Have you ever been on a diet? Did it work? And if so for how long? How did you feel while you were on it? Were you hungry all the time? Tired? Irritable? Did you say no to social events because you couldn’t trust yourself around “bad” foods? Did you “cheat” and feel guilty or sick after? When the diet ended did you eat everything in sight and plan to start again “on Monday.” Did you gain weight back after the diet ended? Do you think calorie restriction is the only way to lose weight?
If any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. I’ve been stuck in this cycle and I work with women every day who are there, who have been there and who have found their way out.
A few more questions for you to consider:
1. If it worked for a period of time, did it really work?
2. What was your goal? If it was weight loss, while sacrificing mental health, daily happiness, energy and socializing with friends & peers – is this really healthy?
3. Is it better to do something that makes you lose weight quickly for a short period of time, or something that allows you to lose weight more slowly but keep it off forever?
· There are no quick fixes. If it works quickly, it’s unlikely you've addressed the habits that got you there in the first place.
· Your body doesn’t know the difference between starvation and intentional calorie restriction. What this means is that if you regularly give your body less energy (aka calories) then it needs, you better believe it’s going to hold onto every calorie it gets when you do eat. This makes it difficult to lose weight as the body tries to hold onto its energy stores (aka fat) not knowing if there is another period of "starvation" coming up.
· Nutrient deficiencies will make you hungry & tired It’s really hard to fulfill your body’s nutrient requirements (think b vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron) if you’re not eating enough. When you’re body does not have adequate micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) it will cue the brain to eat more food. Your body is constantly working for you not against you and this is a survival mechanism. These micronutrients are vital for every function in the body including metabolism, muscle building, digestion, hormone production, skin health & more! If you're deficient your brain is going to tell you to EAT to try and correct this. Cravings are more than just will power, they're often biology.
What Can You Do?
· Start by adding in rather than taking away: This is different than what most “diets” do. Usually you’re given a huge list of foods not to eat & left to figure out the rest. Instead start adding in healthy options - low sugar fruits, veggies, quality protein & fats, nuts & seed, beans & legumes.
· Swap Up! Focus on replacing the less healthy options in your diet with more healthful options. Some common swaps I recommend for my clients are:
- white rice < wild rice
- pasta < lentil pasta
- mashed potatoes <mashed cauliflower
- iceberg lettuce < mixed greens
- flour < almond meal
- white sugar < coconut sugar
- sweet wine < dry wine
- fruit juice < whole fruit
Little swaps that don't drastically change your prep time, recipes or schedule are easy ways to start moving you in the direction of your goals.
· If it's insanely stressful, you're doing it wrong. Your plan should take stress away and add happiness and excitement to your life, not take it away while increasing stress
· Focus on portions last. Once you’ve gone through your diet and shifted towards whole, unrefined food you’ll find cravings & hunger shift dramatically. Now you’re ready to look at portions. But by now, chances are you won’t be craving and wanting to demolish giant plates of foods. When you feed your body the nutrients and energy it needs, the hunger demons quiet down and portion control because more intuitive than methodical.
What Not To Do
· Don’t start by focusing on portions or calories
· Don’t let yourself get starving
· Don’t set unrealistic goals. Meet yourself where you’re at! If you’re having fast food 5 times per week and drinking no water, don’t start with a goal of cooking every dinner from scratchand having 3L of water per day. An achievable starting point might be only eat out 3x/week and drink 1L of water per day. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS.
Show yourself some love & compassion while you work towards your healthiest self.