The world is full of contradictions. On one hand you get bombarded about the obesity epidemic and its consequences to personal health, government budgets and life in general and they all come with an emphasis on losing weight. On the other hand there is that idea about people being obsessed with diet plans, calories and weight and mentioning ‘you are on a diet’ is looked like you are a second hand citizen.
At the same time you probably heard it all before that diets don’t work and is all a lucrative way to get the money from your pocket while you struggle through some wacky weight loss way. Has it all taken over your world, time and life, leaving you confused and worn out?
Maybe it is time to stop dieting and start living.
What does it mean?
This simple saying seems to becoming the new mojo and as with everything else the new diet fashion. It is a little bit like those books of wisdom which become the new sensation overnight covered with loads of mythical meanings. Then everybody jumps on the boat of finding the ‘ultimate happiness’ and making ‘the universe work for them’. I can’t remember when or where I first came across such saying but no doubt it was attractive and loved it pretty fast. Obviously it is very attractive the idea of breaking free from the eternal fight with food however I do like to keep things simple.
I’m sure to stop dieting and start living can mean a lot of things to a lot of people and in many ways is a simple change of attitude towards food and lifestyle and still lose weight. Here are some tips on how you can make this work for you.
Step 1 Changing attitudes
1. Stop the food panic.
Everyday there is something new about ‘food’. Eat this specific food to lose weight, eat that for cancer, eat the other for diabetes, eat this way for younger looks; don’t drink that for health and on and on and on… Think to yourself how many times have you rushed to the shops to get this fruit or that vegetable or wondered whether you should have a drink of wine or a cup of tea just because it said or you heard or you read somewhere that you should.
All this business can be tiring and in many cases pointless. Stop being in a constant panic about what, and when you should eat. Now I may be criticised that I am saying to ignore everything and just go and eat whatever comes your way. No, that is not the point either. There is a magic word called balance. All I am saying is relax about food and stop obsessing and panicking about every little thing regarding food.
Think simple. Nothing works in isolation, and if for example you eat all the berries in the world you will not become the strongest thinnest and most healthy person in the world. A lot of the hype on specific foods is for commercial purposes. Yes there are types or groups of foods which have really good benefits and it is suggested you eat more off and some which can have harmful effects and it is suggested you eat less off.
2. Food guidelines
A lot of scientists, ‘experts’ and the governments have worked different guidelines and food pyramids and plate charts and a lot of other things on what to eat. These are what they say on the box, guidelines. Basically is a guide of what a balanced diet may look like. Some are better than others and by all means they are not perfect. Use them as that but don’t get hooked on them and there is no need to follow them religiously as if your life depends on them.
3. See food for what it is
I’m sure if I ask what food is I will get hundreds of different answers ranging from energy to a social commodity. We have given food a lot of different purposes and roles however in its essence it is a necessity for survival. We ultimately eat because we need the nutrients to exist as beings. Yes it can taste good or think it can make us feel better or use it to socialise with friends etc. However, think to yourself if you have a car and you stop putting petrol it is so far it will take you before it stops. Although the human body is more complicated than the engine of a car in its principle if you stop eating you will have about 30 days before you die (this always depends on reserves and condition of a person amongst other things).
What we put inside our body will affect our body kind off similarly in a car the quality of the petrol can affect the works of the engine. So when you fill your plate for a meal look at it and think that it is your petrol in your engine.
Step 2 Change your life
I am sure you heard it a million times make life changes don’t just diet. To be honest I must have mentioned it in majority of my articles. Changing your attitude towards food is a first step in getting preparing for those life changes. Making life changes is harder than it sounds especially if it involves changing habits accrued through all your living days. A lot of people may think why they should change their life and habits when all they want is to lose a few pounds. I would say you don’t have to, however if you do want to feel free from the diets and be able to sustain that weight loss without having to go through a torture every time then it is a very good way forward.
4. Jump off the diet wagon
A weight loss diet is something temporary and it usually involves a specific method or regime which you follow. Some may result in losing weight and reaching your goal, some may not work at all. However, once you stop then what? The diet served its purpose; you lost the weight so you stop dieting and even if are a little bit more careful at start, you soon go back in what ate in the past. Well to be honest what you ate or how you ate in the past is what led to putting on weight in the first place. So then what? Go on a diet every time you want or need to lose weight.
