider.

  1. We get a rush from chasing a goal. We all know that the anticipation of something releases more dopamine than the actual result. It’s why it’s important to enjoy the journey, but it’s also something to consider when choosing diets. The prospect of obtaining quick results (at a higher cost or with greater discomfort) will flood your brain with feel-good chemicals, potentially blinding you to what the actual experience will be like.
  2. Diet culture is distorting your perception. If you’re willing to eat (or, more accurately, not eat) almost anything to lose weight, then you must have had some prior experience that made extreme scenarios seem doable. Consider this for a moment.
  3. Don’t fall for the quick weight-loss gimmick. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true or is only available for a limited time, it is unlikely to produce the desired results. Or it’ll all be a bunch of smoke and mirrors. If you want to lose fat, you don’t have to lose 10 pounds quickly only to gain it back just as quickly. This causes far more harm than we can even begin to comprehend. (Yes, we’re considering all of those 7-day cleanse diets.)

Let’s go back to point #2 about the current diet culture for a moment. Your willingness to go to extremes could be a result of the nutritional institution of unfavorable diets.

What exactly is a “unfair diet?” Any program that instills the belief that healthy eating is essential must be:

  1. restricting or limiting
  2. Unenjoyable
  3. Flavorless and bland
  4. Inflexible
  5. Changing from one extreme to the other

While many coaches (including myself) scoff at juice cleanses and cabbage soup diets, are these really that much worse than “healthy” plans that result in you losing your mind, binging, believing your body is broken, or believing that a good diet is impossible to maintain?

It’s easy to see how both are a problem, but when you grab the tapeworm, you know you’re going to the extreme. When you adhere to the “never eat dessert” diet, you are forming the belief that good health necessitates long-term sacrifices that are unpleasant.

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