The Problem with diets

Have you ever gone a diet?  I don't suppose there are many of us who haven't wanted to lose at least a few pounds over the years - even if it is to fit into a favourite pair of jeans or an outfit for a special occasion.

Diets are big business now.  Everywhere you look someone is advertising a new way to lose weight and become the person you've always wanted to be!  Aren't all the rich and famous people beautiful and thin after all!!  Having said that, we should aim to maintain a healthy weight as being seriously overweight can pose a lot of health problems not least of all Type 2 Diabetes, increased risk of heart disease and joint problems due to the extra weight (don't forget being too thin can be just as dangerous).

There are such a wide choice of different diet plans available to use now.  Something new appears almost weekly claiming to be the 'one' that will solve all your problems, help you to lose weight and enjoy all that successful weight loss bring.  Hmmmmmm, really?!!

The problem is there are so many temptations available to us today.  Although we know we should moderate our consumption of certain foods in order to maintain a healthy weight it can be soooo difficult.  I mean, it's someone's birthday and it wouldn't be polite to refuse just one little cake or the odd can of fizzy drink will be OK and we need our takeaway treat or we just don't have enough time or energy to cook!  Where does that leave us?  We are enjoying the culinary delights that are on offer, ignoring the fact that our clothes are getting tighter (perhaps you've bought a bigger size or two, already) not feeling so great and decide that we should lose some weight.

Here's where the problem can start.  You find a diet that you think will suit you and get going.  You're really well motivated, you stick to the plan religiously (you're being so good it hurts!) and you start losing weight - YAY!!  All Good, right?  Yes, up until the point you fall off the wagon, you give in to that piece of birthday cake or pudding when you go out.  I mean that's it isn't it, what's the point in continuing being as you've just ruined everything, you may as well continue eating all the 'bad' stuff and give up on the diet.  It's almost as if you're possessed, the cravings are so bad you just can't help yourself, you have to eat and it's often the foods that you want to avoid, the sugary, fatty, carbohydrate laden foods.  So you give up, what's the point, you obviously can't control yourself, you weren't meant to be thin anyway.  You put the weight back on (perhaps even a bit extra) until the next time you decide you should lose weight.  Sound familiar?

What a lot of people don't know though, is that when we go on a diet our body thinks it's being starved (which up to a point it is!).  Our bodies are incredibly sophisticated and fight really hard to keep us alive.  One of things that happens is following a period of 'starvation' our body releases chemicals that encourage us to eat in order to replenish the energy stores we 'lost' so we can survive the next lean time, our body literally makes us eat.  Couple that with the addictive nature of the foods available to us (think cakes, chocolate, fat laden takeaway foods, anything processed etc) and you can begin to understand why dieting can be so difficult.  Added to that the more we diet, the worse the rebound effect is each time.  This can then blunt our body's ability to hear some of the normal messages that tell us when we have had enough to eat and to stop, as well as causing our body to use fewer calories in an effort to conserve energy.  Mind you, it's good for all the people out there selling diets and diet foods!

So what can we do to maintain a healthy weight?

  1. Remember, you are changing your lifestyle, you are not going on a diet.  A diet has a start and end point, when you change your lifestyle it's for life and best of all it's flexible.  Follow your 'rules' 80% of the time and relax for 20% (just don't do it the other way round)
  2. Focus on what you CAN eat rather than what you CAN'T (as soon as you deny yourself you start to feel deprived and crave things).  Allow yourself to eat anything you want HOWEVER, you make the choice each time you eat, what you eat.  So although you are 'allowed' a piece of cake you choose not to eat it - you are in control
  3. Find out what works for you.  It may be as simple as reducing your portion sizes to start and eating more vegetables, but remember there is NO magic diet that works for everyone!
  4. Make small changes, but keep making the changes over a period of time. This gives your body time to adjust and get used to the changes you are making
  5. Don't try to lose a lot of weight quickly, it won't work
  6. Eat regularly.  3 meals a day (only snack if you really need to), add protein to each meal/snack, lots of veggies and slowly digested starch based food such as sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa etc.  You are aiming for a nutrient dense diet because you want to nourish your body
  7. Exercise regularly, within your capability (you will improve in time, don't overdo it to start with).  Make sure you do something you enjoy, otherwise you won't keep it up
  8. Sleep!!  When we don't sleep well we tend to crave easy energy and out comes the coffee, muffins, croissants, chocolate etc (having said that a good quality cup of coffee isn't going to do much harm occasionally)
  9. Don't say I 'CAN'T' eat that, say I DON'T eat that.  You are in control, you are making the decisions
  10. If you 'break'  that's fine.  Just carry on with your new lifestyle the next day.  It's like riding a horse, if you get thrown off, you get back on

It takes time to change, it often won't be easy, but like exercise, it gets easier.  As you get used to your new eating habits and your body begins to heal and feel better you will find you don't actually want to eat all the 'bad' stuff.  You will prefer your veggies and fruit to a doughnut - honestly it will happen.

If you feel you need some extra help to find your new path and understand how different foods can affect us give me a call to find out how I can support you or to find a Registered Nutritional Therapist in your area go to the BANT or CNHC websites.

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