Some of the big diet trends at the moment are eating organic and natural foods, Paleo diets- where you eat what we would have in our hunter gatherer days, dairy free, and gluten free- which is avoiding all wheat products, and sugar free diets.
There is a vast range of differences in what “experts” will recommend, with a lot of nutritional advice being given out by those who may or may not have any nutritional qualifications, and a whole lot of latching onto one particular food, nutrient, energy source (fat, protein, carbs), or class of foods and making it the villain in your story.
“<Insert chosen food here> is responsible for your inability to lose weight, the cause of your weight gain, low energy levels, poor concentration, bloating, cravings…”
You name it, almost all symptoms you could possibly experience have at some point been blamed on one food or another.
So what’s the problem?
The issue is, that although yes, some foods are more energy dense and can affect weight if consumed too often, some people do have genuine food intolerances or allergies, and poor diet can certainly affect how you feel- by classifying food as either “good” or “bad”, you promote an unhealthy relationship with food.
Apart from true allergies/intolerances obviously, there really shouldn’t be any food that you aren’t allowed to have. And as soon as you put something on the naughty list, your brain works against you and makes you crave it more and more.
Are you restricting yourself for no good reason?
The other issue is that these special diets often require you to spend money on expensive alternatives… that may not actually be any better for you.
Here are some examples:
– Cutting out gluten may mean you swap to gluten free alternatives, which usually contain a lot more fat and sugar to make them palatable.
– Organic fruit and vegetables are put into your trolley so that you aren’t ingesting nasty chemicals, except that in some cases you peel the skin off, and with it goes the majority of those chemicals anyway.
– Paleo cafés, not only expensive, but I seriously doubt brownies were on the menu for our caveman ancestors.
What actually works?
Before you jump on board with whatever new and exciting diet fad is out this week, here’s what decades of research tells us.
1: You need to eat from each of the food groups to get the nutrients your body needs to function at its best.
Cutting out an entire food group, such as dairy, is setting you up for nutritional deficiencies. Yes, sometimes there are alternatives you can choose, so make sure that you are making an informed choice and doing it for the right reasons- is the extra cost worth the results, is it an appropriate replacement for what you are cutting out in terms of nutrients?
2: Nutritional supplements don’t make up for poor diet
There are complex food interactions that occur when you eat a meal, which optimise the absorption of nutrients. The different vitamins, minerals, macronutrients all mix together when food is digested, and affect each other- for example, iron is better absorbed when vitamin C is present.
Nutrients from food is always better absorbed than from a tablet or powder, and some healthy effects of nutrients in food can actually have the opposite effect when taken in supplement form- antioxidants in food reduces your risk of cancer, however in supplement form there is evidence it actually promotes tumour growth.
3: If you tell yourself you can’t have it, you’ll crave it
Deprivation is something our brains just don’t like, and they will bombard us with chemicals to make us physically crave things, as well as come up with a whole lot of arguments in favour of eating that banned food.
“You’ve been so good, you deserve it”
“You can work it off at the gym tomorrow”
“You’re stressed, it will make you feel better”
4: Shift your focus to what you do want
Change your self talk to focus on eating for health- not processed packaged fad foods that claim to be healthy or natural or organic- real healthy food. Whole fruit, vegetables, salads, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, reduced fat dairy, and lean protein, with plenty of water (that’s how your body can detox itself).
These give you great energy levels, improve bowel function, sustained blood sugar levels for better concentration, strong bones, teeth, better muscle recovery, blood pressure, heart health. You are what you eat, the saying is still true. Fill your body with high sugar high fat high salt processed food and your body won’t run at its peak.
If your goal is- “at least 90% of what I eat will be fresh healthy food that will make me feel great” that’s guaranteed to get you better results that “I am not allowed chocolate, chips, ice cream, lollies, cake, cookies….”
5: Look at the basics first
So many people overcomplicate things before they have even looked at the fundamentals.
– Are you eating regular meals? Three meals a day with 2-3 small snacks in between?
– Are you drinking enough water- 8 glasses a day or more.
– Are you getting up and moving every day for at least 30 mins in some form or another.
– Are you having 2-3 pieces of fruit a day, and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day.
– How much coffee/tea/Red Bull are you drinking?
– How much sleep are you getting?
Before looking for some wonder diet to fix all your problems, be honest with yourself and see if there’s simple changes you could make in your lifestyle.
We understand how frustrating it can be to try and do all the right things and not get the results you want. How do you know what advice you can trust or not? What actually works?
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