Attainable Health

Finding a healthy lifestyle in today's hectic world

Why I Hate “Diets” February 3, 2010

Filed under: Healthy Eating — Karen Marie @ 2:39 am
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Who doesn’t secretly (or outwardly) despise that word?  I personally can’t think of anyone!  Between my family, friends and myself I known someone that has tried at least one of the following: Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Sugar Busters, Jenny Craig, The Atkins Diet, The South Beach Diet and many more.  I have known people who have tried those juice diets and even some who have skipped meals on a regular basis.  They all have one thing in common: it doesn’t permanently stick!  Let’s face it, we don’t like being restricted and diets (some more than others) are very restrictive!  We live busy, stressful and hectic lives and with everything else going on we don’t want to be stopped when we head to a cookie or slice of pizza for comfort (or because its convenient).  However, sometimes when we look in the mirror we are reminded why we choose to diet.

Any diet starts with the BEST of intentions.  You get everything all planned out: your recipes, exercises, new plans for eating and grocery shopping.  That first week (maybe longer) you are so motivated and dedicated….then something happens and the diet eventually ends up disappearing.  This happens for multiple reasons.  These are the reasons why I personally hate diets and think that they are a bad idea:

  1. You go “off” them! Whether it is because you have reached your goal, you get bored/uninspired, it becomes too much of a hassle to maintain, you give up because of lack of results, or some other reason, my point is that all diets tend to come to an end.  The reason this is bad is that its not maintainable and you get into the vicious cycle of “yo-yo dieting“.  If you stop practicing the habits that allowed you to lose weight, simply, you will stop losing weight.  If you then go back to your old habits, it is likely you will gain weight back and therefore, eventually want to start dieting again.  Weight gain/loss is a simple input-output game!  Calories (which most of us on diets meticulously count) are what our bodies use to operate.  While everyone’s body burns calories at a different rate, there are some general guidelines to certain activities (find some example here).  It takes about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.  This is where the simple fact lies: if you are consuming more calories than using (or “burning”) you will gain weight; if you want to lose weight you need to burn more than you consume.  Once you are at your healthy weight (found here), you should be consuming and using the same amount.  Not doing this can start that vicious dieting cycle, which brings me to my next reason.
  2. You starve yourself. From my twenty+ years of battling IBS,  I have learned a lot, including this point emphasized over and over again by doctors I’ve seen: it is bad news to consistently “stretch” your stomach (read some interesting stomach facts here).  While your stomach (after reaching adulthood) does not physically change in size, it does get used to certain patterns that can be hard (and sometimes dangerous) to change.  Dieting can play a big role in causing this.  You know when you get the flu and are sick for the seven days so you barely eat and then when its all over you get full faster?  That is because your stomach got used to digesting less food so it is not prepared for big meals again, so you slowly work your way back up.  The same is true for habitually over-eating, your stomach is constantly digesting so it is always a little expanded.  The stomach is very sensitive to everything we do and expose ourselves to in our lives.  It can be easily affected by the foods we eat, when we eat, how we eat, environmental factors/exposures and our stress level. Once it is in a certain pattern, it can be really hard to break (think about how hard it would be to break a daily breakfast-on-the-go habit).  Another reason why it is so hard is because our stomachs have a very strong relationship with our brains, and this relates to the next reason.
  3. You end up splurging and “rebelling”. So you were really good for the first few weeks and avoided all your favorite “bad” foods.  You step on the scale and you don’t like the result; and now that chocolate cake you’ve been craving and depriving yourself of seems to look better than ever… you just “cheat” that one time.  Sometimes that becomes a slippery slope and before you know it, the diet could have gone out the window!  It seems to me that when we cut out foods from our life completely, it can only make you crave them more!  This can fall into the mentality that “the grass is always greener on the other side”.  I believe the key is “everything in moderation”.  There is not a food in this world that is “bad” for you; there is just a “quantity” of said food that is “bad”.  Having a few cookies for dessert is not going to make or break your weight, however, avoiding cookies for a few weeks and then splurging on them for the next few weeks (along with other foods you avoided) can make you backtrack any weight loss you have had so far in your diet.  Just be reasonable; eat healthy calories and fats to fill you up, leaving only a little room for your “splurges”.  That way you still get to eat what you want, just a more healthy amount of it.

Now, don’t get me wrong you technically do need to “diet” in order to lose weight (if that is your goal), but there are so many “radical” diets out there that can put you in an even worse position afterward!  Plus, it is important to remember that your weight isn’t just about what you eat, it is about what you drink (those “empty calories”), your activity level, your stress level, how much sleep you get, and many other things.  That is why I believe that in order to be the weight you need/want to be you need to live healthy overall, not just by what/how you eat!

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