So, it’s the New Year and everyone starts on a New Year’s health kick, but can I ask was it the same story last year? How long did it last: 1 month, 2 months? Are you heavier this New Year compared to last year? Did you feel you were restricting what you eat all year and now you are heavier? What’s going wrong?
It’s a fact that the act of dieting can make people fatter!
This is due to a cycle of over restricting food which is too hard to maintain long term. You appear to lose weight fast initially; unfortunately this is mostly water. Something happens that means you can’t focus on the tight restriction you had on your diet, which results in returning to old habits and the weight just piles back on, sometimes more!
Jane Ogden of Kings College London wrote in her book Fat Chance: The Myth of Dieting.
I see clients who have dieted all their adult life and are now heavier than they have ever been. If they hadn’t started the dieting would they actually have gained all the weight? My recommendation to many of these clients is to stop dieting and start to listen to, love and nourish their bodies.
It is so important to choose an achievable body weight loss. Below are questions to ask yourself when setting a weight loss goal:
- Am I aiming for too low a body weight?
- Have I ever been this weight?
- If this is yes has it been in the last 10 years?
- How easy was it to maintain this weight and how long did I maintain it for?
- What has changed in my life since I was that weight?
- Are my goals realistic?
Unfortunately, the prospects of successful dieting are never good, out of every 100 people who start a diet only 4 will actually maintain their weight loss.
Dieting alone will cause a realistic weight loss of 5-10%, so if you are currently 100kg and you want to be 63kg; you are setting a goal of 37% body weight loss. This is probably not achievable through normal dieting.
Sure, you may get that with over-restricting your intake on a very low calorie diet but you are unlikely to stay that weight for very long. A more realistic goal would be to initially aim for 90kg and once you achieve that, re-evaluate the goals.
Time frame is also very important: most people can concentrate on losing weight for around 3 months and then it is harder to keep your focus. My recommendation is to look at where you are 3 months later and try to maintain what you’ve achieved at that point.
We do get obsessed by the numbers on the scales, what does it actually mean?
I am a big believer in being healthy at any weight. If you are trying to hit a healthy BMI, you have to remember that it only tells us your weight against your height. It doesn’t tell us if that weight is muscle or fat: for example rugby players and body builders will mostly have a higher BMI.
Looking at my own experience, when I train I weigh more but I feel better, and when I stop I lose weight. So weight is not always a good indicator of health.
So try to stop dictating health with body weight alone as it means nothing.
You also have to look at you and your family: what genetic shape are you? This is so important because we cannot fight our DNA.You and your family will have a natural genetic shape. For example, looking at my own family, my mum, sister, aunt and gran all have the same basic genetic shape, despite what weight we are. We are all small on the top with big bums and thighs.
It took me a long time to accept my shape and to stop trying to change it as it would be impossible, so now I just try to love what a have and not wish for what I can’t have i.e. being 3 inches taller!!
So far this appears that I am against dieting, which yes I am. What I am in favour of is healthy, nourishing, realistic eating plans and not over restrictions. Below are some tips on how to do this:
- Evidence shows that if you keep a food diary, you are more likely to be successful with your weight loss plan and at keeping off the weight.
- Great App for this is My Fitness Pal www.myfitnesspal.com It is very easy to keep track of your intake, it also has exercise and recipe ideas.
- By recording your intake, it can highlight over eating triggers and help you understand yourself.
- It also makes you think twice before you go to eat something because you have to record it.
- When recording your intake also note how you were feeling at the time; this will help you understand your body and how it works and make changes to your eating plan
Managing difficult times
- It’s a good idea to plan in advance for times when you might find it difficult to stick to the weight loss programme
- To help manage difficult times plan for everyday life: celebrations, holidays, times when you feel low.
- If you plan ahead for risky situations, you will be more successful when dealing with them.
- Lapses in eating may happen: this is not going to undo all the changes you have achieved, it’s what you do after a lapse is more important.
- STOP, THINK, LEARN AND PLAN after a lapse:
- Stop – assess the problem, stay calm, it’s not a disaster;
- Think – why did it happen? What was going on before the lapse;
- Learn and Plan – what could you do the next time to prevent the lapse from happening again, just get back on track as soon as possible.
- We all have cravings for certain foods from time to time or just want to eat because we are bored, tired, unhappy or are genuinely hungry.
- Using the hunger score at these times may help you to decide if your hunger is real.
- Outlasting a craving is easier said than done, but it will usually go away if that is all it is.
- Think how you feel when you are genuinely hungry:
- Scale your hunger 0-10 with 10 being genuinely hungry and 0 not hungry at all.
- If you score below 5 then wait 20 minutes and see if you are still hungry after that.
- If you score higher than 5, ask yourself why you are hungry. Is it near a meal time, have you been very active, have you missed a meal?
- If you need to eat: choose a lower calorie snack: it’s not a problem to snack, it’s what you snack on that’s the issue.
Enjoy your food
- Choose food you like to eat and would like to continue to eat.
- Work on the 80/20 rule of watching your intake closely 80% of the time and allowing 20% freedom to relax the eating plan.
- If you are always restricting it can get boring. By following the 80/20 rule, it can help you to remain focused and enjoy your food.
Make every mouthful count
- Ask yourself when you go to eat something: “what does the food offer me?”, “how will this nourish my body?”, “is it empty calories, i.e. all fat and sugar?”
- If you are eating mostly non-foods like processed ready meals, cereal bars and white bread, etc; try looking at how you can cook for yourself, so you know exactly what you are eating
Choose a plan that fits easily into your life
- It’s about choosing the plan which is going to be simple to maintain long-term. A programme that fits around your life will be easiest to follow, which means you’re more likely to stick to it!
So think hard about what your New Year health kick is going to be. The best and most effective changes are ones that will be realitively easy to keep to. In short, don’t be too restrictive and make your goals realisitc.