I believe the saying “diets don’t work.” The weight loss and dieting industry makes billions per year selling short-term fixes that aren’t maintainable and eventually can lead to weight gain. I’m sure you’ve tried one of them- maybe it was a juice cleanse, the Atkins diet, the cabbage diet, slim fast. Each year there are more and more diets coming out that promise 10 pounds of weight loss in 1 week. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?
At the end of the day these diets don’t work. They cut out important food groups and make your body shut down, slowing your metabolism. You might feel great in the beginning, but they end up leaving you feeling tired, hungry and lethargic. They make it hard to exercise, concentrate and socialize with friends. “The diet is only for a month and you’ll lose 40 pounds!” But then what happens after that month? You are so hungry and in need of nutrients that you end up overeating – and you guessed it – gaining all of that weight right back.
Dieting becomes a vicious cycle for many. In our society we are very black and white. We go all in or all out. But when it comes to healthy living that is the opposite of what we want to do. Healthy living is a balance right in the middle of one extreme or the other. This middle ground allows you to eat the foods that you enjoy while making most of your meals and snacks healthy and nutrient dense. The middle ground includes all of your food groups so that you feel satisfied and nourished and have energy to keep you going throughout the day. The middle ground allows you to meet up with friends and enjoy yourself and not stress out about it. This is where you will be healthy, be a good example for your friends and family, and be your best self. Now doesn’t that sound better than the alternate?
Finding a middle ground
We are programmed to believe what we hear and see through the media. Magazines, television and the internet tell us what to eat, how much and how often to get “flat abs” and “toned legs.” I’m not sure about you but sometimes I get hungry at weird hours or need more food than expected. No magazine or news article knows how my body works and it’s the same for you. Each person is different and has different caloric needs. Because of this, going by a diet plan that a celebrity goes by probably won’t work for you.
So what is a person to do? What should we believe?
First it is important to break away from the diet mentality. Diets don’t work. Healthy eating and exercise do. Find a routine that works for you. Eat a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner, eat balanced snacks and make sure to exercise. Make your plate mostly vegetables, with some lean meat and whole grains. Have a glass of skim milk on the side or low-fat yogurt for dessert. Eat until you are satisfied but not too full and remember you can always eat again later. Notice that I don’t use the words starve, deprive or pull your hair out. Balance and moderation is key.
Listen to your body. Your body knows more about what you need than any calorie count. Some days you might exercise more than normal, some days you may need more or less food. Focus on your hunger and fullness level and let your body tell you what food you need. Eat slowly and check in with yourself during meals. Are you eating because there is more food or because you are actually hungry?
Enjoy physical activity. Not only do we go from one extreme to another with food, but with exercise too. To be healthy the recommendation is 3-5 days of exercise for at least 30 minutes. Aiming for more is always encouraged but don’t go overboard. Over training can lead to injury and fatigue. Know your bodies limits and work up to more exercise over time. Give yourself at least one rest day for muscle repair. Another important factor is to find exercise that you like to do. This is the only way you will maintain it. If you don’t like the gym, go for a run or walk outside. If you hate running try Zumba or yoga. Find what works best for you, not for someone else.
And whatever you do, throw that diet book out.