Why Diets Don't Work
Ah January. Not my favourite month (not just because it’s dark and cold outside either) but the dreaded diet culture raises its ugly head now more than ever, so I like to lay low for a few different reasons. Firstly, I don't like the phrase 'going on a diet'. As far as I’m concerned a diet should be a term for what we eat, not what we can’t eat. Veganuary, eating ‘clean’, no refined sugar, no carbs, they are all the same notion. The notion of restricting food and not eating or drinking something for one month in an attempt to rid all the Christmas guilt. It just doesn't sit well with me. So I keep my head down during the January diet culture horror show because for me, being healthy isn't just about the food we eat, especially just for a limited time. Don’t get me wrong the food we eat is important but so is our long term mindset and relationship with food and our bodies, as are a million other things such as sleep, rest, exercise. The concept of overeating and then ‘dieting’ isn't healthy and we don't need to do it.
My problem with diets is that when we 'go on a diet' or restrict certain foods it creates a negative relationship with those foods, then when we finally do eat them (because no diet is sustainable forever) we end up 'feeling bad'. Food should never make us feel bad, no matter what it is. Diets can also lead to binging. For instance, when we skip a meal in an attempt to be ‘good’ and lose weight, your brain is not happy, so it sends out neurotransmitters and hormones that stimulate appetite. These guys will just keep going no matter how long you don't eat for, and when you finally do give in to your normal biological urge to eat, you’ll most likely overeat. This doesn't just happen over the course of a day, it might be weeks or even months.
Most diets usually rely on you eating what someone else tells you to eat at certain times. They (most likely) don’t know you and your life nor have they have taken the time to consider your activity levels, occupation, current diet, lifestyle etc and therefore have no idea how much energy you need on a daily basis. Diets and meal plans are usually based on a one size fits all approach and let’s think about this, how can this possibly work? My maths has never been my strongest skill but I understand that a person who builds houses for a living will require more energy than someone who sits at a desk all day. Also when we follow strict plans what happens when we feel hungry, do we just ignore this feeling? Because we know what can happen when we do. Finally, when we make a big declaration to the world to cut out a certain food forever and ever, amen, we ultimately (usually pretty quickly) realise it's not realistic nor sustainable. When you eventually do eat that food again, you feel a sense of failure, and let's face it, we have enough to contend with day to day without having to deal with this too.
I've said it before and I'll say it again (I know, I’m like a broken record!). When we focus on being the healthiest versions of ourselves, consistently, that's when the magic happens because when we do what we say we are going to do, with good intentions and the right mindset, it gives us a sense of fulfilment and confidence. Confidence soars, beauty shines bright and we look and feel amazing.
Learning about and understanding food is a huge part of what I teach my clients. My aim is to get them to a point where they no longer need my help and to work towards eventually knowing, intuitively, how to balance their diet and live a happy and healthy lifestyle...and whilst we’re on this, living a happy and healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. We don’t need to conform to the health ideology portrayed by the media. Remember, from the outside health is blind. Having a six pack doesn't mean you're healthy and having body fat doesn't mean you're not. Health isn’t black and white. All we can do is to take on board the advice (from reliable and sound sources!) we have available to us at this moment in time.
Living a healthy life is an all encompassing thing. If you want to become healthier, what you’re eating is just one aspect to look at. Mental health, stress and anxiety levels, sleeping well, exercising regularly, happiness, feeling content, self confidence, loving yourself and talking about how you feel are all incredibly important too.
Let's stop with the mental aerobics that are fad diets and the food drama of whether we do or don't eat carbs, sugar, gluten, syns, meat and focus on figuring out what being healthy means to us as individuals. Set small and manageable goals, and work towards them.
If you need any help with this or just advice on healthy living in general please get in touch, I love talking and answering questions and/or pointing you in the direction of someone that can help if I can’t. I can help guide and teach you about making healthy choices based on your needs as an individual if that, of course, is something you decide you want to know more about :)