July 29, 2018
As somebody who lost a lot of weight through dieting, you may be surprised to learn that I am fairly against diets and diet culture in general. Pick a diet at random, and I’ve probably tried it, and/or failed it at some point in my life. After years spent dipping my toes into an array of different nutritional theories, and almost always ending up completely submerged (with no material benefit to my overall health), I am somewhat of an expert on diets. And yet, I’ve decided after thirty long and mostly chubby years on this planet that diets are bullshit.
This is not me deciding to throw in the towel and embrace inevitable doom. Far from it. It’s a realisation at a time when I’m in the process of trying to lose some body fat and generally improve my health and wellbeing, that going on a diet isn’t a sustainable solution.
There are many harmful byproducts of diet culture, but for the purposes of this rant, I’ll stick to the following: it’s not good for you to keep changing your eating and exercising habits. It’s not good for your body, it’s not good for your mind, and most importantly, it’s not good for your confidence. In fact, the only thing it is good for is the diet industry itself, which stands to benefit financially from the start-stop, restrict-binge tendency that it promotes.
When approaching, well, anything in life really, incremental and moderate changes are much more likely to produce sustainable long-term results. But diets are by their very nature and design temporary; there’s nothing long-term about them. You go on a diet, you come off a diet, you start another, you stop it, ad infinitum. And with that comes a temporary mindset—you think, I’m doing this for now and then I’ll stop and go back to “normal”. And that’s fine, if, and only if, your previous version of “normal” wasn’t the reason for your weight to veer off course in the first place.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accepting your body the way it is, and will always advocate for anyone’s right to be loved at any size. But the purpose of this blog has always been for normal people, like me, who’d like to make a positive difference to their physical and mental health, but who don’t know how. And so, for you lovely people, I’ve put together the following list of my best advice:
- Vary your diet as much as possible
- Work out the optimum amount of food to consume to either lose or maintain your current weight, and use that as a basis for preparing your meals
- Do a bit of research into what foods are high in calories, and try to limit them where possible
- Limit alcohol where possible
- Try to increase your exercise slowly: start with 10% more activity, then try 20% and then 30%
- Find a way of moving your body that you enjoy
- If you feel like eating a biscuit, eat a biscuit
- If you don’t get the desired result, reassess but try not to reprimand yourself
- Limit your trips to the supermarket to avoid temptation
- Weigh yourself once a week maximum
- Try to prepare meals ahead of time when you can
- Oh, and always carry a boiled egg (genuinely)
These sorts of incremental behavioural shifts are far more enduring than starving yourself two days a week or cutting out entire food groups, making them much more likely to form part of your new version of “normal”.
This is the situation in which I currently find myself. I flat out refuse to count my calories or obsess over the scales, because this sort of behaviour is not compatible with real life for me and exacerbates a tendency towards disordered eating. So I’m focusing instead on managing portions, eating things I know are healthy, avoiding temptation when I can or finding alternatives. Most importantly, I’m trying really hard to encourage myself and resist the urge to be punitive with exercise. For the first time in my life, I’ve created my own personalised plan, and I’m excited to see the results.
And the best thing about it? My efforts aren’t generating revenue for companies whose bottom line stands to benefit if I fail.
I promise, as always, to let you know how I get on! Wish me luck.