Diets don’t work. There is a common misconception that people fail at diets because they lack will-power. The truth of the matter is that diets fail people. Do yourself a favour, get off the Diet Merry-Go-Round and make positive and healthful food choices that are right for you. Listen to your body’s physical symptoms, tap into your hunger and fullness cues and armed with some nutrition science knowledge, you will become your own food expert.
It’s making the right food choices for your body that actually works. Make your emphasis health-driven, not weight driven. The ifeelgood news is that even making three simple changes to your eating habits this week can have a positive ripple effect on your health and overall approach to food.
Getting on Track with Your Nutrition
With our exercise and eating habits challenged over the last three months during lockdown, it’s now time to re-establish what works for you. You do not need to make drastic changes to get on track; but implementing three good changes straight away is the perfect start.
Choose Three Nutrition Changes Relevant to you
- Reduce coffee intake – drink more water or try green tea
- Reduce alcohol – if you do drink alcohol, keep your drinks to a couple on the weekend
- Slow down your eating to tap into fullness cues – it can take 20 mins for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full
- Eat more fish in your week – aim for 2-3 fish or seafood meals a week
- Choose your wholegrain carbohydrates – brown, wholemeal, wholegrain, grains and seeds – the darker the better
- Opt for a meatless meal a week and incorporate more legumes, lentils and pulses into your family meals
- Crowd in with vegetables – include vegetables with every meal (aim for ½ plate, even experiment with breakfast eg tomato, asparagus, mushroom)
- Start your day in a nourishing way – try to include breakfast to kick-start your metabolism and prevent cravings and hunger at the end of the day
- Introduce more whole and real foods into your day and choose less ultra-processed foods
- Prevent the afternoon slump in energy, by fuelling your body more during the start of the day
- Choose nourishing snacks such as nuts, fresh fruit, vegetables with hommus, yoghurt
- Tune in with hunger and fullness cues – eat when you are hungry and stop when you are comfortably full
- Begin each day with a room temp glass of water with a slice of lemon
- Make as many home-made sauces, pestos, dips and marinades as you can – rather than buying bottled ones
- Drizzle, cook, dress and roast your vegetables with extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is rich in nourishing fats, anti-oxidants, plentiful poly-phenols and so many health benefits
- Did we mention drink more water?
Commit to your three simple food changes this week and feel those healthy habits begin to form naturally. Being mindful and proactive about our choices is a powerful step to achieving physical, mental and emotional health and wellness.
What is the ‘ripple’ effect in this approach?
The “ripple” effect starts when you begin with small and simple changes for a week, and allow your body and mind to feel the benefits of these changes. This will lead to your body and mind wanting to make more and more nourishing food and movement changes as your lifestyle and health continues to improve.
So start small, conquer your chosen three, feel the effects and allow it to lead to more positive choices and watch the “ripple effect” occur.
Why do we say Diets DON’T Work?
It’s a big (but true) claim.
Typically a “diet” will focus on weight loss rather than nourishment and good health. “Lose X kg’s in 30 Days.” Diets convey messages of deprivation, guilt, fear, rigidity and shame and focus on weight loss that the only goal. They suggest that every person is the same and don’t allow for individual differences that every person will have. A person following a diet is told to ignore the body’s in-built feedback signal that would otherwise be advising whether it needs are being met or not.
There’s usually an unreasonable time frame and a lot of pressure with goals that are unrealistic. Due to the nature of a “strict diet” it’s difficult to maintain sustainable change even if you do lose weight initially. Why? Because there is no one-size fits all approach to food.
- Diets can create the feeling of physical and emotional deprivation of food
- In some people, under-eating can lead to extreme hunger and cravings, and potentially over-eating
- Women who diet frequently are more likely to have a poor relationship with food, develop disordered eating behaviours and jump from one diet to the next
- If our body is forced to eat below its minimum nutrition requirements, it will go into some behind-the-scenes work to conserve itself that is often disadvantageous to our long term health and long-term habits
- Diets can make you stress and obsess over mealtimes and food choices
- If you follow a diet that is too restrictive and does not meet your minimum nutritional requirements it can actually slow your metabolism
- A strict diet or meal plan is difficult to implement in families and shared households
- Diet merry-go-rounds and weight cycling can be damaging to one’s long-term physical and mental health
Food Choices are the Foundation of your Health and Well-Being
I am a firm believer in the health promoting properties of food, and encourage you to make food choices for the most part that nourish your body, and other times nourish your soul.
Start thinking about food in a positive sense – explore all the functions of foods, nutrients, vitamins and minerals and how vital these are in our biochemical pathways, how vital they are to nourish our cells and our minds, and that food is a source of nourishment, nurturing. Food is positive, nurturing and nourishing and should be flexible, easy, take up some of our time (in terms of logistics and organization and where you will be), but not all your time. It should flow naturally and comfortably and not create undue stress or anxiety.
Make nourishing food choices that you want to make and that fits in with your lifestyle, family and commitments. You are more likely to continue with this long term when they are chosen and driven by you, rather than what someone or some “diet” is telling you to do.
Your body does not need to lose weight to be healthy; your body needs to be healthy to lose weight. If you meet your nutrition needs and enjoy some regular movement and fitness, your body will gravitate back towards its lowest natural weight without you even thinking about it.
This knowledge and appreciation of food coupled with regular fitness activities that you really enjoy can ultimately lead to your own optimal health – not someone else’s ideal diet, weight or fitness goals.
“Eat from a place of Love and Nourishment”
Rachael Bradford is a nutritionist and accredited practising dietitian with over 25 years of nutrition experience in a wide range of health conditions. She is the Director of Eat and Enjoy Nutrition, a private practice in Brisbane. Rachael’s love of food and keen interest and intrigue in science lead her to the path of nutrition and dietetics at an early age, and she has not looked back.
A self- proclaimed foodie and queen of entertaining, Rachael translates the latest evidenced-based nutritional science into practical and tasty strategies that can be implemented into your life on a daily basis; with results that work specifically for you.