There are so many fad diets out there that report incredible results, but these are usually fraught with misleading claims. There is no one type of diet that suits everyone. In fact, the best type of diet is the one you do not know you are on. Find an eating plan that works for you and that is both sustainable and enjoyable.
In his book Weight Loss for Food Lovers, Dr George Blair-West explains that there is a better approach to eating that helps to break the dieting mindset called low-sacrifice eating. In this approach he states that the first step is to recognise foods that you cannot do without. This might be chocolate or coffee, for example. These are coined your ‘high-sacrifice foods’ because to give them up would involve a high level of personal sacrifice. His suggestion is to not remove these entirely from your diet but to make sure you include a small amount regularly as a way to curb cravings and therefore curb binge eating. The best time to eat these, according to Dr Blair-West, is for morning tea. That way you are less likely to overeat these foods and will crave them less in the afternoon or evening as you have already had your ‘fix’ for the day.
Admittedly, initially you may overeat your favourite food as you are so used to feeling guilty about eating it that when you give yourself permission to eat unrestrained you may overindulge. This is a normal psychological response to loosening the reins on controlled eating and is a sign that you have been restricting your food intake too much. If you find yourself initially bingeing on your high-sacrifice foods make sure you do not then devote yourself to not eating them ever again. This only creates a cycle of deprivation and binge eating. Allow yourself to have a small amount again tomorrow or the next day, that way you break this cycle.
Take Away the Moral Labels
Food does not hold any moral value yet when we attribute the labels ‘good’ and bad’ to foods we inherently feel positive or negative about ourselves when we eat those foods. This can create a vicious cycle of feeling ashamed for our behaviours and who we are based on our food choices. This can set us up to binge eat and eat in secret, all of which can entrench us in never being free to have a healthy relationship with food. Other terms such as calling foods ‘junk’, ‘naughty’, or ‘treats’ can also attach connotations that are not helpful when it comes to establishing a healthy relationship with food.
More positive and helpful terms would be to label foods as ‘sometimes’ and ‘everyday’. This means that all foods are permissible but not all foods may be beneficial to have every day. Thinking of foods in this way takes away the guilt factor and allows us to be free to enjoy our food.
If you are not dieting then what do you do?
As we learn to live in balance with our hunger cues, our appetites, and our bodies, we find that we will naturally gravitate towards foods that make us feel good. Often these are foods that are fresh and unprocessed. When our hunger regulation mechanisms are working efficiently we will eat until we are full and satisfied and then not think about food until the next meal. In essence we have moved towards eating based on our intuition and not based on a particular diet.
The healthier approach to weight management, then, is to not diet but to realise that our body wants us to be healthy and to be comfortable. If we shift our thinking away from needing to behave in an overly disciplined and controlled fashion in order to enjoy good health then we will automatically start to move towards this over a period of time.
Depending on how long you have been out of sync with your body and hunger cues will determine to some extent how long your body will take to recalibrate. But it will do so, eventually, if you remain steadfast and refuse to diet and choose to live by the sound health principles laid out in this book.
Dieting just does not work in the long-term. Many individuals have attempted to diet but found they regain the weight they lost soon after returning to their usual eating patterns. The problem with dieting is that it sets in motion a cascade of biological factors that cause our hunger to go up, our metabolism to go down, and our body to do whatever it needs to regain that weight.