An all too common myth is that dieting, no matter the method, will make you healthy. Losing weight can be approached from two directions: the healthy and the unhealthy way. Making long term lifestyle choices will help you lead a healthy lifestyle, lose weight and get you to your healthy weight range while short term crash diets will set you up for failure.
As a Personal Trainer I am often faced with the topic of Nutrition and planning it. Rightfully so, as I believe it plays about a 70% role in the contribution towards the health and aesthetic goals you are looking to achieve. The saying: “You are what you Eat”, really rings true for me as our bodies are one of the most high performance, complex machines ever given to us. You wouldn’t just put any old oil or fuel in a Ferrari would you, well why then don’t we treat our bodies even better than that.
Today i will address the nutrition topic and more specifically, the question of whether there is a difference between dieting and following a healthy eating plan.
Dieting and the tide of diet books that came out was brought about primarily after people learnt that bodybuilders could manipulate their body fat and weight by changing ratios of macro-nutrients or even eliminating completely a certain macro-nutrient to achieve the desired effect. Most of these diets however are extreme and not easily maintainable long term, if at all and take precision like discipline to implement. The effects are also sometimes very temporary and once the person returns to a more normal eating plan they find they blow up or smooth out.
The medical field was also responsible for developing certain types of diets that helped address problems such as obesity, adult onset diabetes, high cholesterol, gout, and other special needs that patients had in order to try and help them back to a state of normality or “health”. With the help of dietitians and other specialists in nutrition the governments of countries also developed the food guide pyramid, which is supposed to cover all basis and lead to optimal health. We have over the years however found the recommendations of the food guide pyramid to be flawed as it does not account for individual dominating body types, genetic differences, gender, intolerance’s and current weight status of each individual. If every person followed the food guide pyramid, I believe we would have an even bigger prevalence of obesity and deficiencies.
So, having said all of the above, I believe there is a difference between a diet or dieting to change body composition or achieve extreme results faster, and following a lifestyle based healthy eating plan.
A diet is something you do for a certain amount of weeks or months to get yourself into the shape you want to be in, e.g. coming out of winter hibernation mode and then panicking to get into shape fast for vests & summer bikinis. The problem is that usually this may involve extremely low calories, cutting out certain food groups, exact caloric amounts per meal, militant discipline, slight starvation, using ergogenic aids etc.
A healthy eating plan however looks rather at implementing healthy eating principals into your daily lifestyle that can be maintained over a lifetime.
These are principals such as:
- Portion control
- Eating low GI carbohydrate foods
- Keeping empty calories to a minimum
- Eliminating simple sugars
- Eating complete protein with most meals
- Adding more raw foods to your diet
- Eating foods high in fiber
- Staying away from hydrogenated saturated fats
- Keeping wheat based carbohydrates to a minimum
- Note eating heavy starch and carbohydrate meals late at night
- Snacking often on healthy food choices
- Drinking enough water to stay hydrated
- Taking in daily multivitamins and Omega 3
Instead of obsessing over calories, food measurements and drastic changes to your eating habits, simply being healthy will help you lose weight without all of the math. Healthy foods are typically lower in calories than unhealthy ones. If you replace soda, chips, doughnuts and cookies with foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats, 100% whole wheat bread/pasta, brown rice, nuts and legumes, your calorie count will naturally go down, you’ll enjoy your food and improve your overall health at the same time.
Yes losing weight by eating healthy foods might be slower than going on a crash diet, however it will be a lot easier for you to adjust to which will guarantee your long term success. Imagine if you could just go to the beach anytime knowing you looked good instead of having to starve yourself for 2 weeks to lose weight.
Thanks to Jason Hough for a great article.
- What Is The Mediterranean Diet? (answers.com)
- These Carbs Are Way Worse Than Bread (belmarrahealth.com)
- Craving Junk Food? Eat This… (belmarrahealth.com)
- Never Do This If You Want to Lose Weight (belmarrahealth.com)
- The Steps You Should Take To Improve Your Nutrition (e-prescribe.biz)
- Could Dieting Increase Desire for High-Calorie Foods? Why Dieting Fails (naturalsociety.com)
- 10 ways to makeover your diet (nainajani.wordpress.com)
- Carbohydrates. (iknowsquat.wordpress.com)
- How to Lose Weight Without Losing Essential Nutrients (projectswole.com)