Basically stop being on a ‘diet’ and aim to make those changes in your diet and lifestyle which they will result in losing the weight but will benefit your health and weight sustainability in the long run.
5. Make small changes
Take one small step at the time. Think about it: If you are used to eat chips and sweets and processed food how easy do you think it will be to stop completely and start on salads and fruit. In addition, if your body is used to live on chips and all that it is addicted to it, it will torture you with headaches, hunger fits and cravings. Undoubtedly some people are very determined and have will power made of steel and they can do it. In general is a shock to the system.
To the point, start by introducing things into your everyday diet slowly. How much and how often you will be changing things is something which depends on the individual. See bellow the table for some ideas. If you bring change slowly you are more likely to stick to it and become part of your diet. If you aim to jump on a whole new diet it will feel alien and you could struggle through it.
Small changes ideas
More progressive steps ideas
|1. Halve the chips portion and replace it with some salad or vegetables. Avoid sauces i.e. mayonnaise, rich and creamy salad dressings.||1. Replace your whole portion of chips with vegetables or salad.|
|2. Place the biscuits or sweets in small portion bags i.e. 2 biscuits per bag or a small piece of cake per bag etc. Have only 2 portions per day for the really must have it moment.||2. Gradually cut down on the portions to having one portion a day or once a week.|
|3. If you never had vegetables before try introducing one vegetable per week. Have it with your meals all week. Start with vegetables you like. If you don’t like the taste of one try another. Similarly do for fruit.||3. Once your pallet and taste is more used to eating vegetables and greens try something more adventures or try combining 2 -3 vegetables in one meal.|
|4. Change the cooking process. For example oven bake instead of frying.||4.Try steaming, boiling, grilling.|
|5. Cut down on your portion by 1/3.||5. If portion size is an issue or number of meals(i.e. 4-5 meals p.d) then halve the portion or skip one snack meal.|
6. Aim for balance and variety.
As I mentioned at the beginning there is not one miracle food. To that I will also add don’t aim to exclude from your diet all foods considered bad. Instead include as many foods from as many groups you can. Have vegetables, fruits, salads, meat and fish and enjoy your chips as well. Life is for living, that’s what I say, and going through life feeling deprived of what you like is not a good strategy. For a start it is so long you can go before you get fed up. On the other hand balance doesn’t mean one thing all the time; for example when I say enjoy your chips doesn’t translate to having them with every meal.
Having a variety of foods will also help with beating boredom and creating a variety of meals and options. After all you are creating an eating pattern for lifetime not following a weight loss diet for a specific period.
7. Think big
The ‘big’ does not refer to the size of the meal portion, but it rather refers to the big picture. It also refers to many different things. First, don’t put your emphasis on losing the weight as again you will be trapped in the ‘diet’ mentality. No doubt your aim is to lose the weight but by making small changes to your lifestyle the weight loss will come naturally. For example if you start replacing slowly the rich and calorific meals with more healthier options then automatically you will have cut down on the amount of calories you consume. Obviously the bigger the changes the more weight you will lose but if you are more likely to stick to small changes then that’s what you want to be aiming for.
Secondly don’t get trapped in thinking on the little things. Having a portion of chips for example, once a week will not topple over the scales or damage your health. It is the overall nutrition which matters more. Having a portion of chips once a week and a pizza once a week and ample of fizzy drinks through the day, and sweets and overall you consume 5 meals a day which add up to an enormous amount of calories, then that will topple the scales.
8. Re-evaluate your goals
Part of seeing the bigger picture is actually thinking what your goals are as well. If you set a goal of I want to fit in that specific outfit for that specific event then this refers to something short term. First changing your whole life for just an outfit may seem pointless as a short term weight loss regime will do and second once you reached that goal then you will feel as purpose served now why carry on. Try thinking what goals you want in life. Try changing the original goal in I want to be able to fit in outfits like that when I want to and for all occasions now and in the future. In simple words try to put your goals into a lifetime perspective.
This doesn’t mean that it appeals to everybody. For many people it is not important or doesn’t mean anything as such. Don’t do things just because it is a fashion or because someone tells you is a good thing to do. Choice is a personal thing, and I could tell that a balance healthy diet is good for weight and health and is a better option long term than fast restrictive diets. However, if this doesn’t come near to what you want is a matter of choice.