Diets and why they aren’t the answer
We live in a world that places a premium on physical appearance, so it’s no wonder why the latest diet fad may prove highly seductive for someone struggling with weight issues.
While sudden and radical weight loss can have many positive effects on your self-esteem, it’s important to sustain weight loss safely and gradually over time to reduce the chance of longer-term health complications. That requires a shift in perspective beyond aimlessly shedding countless pounds towards placing health and wellness at the centre of your goals.
Let’s start by debunking some common dieting myths:
1) Diets are the key to weight loss
Most diets involve some sort of food deprivation and/or strict calorie counting. This often results in weight loss diets being restrictive and difficult to follow. If weight loss is your ultimate goal, then dieting will likely help you shed some weight in the short term. However, problems will arise when you eventually come off that diet and return to regular eating habits, as you can quickly regain that weight. This is because your body boosts its production of hunger-inducing hormones when it senses it has lost fat and muscle. Diets will also cause your body's metabolism to slow down, making it easier to regain weight once you return to a regular eating pattern. Losing and gaining weight cyclically can even leave you heavier than you were when you started. If you’ve been eating a restrictive diet, you might also have nutritional deficiencies that later need to be addressed.
2) Exercise can make up for overeating and poor food choices
To put things into perspective, a takeaway pizza can easily exceed over 1,000 calories. But even after an hour of moderate exercise, this could still leave you with an additional 500 calories or more to burn. It is unrealistic to believe that you can simply work off poor food choices at the gym. However, nutrient-dense foods offer distinct and essential benefits that may not be realised by calories alone. This is why one hundred calories of fresh fruit or veg are far superior to one hundred calories of crisps. While increasing physical activity and adding new exercises to your daily workout routine is important for weight loss and overall health, following a healthy, nutritionally balanced meal plan is key when trying to shed body fat. Healthy meal plans that feature a balanced level of fibre, healthy fats, and protein in controlled portions are the best way to slim down. It’s also important to stay within a calorie deficit - and eating healthy, minimally processed foods is the most effective way to do this.
3) You can target fat loss on specific areas of the body
The waistline, thighs, buttocks, and arms are common areas in which people tend to store excess body fat. Targeted fat loss, also known as “spot reduction” is a type of exercise that many people turn to when trying to slim down specific areas of their bodies. However, when fat is broken down for fuel, this can come from anywhere in the body, not just from the body part being worked. For instance, doing lots of ab exercises will result in stronger stomach muscles, but you won’t see definition in that area unless you lose overall body weight. Gender, age, genetics, and lifestyle all play a role in weight gain and the accumulation of stubborn areas of body fat too. Women naturally have a higher percentage of body fat and tend to store excess fat in the thighs and buttocks, especially during childbearing years. However, during perimenopause and menopause, hormonal changes can cause weight to shift to the waistline region. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to store fat in their midsections throughout their entire lives.
4) You need to eat meat to get enough protein
Spinach contains up to 30 percent protein. Nuts and seeds derive 15 to 25 percent of their calories from protein. Beans and legumes are another excellent source and all sources of vegetable protein are free of the steroids, growth hormones, and antibiotics usually found in conventionally produced beef, pork and poultry.
So, what is the answer?
This question ultimately depends on your goals. If you want to quickly shed some excess pounds then it is true that you will likely achieve these desired results with a diet. But, if you want to live a healthier, more balanced life, the answer is a shift in perspective – avoid short-term strategies like diets and instead seek out sustainable changes to your overall lifestyle that will improve your health and help you lose weight for good. Making better lifestyle and nutritional choices will set you up for a healthier life, reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type two diabetes, high blood pressure, and numerous cancers.
Let’s get one thing straight - the occasional serving of pudding or fries will not completely sabotage your health alone. Still, it is important to avoid rationalising poor food choices. Aside from what you eat, how you eat is important in coaxing your brain into better choices. Making mealtime relaxing and distraction-free is an effective measure for preventing overeating. If you do not already do so, try to make more of an effort to sit down and eat with family or friends, using no devices, at least once a day.
To help these lifestyle habits stick, regularly remind yourself of the bigger picture. A simple but powerful wellness strategy is to make one healthy choice about your diet and stick to it - for as long as it takes - until that choice becomes a habit. Then repeat the process with another healthy choice. Gradually, you will see a positive compounding effect over time.
Educate yourself about the benefits of nutrient-dense plant-based food, exercise, and other healthy choices, and use this knowledge to better inform your lifestyle choices.
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