Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
So Christmas and the New Year have been and gone, it is now time to face up to reality.
Is this the year for a new you and a healthier way of eating? If so is it the tried and trusted diet that you attempt every year or do you try all the new fads that hit the street?
Maybe you are totally overwhelmed by all of the different options available?
What makes you decide which diet to follow? Do you investigate the science, want to look as lean as the diet promoter or choose the most painless option?
Is it low carb, low fat, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, mediterranean, The Dukan diet, intermittent fasting, count calories, join slimming world, pegan, keto, low FODMAPs, carnivore, eat smaller portions? Or any of the other many weird and wacky ways there are to eat?
How long are any of them sustainable? How difficult is it to maintain once January hibernation has passed and life gets moving again. How many times have you begun a new year new you diet? How long did they last?
Most people who try weight loss diets regain the weight loss and oftentimes more. Maybe this is why the definition of diet as a way of life rings true if you want to maintain a stable weight. I believe we should think of it in the original Greek terms rather than its later meaning of ‘‘a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” while true obviously if we follow a specific diet for health reasons, but this is still the same as 'a way of life.'
Whichever diet you try, the only way to maintain weight loss is to change eating habits by making lifestyle changes. The best way to change habits is step by step as it is easier to maintain one small change at a time. Eventually, you won’t even notice that you have broken some of the unhealthy customs or introduced a healthier habit.
Remember, our attitude towards food has been with us since childhood, so our approach to food is heavily ingrained. While the effects from the 5:2 or HFLC can be amazing, we have to understand that as soon as we revert to type that the weight will generally reappear.
Diets obviously focus on food, what are we allowing ourselves to eat and what have we deprived ourselves of? You know what happens when you decide to buy a new car and all you see are roads full of that specific model, well the brain works in the same way with food, continually thinking about something makes you see it everywhere.
Our relationship, and attitude to food thus changes in a negative way as we start to judge the good from the bad. Whereas in reality if we partake in real whole food, it should be thoroughly enjoyed, unless you obviously have an allergy or intolerance.
Real whole food excludes processed, man made food full of items you cannot pronounce including vegetable oils.
Why should we avoid some of these diets?
Low-fat diet foods contain more sugar than their normal range counterparts, so offer no benefit at all and should be avoided at all costs. Fruit should not be consumed in huge quantities as it contains fructose, which will raise blood glucose levels creating spikes that we want to avoid. Always add some protein or fat when enjoying fruit to slow down the release of glucose. If blood sugar is stable, cravings disappear even when staring at the chocolate cake in the fridge.
Are you a calorie counter? Do you get to the end of the day and get excited when you have a few spare calories left to indulge in a few biscuits?
While we all need treats, this approach will not help to change our mindset, it is still a guilty treat. We could also find something far more nutritious for our body than a couple of biscuits. Depriving ourselves of the foods we love can lead to emotional eating as we justify why we deserve our chocolate cake. In reality, we can treat ourselves with an alternative to food, but that is not so guilt-ridden. Have you ever justified eating a piece of fruit or vegetable?
Does portion size confuse you? How much fibre am I supposed to eat? It was 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, now this has been raised to 10, preferably maximum of 2 to 3 of fruit and the rest vegetables of the less starchy variety. What size is a portion? For both fruit and vegetables, 80gm is the recommendation.
Protein is measured by palm size, we all have different size hands, so this has a neater correlation with our own body size.
A 20 stone bodybuilder will not require the same portion size as a petite small boned size 6 female. Protein is meant to be consumed at the equivalent of 0.8gm - 1gm per 1kg of body weight, unless you are extremely active in which case you will probably consume more. If you have kidney problems protein intake should be kept to a minimum, to reduce the work rate of the kidney in excreting the metabolites.
Daily fibre recommendations are now at 30g for men and 25g for women so how does that equate to your diet?
Do you jump on the scales every day, or week and become delighted when the number falls or feel incredibly down if it hasn’t moved. Why do this to yourself? It is a form of torture, measure yourself from your clothes, you know how you look, feel and more importantly how you want to look and feel. Be honest we all know most of us will not look like the model in the magazine, but still, we beat ourselves up.
No one size diet fits all sadly, we all have different needs and requirements due to our current health, the environment we live in, our age, our activity levels, stress levels, sleep patterns plus our microbiome all have their part to play in our current dietary requirements and what is good for us today may not necessarily be so tomorrow.
Food doesn’t only affect weight but every other system in the body with none any more important than our mind and thoughts. A diet full of natural ingredients that you enjoy will help maintain positivity in outlook, create fewer mood swings enabling us to enjoy life in a more carefree fashion.
A diet full of variety positively contributes to our health by providing all the macro and micronutrients our bodies require, together with positive benefits from the many chemical compounds that plants use to protect themselves.
Food should be a pleasure, so remember you are what you absorb from the piece of food on the end of your fork. What do you want to be?