The concept of a diet can be easily misunderstood. It sometimes takes form as an impermanent change in habitual food consumption enduring a bout of self-discipline and deprivation, achieving a temporary state of health. This might sound familiar. It is a practice many of us adopt several times a year, the most common will be after Christmas. Still merry from the festivities many set out to improve health, mainly through short-term short-lived diets, almost always accompanied by the desire to exercise more.
Deep down everyone knows that regularly practicing these things will lay a foundation for a happier and healthier life, yet a lot of us tend to slip back into bad habits.
We’re going about it all wrong. The way we view the accomplishment of better health is cloudy. The pursuit of health should not be a temporary goal. The key is how we look at it. Incremental and ongoing is the achievement of health. This instills a sense of balance and consistency.
A definition reflecting current dietary practice is what throws us:
Diet – “a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons”.
A markedly better level of health can be seen when the same food groups are eaten regularly, reflecting the traditional definition of a diet:
“The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”
We can see a difference here. Once we understand the core concept of what a diet is and used to be, the path to a healthier lifestyle will become easier to follow.
Restriction Isn’t Sustainable
The key word to note here is restrict! In order to be healthy we need a full, varied and balanced diet rich in nutrients to promote energy and vitality. When we restrict ourselves we are depriving our bodies of nutrients.
When nutrient deprived the body will seek these nutrients elsewhere and exert cravings to get them, seeking balance for the deficit induced by restrictions. When cravings are succumbed to, what do we go for? A large helping of spinach or kale? Not likely.
When the urge to eat becomes uncontrollable a nutrient deficit has likely occurred. This is why restrictive diets tend to be unsuccessful.
There are so many different diet options, when results aren’t seen within a short period of time, the old diet is out the window and say hello to this weeks diet.
Different diets can suit different individuals. Some will work for some, and others won’t. If you stick to one diet for long enough then you may see results. The problem is which one!? The key is listening to your body. Being slightly more conscious about how food can affect you will help determine what foods and practices to maintain.
The ones to avoid are unrealistic purges such as completely cutting out carbohydrates for two weeks or surviving on lemon and ginger water for days is an extreme way of pushing for better health. Yes lemon and ginger tea is healthy, yes eating LESS carbohydrates when you don’t need them is beneficial, but not to the degree of an extreme.
These practices are hard to stick with as the body is deprived of nutrients and can still be accustomed to what used to be put in it. This manifests itself as cravings and can be testing and uncomfortable.
Many of us will sway towards the extreme options because of the illusion of faster results. “Well, maybe if I deprive myself of X for 2 weeks then the weight will come off faster”
We live in a time of instant gratification, and when results aren’t seen fast we can get demoralised.
The way a diet is viewed needs to be changed. We cannot keep switching week to week what we eat otherwise no progress is made.
Shoot for small yet incremental changes overtime.
A healthy balance of fruits, green leafy veg, legumes, starchy veg, grains, nuts, berries, dairy and maybe a sugary treat once in a while will go a long way. If incorporated slowly, substituting old bad foods for new ones encourages commitment and the attainment of health can occur incrementally.