I want to talk diets…or rather I want to STOP talking about diets…actually I want to START talking about the word 'diet' in the context of ‘what you eat’ and not about losing weight.
The word ‘diet’ to many people may, depending on their age (!) conjure up images of the Weightwatchers symbol, Jane Fonda in her 80s leotard, or thoughts of the 5:2 protocol, ketogenic guidelines, limiting calories to 1000 a day, cutting out ‘everything I love’….and so on.
It doesn’t usually encourage feelings of joy and happiness but rather a time of deprivation, of boring salads, of not socialising, of no treats, of being hungry and possibly of low energy, and simply something to get through.
Doesn’t sound great does it? Not sure I would want to jump on this diet bandwagon!
It is true that a sure-fire way to lose weight – if that’s your goal – is to eat fewer calories than you expend. There is no doubt about it. But have we been going about this in the right way, if the evidence shows we're not getting the results we were hoping for? Are there other ways to approach health and nutrition to achieve the same goal?
If you take on a short term calorie restricted diet, and then immediately go back to your usual way of eating, what is likely to happen? It’s not rocket science, and many of us have likely experienced it first hand….we tend to put the kgs back on.
And what drives us to want to lose weight in the first place? A myriad of things that I don’t need to go into here, but which can range from seeing photos of ‘perfect’ celebrities to the constant barrage of info on the latest ’must do’ diet, from peer pressure to the pressure we put on ourselves, our expectations that may go way back to our youth or our perceived expectations of others.
It can take over our mind, our time, our focus, wondering if this time it will be different.
We can become obsessed.
Some people say you should ‘love the skin you’re in’ and not worry about weight, and that’s great. But what if you do want to lose weight, feel more comfortable in your jeans, be able to more easily run around the footie pitch with your children? I for one feel so much better now than I did a three years ago when I was 9kg heavier. I was happy enough as I turned forty, my family around me, celebrating, my eldest about to start school….but I have to say I feel happier now, fitter than I have ever been, have refound my passion for trail running, and feel I am where I should be weight-wise for my height and build of body.
We are not accountable to anyone else but ourselves for our weight or health. It’s up to us to decide how we want to look, how we want to feel, and what we eat. No one else can force that upon us. We get to decide the outcomes we want, and we get to decide the course of action to take.
So let’s stop for a second……
Let's reframe it?
I wonder what happens if we change the motivation for reviewing and possibly modifying the way we eat?
Let’s say it’s not about ‘being on a diet’ but about ‘having a healthy diet’. One is short term, a quick fix - the other is long term, a lifestyle.
Let’s say it’s not about the number on the scales or looking like the poster pin-up but about health – preventing illness and trips to the doctor, teaching our children good habits, feeling mentally strong.
Let’s say it’s not about deprivation and cutting out treats, but rather it’s about eating consciously and retraining ourselves to understand what a treat is.
I believe that there are better ways to achieve the weight you want which will be lasting and more sustainable, which will promote a lifetime of HEALTH rather than the quick fix of a strict restrictive dieting regime. If we switch things around, if we mix things up a bit, I wonder if we can breathe a sigh of relief, I wonder if we can take that pressure off our shoulders.
For sure, it may mean your weight goal takes longer to achieve. But you will more likely be able to maintain your chosen weight in the long term rather than spend the rest of your years yoyo dieting (and by the way there is a heap of evidence out there to show that yoyo dieting, whilst helping you quickly reach weight targets, is actually bad for your health long term). Because you don’t get healthy by losing weight; rather you’re more likely to lose weight when you are healthy.
And a preventative approach to health, feeling on top of MY game (no-one else’s), and therefore being able to better nurture and nourish my family, and better able to enjoy my passions in life, better able to reach my goals, sounds good to me.
It is important to acknowledge that we are all built differently. No amount of dieting is going to turn us into the stereotypical ‘ideal’. I am not going to suddenly get taller by 10 cm, my body frame isn’t going to elongate, just by limiting my diet to 500 calories a day. I have accepted that I will always have shorter than average legs and will never be able to go braless 😉. I also know that my body is built for physical activity, that I can develop my muscles quicker than others, but also that I will burn out if I don’t press pause occasionally, so I need to keep an eye on that too. Other people’s bodies are genetically designed for nurturing and nourishing others, so their happy place is spending time with their families and close friends, and not having enough of that connection will upset the state of their health. After all, nutrition is only one part of health, which encompasses physical activity, mental wellness, social interactions and environment. But it is an important one, and one which we spend a great deal of time thinking and reading about.
I should also note here that health and dieting don’t always go hand in hand. Even if you’re happy with your weight, it is worth looking at your diet (as in ‘what you eat’) and thinking about whether it promotes good health. After all, not all skinny people are healthy. Maybe there are some tweaks you can make, maybe there are some habits to change, that will allow you to keep the doctor visits at bay, or feel mentally stronger on a daily basis.
There is never an ideal time to evaluate where you’re at, especially as it will often lead to implementing changes – and we’re all super busy so this can be a challenge to contemplate.
But with some guidance, someone fighting your corner, someone providing support and encouragement, it is possible.
If you’d like to find out more about I can help you get started on YOUR personalised health journey, I’d love for you to get in touch.
(Now finally, I need to spell out that I am not a medical dietician, so take what you will from my thoughts and opinions in this blog. I hope it resonates with some of you, but if it doesn’t, that’s ok too. Weight loss can be a tricky subject to discuss.)