How long is your list of things you think you ‘should’ be doing in order to be your healthiest self? What if we could just start with 4?
“Not a diet” seem to be the buzzwords at the moment, sneaky sneaky.
More often than not however, they are indeed a diet and well diets just don’t work, if you’ve done more than one over your lifetime, you will have first hand experience. Worst part is – when they fail – we blame ourselves! We’re lacking willpower, we’re addicted, we’re an emotional eater, our cravings are out of control. But what if it wasn’t your fault and what if there is a way we can improve our health without having to count calories or macros or cut out carbs or crisps? Keen?
Firstly, I think it’s important to define ‘diet’. Just in case someone else tries to claim their diet isn’t one. A diet, can be simply defined as a way of eating. If we were to study the diets of animals for example we are simply examining what they eat. When we speak of diets in the so called health and wellness or weight loss spheres what we’re actually talking about is manipulating our way of eating – manipulating our ‘diet’ in order to lose weight or eat ‘clean’. A diet is a way of eating that is designed for weight loss that is built upon rules or ‘guidelines’ and restricts in some way either mentally, or physically. Perhaps you have to restrict the times you eat, or perhaps the quantity you eat or even what foods or food groups you eat. There is almost always some form of restriction and if it’s not physical restriction – we’re feeling it mentally in the form of the guilt, shame or fear we experience following eating certain things or not moving enough.
The problem is, and I have spoken on this a number of times. Is that restriction is the number one cause of overeating, binging, cravings, feeling addicted to food or just out of control around food in general. The act of restricting actually propels what we believed to be the problem in the first place. We’re stuck in this vortex of restricting – craving – consuming – feeling guilty about it – possibly consuming more – and then starting over again the next Monday.
Diets don’t work 60-97% of the time. If this was a contraceptive pill we wouldn’t go near it!
And there are SO many reasons why these weigh focused approaches don’t work including, but not limited to – the effects of restriction I mentioned above, genetics, trauma, food scarcity, socioeconomic status, culture, medications, where we live. The list goes on and on.
Knowing all this, I believe it to be unethical to support weight loss diets in any shape or form. Because they don’t work, because they do harm and for those who care – because they are the number one cause of weight gain – the very thing they are trying to reverse!
I do however love to help people become healthier and this, believe it or not has very little to do with weight.
There are 4 key healthy habits that have been shown to improve our health and mortality rates (as in living longer) regardless of our body size. If you are engaging in these habits – congrats you’re doing great!
1. Eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables per day
2. Exercising regularly
3. Consuming alcohol in moderation
4. Not smoking
Yep, that’s it! If you can tick those 4 boxes you’re well on your way to increasing your longevity and being healthy. Anything above and beyond that is fine if it’s in your budget and you’ve got time to do so. Of course, having a diet with a variety of wholefoods is going to definitely help us feel great. Stress management and getting adequate sleep will also be important of course and all those other things that make us happy humans – nourishing mind, spirit, and heart, as well as body.
But start with the basics. Tick those boxes and get your fruits, veggies and daily movement. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do the best you can each day and take care of each other.
If you’re tempted to start another diet, would like some help getting back to basics and clearing up the nutrition confusion – get in touch or check out my upcoming class: "What do I eat?" - February 11, 7pm - online.