It’s widely known that a healthy lifestyle starts and ends with the right diet. The food we eat is not only important in maintaining our weight, but affects our health, mood and relationships, too. But with so many different diets out there, choosing the one which works for you, and one you can ultimately stick with in the long-term, can be challenging.
Each year brings new dieting tips and advice, with new fad and crash diets promising to help you lose weight or get lean. But sticking to these flash-in-the-pan dieting regimes is almost impossible, and isn’t the best way to maintain your health and wellbeing.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide on how to find a diet you can stick to, enlisting the help of expert bloggers to help bust common dieting myths and put you on the right track to achieving a healthy diet and lifestyle that works around you.
So, you want to lose weight. That’s great. But, losing a few pounds shouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all of your dieting ambitions. Rather than focusing purely on every pound lost, turn your attention instead to your overall health, and how dieting and eating affect you, your body and your mind.
Charlotte Stirling-Reed of SR Nutrition is a firm believer in putting overall health above basic weight loss. She says: “I try to encourage people to change their diet for the benefit of their HEALTH, not just their weight. It’s also good to look at positive changes you can make to your diet – what foods can you ADD IN to help your body and your physical and mental health – rather than focusing on what to restrict and cut out.”
Sticking to a singular diet is always going to be tough. As Charlotte says, “When you go on a diet, you’re completely changing the way you eat, often overnight.” Cutting out food in this way just isn’t feasible or healthy in the long-term, and will only result in you falling off the wagon and becoming yet more demoralised by your sense of failure.
Instead, what you need is to change your eating habits until new foods and ways of eating become routine, natural and instinctive. Priya Tew of Dietician UK knows all too well how difficult it is for people to stick to crash and fad diets, and always suggests that people look to change their overall eating habits rather than focusing on unachievable diet changes.
She says: “As a dietitian, I am actually not a fan of diets, as we know that short-term diets do not have long-term benefits but instead lead to weight cycling. Instead, it is about getting in touch with your internal cues of hunger and fullness. Eat regularly throughout the day, responding to those cues, as meal skipping can feel like a good idea but leads to you eating more at a later point. Eating a balanced intake of protein for fullness, carbohydrate for energy, and fibre, fruit, vegetables and some dairy products along with healthier fats. Restricting a food or food group can result in you craving it more.
“There are no good/bad foods, instead it is about allowing yourself sensible amounts of all the foods you like and taking time to enjoy your meals – only then can you start developing good eating habits that will lead to all-round better health.”
Food is meant to be enjoyed, so as soon as a diet becomes a chore, your chances of failure increase tenfold. There’s little point making yourself miserable about food, as this will have a knock-on effect and begin to impact on other areas of your life, such as your sleep, activity level, mood and personal relationships.
Charlotte agrees, adding: “Ill-advised crash dieting often means cutting out all the foods you enjoy, which can not only impact on social occasions (often centred around food) but can be impossible in an environment that, quite simply, encourages us to eat in excess! It’s like fighting a losing battle, and most of the time, you won’t win. Add to that the fact that when you’re hungry (which you will be if you’re cutting calories or overly restricting your food intake) your body is doing everything in its power to get you to eat, and you can see why dieting is so hard!”
Dieting often means relying on pre-prepared and expensive foods which not only offer little in the way of taste, but will sour your interest in cooking and make the kitchen an uninspiring place to be. Instead, you should focus more on cooking and eating well, buying fresh ingredients and taking the time to cook meals from scratch so that you know exactly what’s going into your body and how it’s likely to affect your health.
Priya is a staunch advocate of home-cooked meals, believing that a balanced and well-rounded diet starts from your ability to cook meals from the ground up. She says: “Learning to cook as much as you can from scratch and buying good quality fresh foods is also a key factor. Plant-based diets and the Mediterranean diet have been shown to be the best way to eat. This is about eating more fruit and vegetables, less red meat, more fish, less salt and including olive oil in your diet.”
And Charlotte agrees, suggesting that, here in the UK, we’re very lucky to have access to such a broad range of healthy foods which can contribute to a balanced, healthy and enjoyable diet. She adds: “Everyone should experiment with foods and enjoy a variety – different coloured fruits and vegetables, a variety of starchy foods and whole grains, quality cuts of meat or a variety of different beans and pulses. We have so much to choose from. Add these into your diet and there will be less room for the ones you’ve been intentionally banning. On that note, nothing should be completely eliminated from your diet. It’s about being realistic as well as moderation and variety.”
So, there you have it – expert tips on how to develop eating habits which will help you enjoy a healthy lifestyle while maintaining a positive relationship with food.
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