‘Ditch the diet’, it is a great hashtag I follow on Instagram and I was drawn to it because I truly believe that dieting to become healthy is not always the answer. I am a nutritionist and I do not actually put clients on diets. It is not just my own experience that has brought me to the conclusion that dieting is not always the most effective form of bettering our health, but the many clients I worked with when I first started out. I watched these clients successfully lose weight on a restrictive diet and then they would return a year later. They usually had gained back more weight than they had lost and, in the process, they developed other health problems like lowered metabolism, imbalanced hormones, and strong cravings.
First, I would like to help you understand why I think dieting is not the answer. Second, I would like to give you the correct answer to exactly what you need to do to get healthy. But to be honest, the latter statement is very difficult to determine, I think that is why dieting was invented. Human beings are complicated. We come in all shapes and sizes and not one other human being is like another. So how is a low carb diet the answer for everyone? If we are all so different, then one diet will not fit all. We all know that the diet industry is a massive money-making machine. The influencers we follow on social media are posting their amazing results regarding their incredible body transformation, and they have usually been paid, or they do it for a living and make money promoting it. I cannot say there has never been a successful person on a diet, but the percentage of failing is much higher than the percentage of success. We cannot forget to mention that our diets and our culture value a thin body. A body type that only a small portion of the population can obtain, it is truly exhausting, for many to have to work towards a goal that they will never be able to achieve.
Now, do not get me wrong. I am vegetarian and I eat healthily, so I follow a diet of sorts. But for me, being a vegetarian is not a chore. I actually feel better. I listen to my body and I try not to obsess about what is happening in the fast-paced world of diet culture. That is not to say I think fasting is a horrible diet or that paleo is wrong. No, I think they are great ways of eating healthier but also, we need to find a balance. The following are some steps to use in taking on diet culture and using it to your advantage.
Educate yourself: Most of our dietary habits have been handed down to us from our family and our culture. ‘You can’t leave the table until you clean your plate’ ‘Milk helps you grow’ ‘Three meals a day is very important’. We have been misinformed and when we realise that, some of us turn to the internet or social media. This can also lead us down the path of misinformation, misunderstanding and an overwhelming amount of it. My recommendation to you is to take an online course in nutrition from a reputable school or certification programme or meet with a nutritionist and have them guide you. Find a healthy cooking class to take that teaches you how to use whole foods to create meals and snacks that are beneficial to the body.
Goals: Instead of taking on a diet like keto, which can be very restrictive, try to take some ideas from certain diets and incorporate them slowly into your lifestyle. For example, try to switch to keto bread for a week instead of regular bread. While you are at it, take a tip from the paleo diet and instead of pretzels or chips for a snack, try a handful of nuts. Find your own rhythm, with foods. Instead of taking on one restrictive diet, take a few ideas from all the different diets and create your own personal healthy lifestyle.
Intuition: Intuition, it is an incredible thing. They should teach us how to use our intuition in school, like they teach us maths. If we listened more to what our body was telling us, instead of social media, family members, and/or friends we might be on the right track to taking care of ourselves. I would start with trying some different scenarios. Keep a food journal and try to track how your food is making you feel, emotionally and physically. Sit down and eat your meals. Make an effort to not eat meals in front of the computer or in the car. Enjoy your food, think about what you are eating and why you chose to eat it.
Working on our emotional health: We are all emotionally attached to food at some level. We all have some level of disordered eating. Sometimes we might eat because it soothes us or it makes us feel better. Stress eating is not uncommon at all. Eating because we deserve it or we have earned it is another form of unhealthy eating that we frequently give into. Working on our own mental health whether it is seeing a therapist, taking a course in EFT or Reiki, or learning to meditate are all important steps to balancing out your mind and body. Taking the time out to work on your mental health can help you recognize faulty food patterns. Once you decide what those patterns are and how they are impacting your eating habits, you can slowly make the changes you need and build a positive relationship with food.
Most importantly remember that you are unique from the inside out. Diet culture is a one solution answer to a very complicated problem. Once you realise that you can relax and discover your own personalised healthy eating plan that works just for you.
Nutritionist and Diet Consultant at Verita Life
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