The Marie Kondo of dieting

Asma: Zainab, as you know, Marie Kondo and her KonMari method of decluttering is tremendously popular the world over, and definitely in the US. Can you reflect on how her advice might be relevant when it comes to healthy eating?

Zainab:  Marie is definitely wildly popular! And I think at the root of her success is the way she encourages people to seek out joy in their life, to connect with their belongings so that they keep only that which “sparks joy.” It’s important to do the same thing when working on your diet. 

Ask yourself: Is your current lifestyle bringing you joy or do you often feel guilty about your choices? 

That’s an important question to ask yourself regarding food no matter what diet you are following. Ask yourself before preparing your food: Are these ingredients healthy for me? What kind of a value are they going to create in my life? Does this make me feel good about myself or is it going to spark never-ending guilt in me?

Self-realization is the key first step to KonMari’ing your diet. Without it, you won’t be able to move past your current lifestyle. The biggest lifestyle change a person can make is to start living for your own well-being. 

Economics lends us some useful concepts, too. Think of dieting in terms of the law of diminishing marginal utility.The first bite you take of something sparks the maximum joy. But as you eat more and more of it, the less enjoyable it becomes. You can easily apply that rule to junk food and excess eating habits. So, to spark the maximum joy, two bites of junk serve the same purpose as eating all of it. Eat only the amount that gives you maximum joy! 

Having said that, KonMari’ing your diet is not easy to do. It requires tremendous effort and the right kind of support to achieve results, largely because to re-learn your relationship with food, you must first unlearn whatever you currently think and feel about food. That can be very hard to do without a proper support system. 

I always encourage my clients to have a “cheat meal” once a week to see the impact it makes on their whole lifestyle changing efforts. Ultimately, the definition of “ joy” changes for them, and when they know the cheat is totally in line with a healthy lifestyle, they derive so much more joy from that food! There’s no guilt when the cheat meal is part of the plan. It’s like a “safe space” for eating. Getting to this point is a gradual process.

A few tips:

Exercise portion control

In order to avoid guilt and still enjoy the foods that spark joy for you, moderation is key. Exercise portion control to avoid the guilt that comes with overeating and stay centered on joy.

Take time out to cook for yourself

Cooking can take a lot of energy, and some people are turned off by that, especially when you’re also trying to adopt a new diet. To help yourself enjoy cooking, you have to first organize your kitchen (which you can use KonMari to do). Designate one day each week for cooking and plan out your whole week’s meals. 

This is a particularly workable approach if you work outside the home during the week.  When I create diet therapies for different people, I take into account their type and location of work, level of stress, willingness to cook, their motivation levels, etc. 

In order for your food to spark joy, don’t multi-task while having a meal

Mindless eating brings you less joy because your brain is focused on something other than the food. Create an environment where you can focus on your food, feel its texture and taste. Start de-cluttering your mind by only focusing on your food. Stop eating while working or watching T.V.

Ask yourself before each bite “Does this bring me joy?” It’s similar to the idea of chewing your every bite X amount of times. It forces you to slow down and keeps you accountable.

De-clutter your pantries by removing “garbage food”

Sometimes, our pantries are filled with junk food and we keep munching on them just because they are there. De-cluttering is very important. Start filling your pantries with healthy food, limited to a few select options, and you’ll have better self-control when it comes to binge-eating.

If you have questions for Zainab, please send them to altM at asmauddin@gmail.com. We will feature them in our next Q/A with her.

If you’d like to reach out to Zainab, you can find her on WhatsApp at +971 52 986 5868 or via email at xainabsarwar@live.com. You can also find her on Instagram and her company, Moksha Dubai, on Facebook and Instagram.

Asma Uddin is the founding editor-in-chief of altM.

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