In this article I am going to explore the concept of diet and why I don’t recommend taking such an approach.
I’m sure many of us are familiar with the contemporary diets; Atkins, Dukan, South Beach, Cambridge etc.. or the latest overpriced “slimming powder or pill” which potential health risks.
The aforementioned are normally short term, quick fix fads and I’m going to explain why I have drawn this conclusion, so please read on. However, with that said the term diet renders the notion of ambiguity – is it a temporary change in eating habits or could it mean adhering to a specific eating regime for health reasons i.e. low sodium or gluten free?
For the benefit of this post I’m going to discuss the most popular use of the term for diet (restrictive consumption).
The concept of dieting
Firstly, what is a diet? In my humble opinion the term diet is a cryptic code word for a temporary eating program consisting of constraints as a means of aiding weight loss. I think if we are all candid with ourselves, when conversing with a person who mentions the D word, one would think of a calorie deficient journey.
While this maybe deemed as a commendable thing to do, in the long term it seldom results in a long term solution, hence answering the question of why don’t diets work?
Reasons why I detest the D word
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in the grand scheme of things, diets do not work. Just the thought of it is cringe worthy, yet understandable in a sense.
Most people who undergo a restrict regime are merely seeking a short term solution for a long term problem. Their mind set hasn’t changed; they are reluctant to embark on a permanent lifestyle change.
This sadly explains why the vast majority of people who do diet, manage to regain their original weight within a few months and even gain more weight than their starting point.
It’s a tiresome task
Due to the extreme adjustment in eating habits, food insufficiency can be an arduous, tiresome and even stressful task to complete. Embarking on a calorie controlled diet requires will power, strength and self-discipline. The thought of depriving yourself of your favourite treats, may lead to over impulsive eating, which defeats the purpose of dieting in the first place.
Another thing, depriving the body of food leads to a plateau. This happens when the body goes into starvation mode, slowing down the metabolism (that chemical reaction required for weight loss) because your body doesn’t know when it will receive the next batch of energy (food), so it relies on glycogen a form of stored energy supply, and when the body replenishes itself with food, guess what?
The content is immediately stored, making it even more difficult to lose weight. In essence, what I am insinuating here is that the process of a reduced intake is not only futile, but harmful in the respect of depleting the body of nutrients. This rapid physiological change can leave you feeling exhausted and low on energy from a lack of food.
The vicious cycle
Let’s observe the perpetuating cycle of a diet;
- restrictive food habit
- hunger and temptation
- hunger pangs lead to impulsive eating
- body prepares itself for storage
- metabolism slows down
- body stores food = weight gain
- frustration and hopelessness
- Quit and feel like a failure
- repeat the stages again
As you can see, from the demonstrated cycle, how ineffective dieting really is. Even if an individual successfully defies the hunger pangs and/or resists temptation, because their vision excludes a long term solution, it’s not uncommon for them to revert back to their previous way of eating.
Another interesting concept is the emotional relationship that we have with food. Comfort eating after a breakup or simply consuming a sugar, laden treat after a hard day work, makes us feel good.
Chocolate – the nations favourite decedent treat, release endorphins, (the happy hormone) ice cream is also a classical comfort food. However, these comfort foods immediately become our arch enemy when embarking a calorie controlled diet, so how do fill that void?
Boredom, social exclusion and the solution
Aside from the emotional and physical heartache is the social aspect of it. The preconceived negative mind set, accompanied by a lack of forward planning, when out with friends or in a social setting is simply a recipe of disaster.
Social isolation becomes paramount, not being able to participate in “normal eating habits” and the lack of will power can increase the likelihood to fail. On the other hand, a seemingly successful dieter may credit their efforts with a few naughty treats or succumb to bad habits due to boredom.
In short I feel the most appropriate course of action is a complete change in attitude. Focusing on a permanent, healthy lifestyle should be your goal. Learning to have a healthy relationship with nutritional dense food rather than starving yourself is a much more viable option, and it can be fun too. I will be discussing the correction between behaviour change and healthy eating in my next post Changing food habits
Healthy food and a healthy mind
Whether you are considering a healthier lifestyle, for weight loss or to ward many ailments, the aim remains the same; where behavioural change is crucial. In recent years there appears to be a growing epidemic of health conscious people.
Some people what to improve their eating habits, yet feel inundated with choices, others are fearful of what change will bring, and would much rather be complacent. I urge you to ditch the food limitations, and embark on longevity in healthy eating.