For many people, losing weight is a bit like giving up smoking. They become experts at it because they do it so often. The reality, of course, is that if they did it the right way, they’d only have to do it once!
So, what’s the right way?
Dieting or lifestyle changes?
Let’s Investigate. . .
The Problem with Dieting
There are many problems with traditional dieting. One of the biggest is that they focus purely on weight loss. Just think of the show ‘The Biggest Loser.’ It’s all about getting the scale weight down. But the scale cannot distinguish between fat loss and muscle loss.
You need to distinguish between fat loss and muscle loss. Rather than being concerned about getting the scale weight down, you should focus only on losing fat. Because muscle weights five times as much as fat, it is quite possible that your scale weight will actually go up as you lose some fat and gain muscle. That’s a good thing.
Another problem with traditional diets is that it is virtually impossible to maintain over the long term. A raft of studies show that the vast majority of people actually end up heavier than they were before they began when checked 12 months after the diet has finished.
So, why do most people end up fatter after a diet than when they started. It all comes down to what the scientific community call the starvation response. The caloric restriction kicks your body into survival mode. It slows down the metabolism and hoards calories much the same way a bear prepares for the lean times of winter.
Your body will cling on to fat in order to see you through the perceived period of starvation. Then when you go off the diet, the slower metabolism and changed hormonal activity that allowed you to ‘get through’ the starvation period will take some time to readjust to the increased caloric consumption and you will pile on even more body fat.
Another major problem with traditional dieting has to do with the psychological effects of the practice. When you restrict certain foods, your brain reacts differently to tasty looking food. Studies show that people on a diet are far more attuned to food. They notice it when they are walking through the mall, picking up flavours and activating their taste bud juices when they see a food that they love. This ramps up the temptation factor.
At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that resists temptation, diminishes when you are on a diet. So, at the same time that your desire to eat the foods you love is being resisted, your natural ability to resist is also being lowered. That creates the perfect storm for disaster!
A Better Way
Rather than adopting a restricted calorie, short term diet, the smart way to lose weight involves adopting long-term lifestyle changes. By ingraining sensible nutrition-based habits you will able to lose the weight and keep it off.
Here are 5 key nutritional habits to build into your lifestyle:
- Eat protein with every meal. You probably know that protein helps to build muscle however, you may not be aware how beneficial it is for weight loss. Protein leaves you feeling fuller for longer as it assists in producing hormones. Hormones which play a direct roll in making you feel full or satisfied. These proteins for each meal do not only need to come from meat but could also come from greek yoghurt, cottage cheese & legumes.
- Eating 5-6 servings of vegetables daily is recommended. Adding large salads or stir-fried vegetables to your meals can fill you up and provide your body with what it needs without adding empty calories as they are extremely nutrient dense. Include a couple of servings of low glycemic index starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin and beetroot.
- Cut out processed carbs. That means avoiding donuts, pies and sugary drinks. You can eat whole grain breads and pasta but limit their intake.
- Eat heathy fats every day. Get them from such things as walnuts, avocado, extra virgin olive oil and flax seeds.
- Drink more water. Make it your aim to consume at least 2-3 litres per day.
Dieting does not work. Not if you are after long term, sustained weight loss, anyway. In order to achieve real, lasting weight loss you have got to adopt sensible nutritional habits into your lifestyle. Start by adopting the five pillars that we have outlined here.