If I’ve learnt anything over the 6 years that I’ve been focusing on my health and fitness, it’s that diets don’t work long term. They aren’t sustainable because a) as humans we are too tempted to ‘break the rules’ and b) often they involve cutting out a food group or being overly restrictive. Cutting a food or food group out leaves us with cravings for foods that contain the nutrients we are missing. Unless we are aware of the nutritional value in the foods we are cutting out and how we can meet that need in other beneficial ways, we are likely to reach for the wrong types of foods to satisfy the craving – often those high in calories with little nutritional value. Being overly restrictive in our food intake can lead our bodies into starvation mode – this is often seen after we’ve been tracking so well on a diet, only to find ourselves one night binge eating in secret on everything we told ourselves we aren’t suppose to have. If your body is in starvation mode you’ll also notice your mood change and you’ll get snappy at your loved ones. So, if diets don’t work, WHAT WILL?
A Balanced Approach
If you want to lose weight and/or maintain a healthy lifestyle, you need to take a balanced approach. One that doesn’t leave you feeling deprived of every nice food or leave you so starving that all you can do is count down the minutes until you can next eat.
The most practical way of letting a balanced diet play out is using the 80/20 principle of eating. This is where you choose to eat more nutritious foods 80 per cent of the time and the other 20 per cent allows you to enjoy your favourite treats. This guide helps raise your awareness of what you’re eating without leaving you feeling restricted. You can enjoy eating cake at a friend’s birthday, a meal out and even the freedom of not needing to be “perfect” ALL the time. It allows you to enjoy the full blessing that food is without being controlled by it. You don’t have to count calories, cut out food groups or deny yourself certain foods.
The good news is eating like this will help you lose weight, and even keep it off. No more secret binges because you’re starving and ashamed you can’t keep up the diet you signed up for. No more failing another diet and deciding to throw it all out the window and live on Tim Tams and toast. Instead this principle empowers you to choose what you eat and encourages balance in your diet. As you make your choices you’ll likely become more educated about food and your nutritional needs because as you seek to meet those needs you’ll be considering what the meaning of balance is.
Know your body’s needs
If you’re uncertain about what your body needs to function at its best (both physically and mentally) it can be worthwhile chatting to a health professional. This knowledge can also help you know what portions of foods you should be eating. It will also enable you to collate a repertoire of meals that nutritionally satisfy you and in turn reduce the junk food cravings. If you’re still learning your body’s needs or are just looking to diversify your range of meals, I’ve found Voome’s recipe Collections and Meal Planners to be a really great resource. They help with meal preparation for the week by providing a range of healthy, delicious recipes that don’t break the budget. Plus, once you’ve decided on your recipes, you can print them all off into one handy shopping list so you’re not left in a scramble at the supermarket!
Create a Healthy Relationship with Food
Lastly, it’s really important to consider the way you think about food.
There are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, only good or bad dietary lifestyles. A good dietary lifestyle doesn’t leave you feeling guilty if you eat cake. It includes all the foods you love in moderation and is balanced with a variety of wholesome foods to prosper your health.
Don’t forget to actually enjoy eating! Food is a blessing. Enjoy the broad range of foods you include in your diet by considering their taste, texture and mixture of flavours as you eat them.