Tis officially the season for diets. There is guilt over the excess food consumed during the holidays and anticipation for a “new you” as 2017 begins. With the start of a new year comes an over-abundance of diets, each promising quick and easy weight loss. Athletes are certainly not immune to falling into the dieting trap. Let me get straight to the point and share my top 5 reasons for hating diets and why you should avoid them:
1. Diets are not sustainable long-term
You’ll most likely see weight loss when you first start a new diet, but the problem is maintaining this weight loss. Unless you are able to maintain this diet’s eating plan for the rest of your life, when you go back to “normal” eating, you’ll most likely regain the weight and often, more.
2. Diets often decrease your metabolism
If you severely cut back your calories, your body reacts by decreasing how many calories you need in order to try to conserve energy. With drastic weight loss, you’re also likely losing not only fat, but also muscle mass. When you are no longer able to maintain the diet and regain the weight, you’ll end up with more fat and less muscle mass than when you started the diet. This is bad news since muscle burns more calories.
3. Diets are usually not nutritious
When people cut out entire food groups or eat the same foods every day, they are at an increased risk of not getting enough nutrients in their diet. For instance, those cutting out grain products are often not consuming enough carbohydrates, especially if they’re athletes. In addition, it’s almost impossible to meet the recommended intake for the vitamins and minerals if you are consuming a low calorie diet.
4. Diets create a damaged relationship with food
Diets often create an unhealthy preoccupation with food. All you begin to think about is food. It begins to take over your life and ruins relationships. Perhaps, you can’t even go to a friend’s house for a meal since they may serve food which is forbidden on your diet. Diets also create an idea of “good” vs. “bad” food. I strongly believe that there is room for all food in a “healthy diet”. Healthy eating is about learning to listen to your body and beginning to see food for its true purpose, a fuel source.
5. Diets ignore genetic predisposition
Diets often give us a false hope for the bodies we would ideally like to obtain. Many people have unrealistic “goal” weights. We are constantly bombarded with pictures of athletes, celebrities and models with perfect bodies and assume that we should and can look the same way. However, most people will never be able to achieve this body composition. This is partly because the individuals in these photos often don’t actually look like this, but also because our genes influence our body type. For some people, getting down to a size 4, or some other ideal, is never going to happen even if they follow the grapefruit diet for the rest of their lives.
When I work with clients, I help them adopt eating behaviours that fit into their unique lifestyles and that can be maintained lifelong. Losing weight does not need to be done through extreme measures like counting calories, cutting out foods or eating perfectly every day. Achieving a healthy weight is a long process and it takes time. If you want sustainable weight loss, it’s not about drastically changing your diet. It’s about finding small areas of improvement, learning to eat mindfully and changing your perception of food to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.
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