It sounds so promising at first. All I have to do is cut out carbs? Restrict my calories? Replace a meal with a smoothie? Eat like a caveman? Avoid meat? Eat raw? Eat "clean"?
We're lured in by before and after images, by people who look like they've got it all figured out; a solution to all of our problems.
So you buy the book, the supplements, the groceries, and the promise being sold.
Maybe it works at first. And then maybe, at some point, you get tired of isolating yourself due to dietary restrictions. You have a piece of cake and end up eating the whole thing. You realize this diet isn't sustainable and throw in the towel. How did you mess up something so simple? Where is the bikini body you were promised?
It's not your fault. How do you think the diet industry makes so much money? Why do you think there's not one basic bible when it comes to losing weight? Because most are not long term solutions.
Most diets work short term by providing you with a calorie deficit. There are many reasons they often don't work long term, like:
- They are overly restrictive - depriving your body and brain of essential nutrients and fuel
- Psychologically you feel deprived and end up rebelling
- They are socially isolating
- They are not realistic long term solutions
Since most diets put you in a caloric deficit, you're likely to regain the weight (and then some) once you return to a healthy calorie intake. Then your left with a damaged metabolism searching for a solution. Sounds like a pain in the ass after you worked so hard to lose weight in the first place right?
I have experimented with all kinds of diets for health and weight loss reasons. In wanting to coach clients in the future I'm really concerned about providing people with healthy long term solutions. The last thing I want to do is provide a temporary fix that results in a life of yo yo dieting and disordered eating.
So how do we find a permanent solution to maintaining a healthy weight and body?
Here are six ways to start:
#1 STOP DEMONIZING FOODS
In North America we love to demonize foods. We are always blaming the next big culprit for the obesity epidemic. It's fat (even though that craze led us into a nationwide weight gain), it's carbs (brain food), it's sugar (everything in moderation yo!) The truth is there's not one thing that makes you gain weight. Too much of anything can, for sure. But how do you think all those Parisians eat their croissants and cheese plates and stay so darn slim? It's because they are masters of pleasure, balance, and portion control... which leads me to #2
#2 BE REALISTIC WITH PORTION CONTROL
You guys, I am totally guilty of being terrible with portion control. I may or may not consume a jar of peanut butter in a few days on occasion. I DO NOT recommend this. I know it's not easy. I'm a work in progress. But once we get realistic about the portions we're eating, the better we're going to look and feel. For most women, you want to aim for a palm of protein, a fist of vegetables, 1 cupped handfuls of carb dense food and a thumb sized portion of fat at each meal. This will vary depending on your body and goals, but is a good starting point. This guide is extremely helpful.
#3 MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR MACROS
Do not fear thy carb, protein or fat! I'm currently experimenting with If It Fits Your Macros to understand proper macro ratios. IIFYM focuses on eating balanced macros to reach your ideal body weight (generally, but not always, around 40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat depending on your goals). While I'm not an advocate for any plan that makes you weigh and count everything, it's good research for me to understand my body's daily needs. Because our bodies need all the macros! I spent far too much of my life fearing carbs, which happen to be essential for your body and brain to function properly (this is my excuse for sucking at math). Here's an awesome visual guide to measuring your macros.
#4 BE PRESENT
As often as possible, be present during your meals. Check how full you are, how much you're enjoying it, and if you might be having any averse reactions (which is a great time to do an elimination diet to see what might could be a major food allergy).
#5 QUALITY CHECK
You don't need to eat high quality foods to lose weight. But you do need a balance of nutrient dense foods to function properly, look and feel your best. You need a healthy dose of fibre to keep your colon healthy, antioxidants to prevent disease (and bonus, make your skin glow!) and vitamins for energy. So while you could lose weight surviving solely on a Happy Meal and rice cakes every day, you're going to feel a hell of a lot better filling your plate with fresh food. And if a Happy Meal genuinely makes you happy, then hell, eat one once and a while and balance out your other meals.
#6 MAKE IT A LIFESTYLE
Stop looking for quick fixes. It's not one diet, one fitness plan, or one way that will work for you. Create a lifestyle that makes you happy and that you can sustain longterm.
With all this being said, the perfect diet does not exist. We all have different bodies, health issues, cultural backgrounds and goals.
When your diet isn't working for you, it's important to stop and see what the problem is. Maybe you to reduce your stress levels, maybe you have an underlying food allergy or hormonal imbalance, maybe you need to work on emotional eating habits or a more deeply rooted problem.
It's your life, your body, your health and your journey. Focus on how you feel before you focus on numbers. Take your time. Ask for help. Stop seeking quick fixes and focus on self care. Love yourself. Eat for nourishment. Move for strength. Remember your end goals are a happy and healthy life, not a short term solution.