LEAVE DIET CULTURE IN THE PAST.
By Emma Hogan & Niki Bezzant
Original Article posted on Les Mills
Evidence has shown for decades that diets don’t work.
Most of us know it, and science has shown it time and again: most people who go on a diet will eventually gain back the weight lost, and very likely more.
Along the way, dieters may also mess up their metabolism and their relationship with food.
And yet it seems human nature attracts us to diets and restrictive ways of eating. That temptation is particularly strong after times of indulgence – cue the festive season, after which we atone for our dietary excess by embarking on whatever weight-loss regime is currently in the limelight.
It’s the promise of the quick fix that attracts us, as diet creators know...
But we also know that the only way we can keep weight off is by sticking to that diet for life. As anyone who’s ever been on a diet knows, that is next to impossible.
A recent survey showed that almost one in four (23 percent) respondents said they had followed a weight loss diet in the last year. Women outnumbered men, and 20 percent of respondents said they’d tried a low-carb diet, 17 percent had tried intermittent fasting, and 11 percent tried the keto diet. There was probably some crossover between these groups from people trying more than one diet.
“There’s evidence that the younger a woman is when she starts her first diet, the more likely she is to use extreme weight control behaviors by the time she hits her 30s.”
It’s disheartening to see young people most attracted to dieting. The numbers jump to one in three on weight-loss diets among those aged 15-34. A quarter of this group had also tried low-carb and fasting diets.
The reasons for this are not clear, but the effects can be bad. There’s evidence that the younger a woman is when she starts her first diet, the more likely she is to use extreme weight control behaviors by the time she hits her 30s. Dieting young also makes women more likely to misuse alcohol, and, ironically, they’re more likely to be overweight or obese as they get older.
Restrictive eating can also mess with our heads. It changes our relationship with food from simple – about hunger, satisfaction, and pleasure – to complex – about deprivation, denial, and self-judgment. For some people that can mean a descent into disordered eating.
Dietitians and registered nutritionists are increasingly following a ‘no diet’ approach; refusing to even weigh people who come to them for treatment, in favor of focusing on other benefits that people may gain from body acceptance and eating for health.
SO IF NOT DIETING, WHAT?
The answer may lie in simply changing how we think. It means a change from diets to diet: from short-term to life-long. And to think about diet the way we approach other things we do for our overall health.
Nutrition expert Dr. David Katz, founding Director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, puts it like this: “We don’t ‘go’ on exercise; we exercise, and generally with the hope of getting fitter, and keeping at it.”
So when we make changes to the way we eat, it’s important to consider whether the change – giving up carbs or cutting out dairy or any other restrictive ‘rule’ – is something we can keep up for the rest of our life. If the answer is no, we might be better off reconsidering.
One of the most successful ways to find your optimal weight is to make small dietary changes, that in time can create a big difference. “Food is not the enemy,” says Diana Archer Mills, Les Mills Creative Director, "A lifetime of good nutrition comes down to finding what works for you, and setting eating patterns that feel great and bring you joy." Follow these six steps to get yourself started!
#1 TAKE MORE NOTICE OF YOUR FOOD AND YOUR FEELINGS
There are 6 nutrients our bodies need to function; carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, & water. While we need them all, the best ways to source these nutrients depend on the individual. For example, some of us find yogurt to be a great source of protein, but others may find it brings on nothing but an upset tummy. This is why it’s important to start paying more attention to what you’re eating, and how it makes you feel.
The easiest way to do this is to start a food journal and record everything you eat and, how it makes you feel, both straight away and later in the day. Look for patterns and play around with what you eat and when. When you start to take notice of how different foods make you feel, you can start making small changes that will make you feel so much better!
#2 FIND THE RIGHT ADVICE FOR YOU
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of nutrition advice you can find online. And it’s often very contradictory. One website says to avoid something, another website raves about the same food telling you to eat more of it. If you want simple, proven, easy-to-follow nutrition advice you should make your country’s Healthy Nutrition Guidelines your first port of call. Around the world, these guidelines differ slightly based on culture and what is common in each region, but there are many similarities across the board. Wherever you’re located the advice is this: eat more plants, eat less sugar, less salt, and less trans and saturated fats, and cut back on food that has been overly processed.
#3 BE COLORFUL
You’ve probably heard of the term ‘eat the rainbow’… but why? Aside from providing ‘gram-worthy’ dinner plate photos, what does eating a colorful array of foods actually do? Well, making sure our diets are packed with all sorts of different colors is one of the simplest ways to fuel our bodies with much-needed vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients because they are found in foods in very small amounts. Yet they are critical for our survival. As our body is not able to make them in sufficient quantities, we need to get micronutrients from our foods. Not only do we need a colorful mix of fruit, and vegetables we also need a colorful mix of healthy fats (such as butter, milk, salmon, eggs, olive oil, nuts, and meat) as these healthy fats are key to helping our bodies absorb vitamins.
#4 LEARN THE TRUTH ABOUT SUGAR
It’s a common misconception that sugar is evil and should be eliminated from our diets. This is not the case. While all sugar is a type of carbohydrate and is broken down into glucose which we use for energy, not all sugar is created equally. When we eat foods like apples or oats we get a good dose of sugar, which is great for energy, plus we get fiber and important vitamins and minerals. And we stay full for longer. When we eat foods like cake, candy, and soda we’re consuming the calories but we don’t get any of the other benefits. This type of added sugar (also known as empty calories) is not only in sweet treats, it hides in all sorts of places – ketchup, mayonnaise, and cereal … Cutting back on added sugar isn’t always easy, but it is the fastest way to eliminate unnecessary calories from your diet.
#5 EAT MINDFULLY
Mindful eating is about maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your body – and it’s a great skill to develop. Eating mindfully helps you start observing rather than judging how the food makes you feel. It can take the brain up to 20 minutes to realize you're full. But you won't register that if you are double-tapping on Instagram.
By making food your main focus while you eat you instantly slow down. You become aware of the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness. And that means you’re far less likely to bowl off a whole bag of Cheetos without noticing!
#6 BE PREPARED
Spontaneity is cool and brings joy into your eating. But feeling unprepared can bring stress and a lack of options. Taking simple steps to prepare good nutrition is the secret to staying in control and on track with healthy eating. If you’re one of those organizational superstars who thrives on preparing every meal for the week ahead, go for gold! But if you find this a little daunting, simply find a few good, healthy meal options and make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks on hand.
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