With the sun beating down on us and patios beckoning, a lot of people are concerned about how they are going to look with more skin peeking out of their clothes. The usual route is to pick up the latest diet book and start slashing calories. Dieting veterans will start to notice that the weight doesn’t come off as quickly as it has done in years past. There are a number of reasons for this. It could be age, hormones or underlying medical cause.
Or it could be a damaged metabolism from years of dieting.
Dieting is bad for your body. You can’t outsmart your biology. When you drastically reduce your calories, your body, wanting to maintain homeostasis and keep your body consistent gets messed up. You start losing weight while your metabolism adjusts to a lower caloric intake. This is called metabolic adaptation. Your body is smarter than you – it’ll become used to lower calories and will start to become more efficient with less calories.
What happens to many people when they start “eating regularly” again, is that they gain weight because their bodies are used to getting by on less calories. This leads them to diet again confusing their metabolism further. As a result, many people find later in life that no matter how much they exercise or watch what they eat, they don’t lose weight. This is because their metabolism has been damaged and needs to heal.
This is tough to swallow for a lot of people. They want results and they want them now. They don’t want to wait. It could take years to heal a damaged metabolism. Others struggle with the fact that they can’t control their bodies. You can’t indulge in excess calories and diet it away later.
You require a certain amount of calories every day just to live. This varies from person to person. For many women it is around 1600-2000 calories. For men, 2500-3000. Your caloric needs depend on a lot of things – genetics, basal metabolic rate, age, level of activity on a given day. But you cannot sustain your body long-term and be healthy on the 1200 calories a day.
Someone who knows me and is reading this might consider me a hypocrite because I used Weight Watchers to lose weight three years ago. I was successful using Weight Watchers and lost quite a bit of weight. While I changed my diet from cheesy pasta and wine for dinner to salads and fish, I didn’t deprive myself. I ate food, and still do, that I genuinely enjoy. I used it to transform how I ate and I used my “treat points” to buff up my daily intake. For me, I needed to pay for something that helped me with my accountability and to re-educate myself on how to eat in a balanced way. I was on Weight Watchers from February-April of 2012. In three months I became very close to my natural weight, and after figuring out my food intake, I left Weight Watchers. I didn’t revert back to the old way of eating. I changed my way of life for the better. If you are prepared to use something similar as a tool to help you eat more naturally, go for it. If you are using it as a temporary way to lose weight, save your time and money.
The important thing to remember is that no matter what you do, you can and should walk away from restrictive diets. You can stop hating yourself for breaking your diet. There should be no diets. Your body will respond to more exercise and to eating a more balanced diet. This is a fact.
You probably already know what to do because it’s how our grandparents lived. It’s common sense (and the reason why the legitimate fitness and nutrition experts aren’t rich).
Move your body regularly. Health Canada recommends 30 minutes of activity every day. This includes anything from walking to doing Crossfit. Household chores can count as activity. Playing with your kids works too. Moving your body burns calories. We are designed to move. Exercise releases serotonin and makes us feel good.
Eat lots of plants. Vegetables and fruits are nature’s vitamins. They have fibre which fills us up and keeps the groceries moving. While they are nutrient dense, they are lower in calories. Every adult should be getting 5-7 servings per day which would be a cup of raw vegetables or piece of fruit or a half cup of cooked vegetables.
Keep treats as treats. Back in the day people didn’t eat sugary or salty treats as often as we do. They didn’t have a bad day and eat a box of cookies. They couldn’t afford to. I’m not against ever eating sweets or salty foods. I feel that this can be reduced and not affect the quality of life for most people. Everyone has to determine the threshold that works for them.
Maintain a healthy balance. This means that when work and family obligations are getting in the way of exercise and eating a balanced diet, some adjustments need to be made. How many of these obligations are real and how many are perceived? Is delegating work a possibility? For myself, my health is my wealth. I would rather make less money and be able to have time for proper meal prep and exercise than to have more money and feel run-down. Time is the number one excuse for not exercising. I challenge everyone to take a look at their priorities and to think about what life will be like in 20 years if you follow the same path.
Eat foods that nourish you, not harm you. The more I read about food intolerences and inflammation, the more it drives home that we can’t eat the same things as one another. Since ditching the sugar, dairy, eggs and gluten my body is thriving. I could never go back to the way if was before. A person should not have chronic gas, abdominal pain or problems in the bathroom on a regular basis. Feeling crappy will lead you to foods that are not healthy for you because you’ll be looking for comfort. This just perpetuates the cycle.
Exercise from the neck up. For most women, myself included, you can tell how great their lives are going by their dress size. Managing your emotions needs to be done without food. For me, eliminating sugar really opened my eyes to how often I had a chocolate when feeling stressed.
If you do these things, your body will start to move towards your natural weight. And this might not be the ideal weight according to the media and many people who have believed their lies. Who cares. You will be healthier, happier and you will be free from that roller coaster of emotions around food.
If you make small changes over time, once that you know that you can sustain, it no longer becomes a diet but becomes a way of life.