Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Diet is a Four Letter Word

Since the holiday season is the unofficial time of year dedicated to excess, it’s not uncommon for many people to fear what seems to be the inevitable holiday weight gain. But there are ways that you can still enjoy all the delicious food the season has to offer without adding any inches to your waistline or compromising your health.

Our very best piece of advice?

Simply plan on NOT dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for over-doing it during the holidays.
Does this sound familiar? “After all, if I’m never going let myself eat this again after Jan. 1st, I might as well eat as much as possible now!”

But, don’t even get us started on diets. Let us explain why.

What’s a diet? To us, “diet” is just a four letter word. It’s also a recipe for disaster - and it’s miserable.

According to its definition, to diet is to: Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight. Example: “It is difficult to diet in a house full of cupcakes.”

You’ve probably been able to relate to this at some point in your life. And you’re not alone. Dieting seems to be an American pastime. According to the Boston Medical Center, approximately 45 million Americans diet every year and spend a total of $33 billion dollars on weight loss products. On the flipside, two-thirds of our country is struggling with overweight or obesity. Diets and weight gain often go hand-in-hand.

Confused? We’ll explain.

While restrictive diets can work short term, they’re hardly sustainable for very long. Depriving yourself of foods you truly enjoy or foods essential for adequate nourishment to your body often results in overcompensation after the diet is done. Diets set the foundation for a vicious cycle with your body and with your self-esteem.

What’s more upsetting? This vicious cycle ultimately impacts children. According to an article in Time Magazine, 80% of children have been on a diet by the time they reach the fourth grade. Dieting at such a young age – or any age for that matter – has been linked to disordered eating behaviors, low energy, suppressed immunity, reduced self-esteem, irritability, social isolation, depression, increased food cravings and increased risk for obesity.

If we could shift our preoccupation on restrictive dieting (and the subsequent over-indulgence) to a focus on developing healthy habits, our time would be much better spent. By practicing moderation, moving your body every day, and exhibiting self-compassion – you’re developing the habits for a lifetime of health and happiness.

Here are our Fad Diet Red Flags. When you see an eating pattern supporting one of these philosophies, we encourage you to ignore it and practice our (non)diet philosophy instead.

 Red Flag #1: Foods are characterized as “good” or “bad”
Since diets tend to categorize certain foods as “bad,” “wrong,” or “off-limits,” they set you up for failure or guilt. It’s when we’re able to allow all foods into our eating world, that we are finally able to relieve ourselves of unconscious feelings of deprivation which often leads to subsequent overeating. How many times have you broken your diet and thought “I blew it anyways, so I might as well have more…”?

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods mindfully. You’ll be less likely to over-indulge in the long run.

Red Flag #2: Eliminate an entire food group or component of food.
Whether it’s carbs, fat, animal products, gluten or sugar – deprivation isn’t fun. It also restricts your body of some important vitamins and minerals essential for internal processes. Unless you have a food allergy, eliminating a food group or component of food does more than set yourself up for increased food cravings. It can actually be dangerous to your health.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: When it comes to eating for health, variety is key. Eating well isn’t about what you can’t eat. It’s about what you can eat. Appreciate all the wonderful benefits carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide.

Red Flag #3: It’s a quick fix.
Calories, the energy derived from food, are fuel for your body. When you’re nourishing your body in reasonable portions with an emphasis on real foods, calories are meant to help feel energized. It’s when we’re taking more calories in than what our body is using that we notice an increase in weight. So, any diet which creates a calorie deficit results in weight loss. When you’re significantly restricting calorie intake, you may see some pretty fast results. But, don’t be fooled. Depriving your body of too many calories can actually work against you. Your body will resort to using energy from your muscles, causing your metabolism to slow down. This quick fix is just not worth it.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: In general, a one pound weight loss per week is equal to a 500 calorie deficit per day. Focus on the healthy choices you can make and the activities you can engage in. Keep your energy level high, your body well fueled and your metabolism working in your favor by nourishing your body every 3 to 5 hours with well-balanced meals and snacks. And get moving.

Red Flag #4: Claims sound too good to be true.
We’ve all heard those crazy claims that promise to help you shed unwanted weight. Is it really shocking to hear that swapping your normal diet for one consisting of only cabbage or grapefruit will help you lose extra pounds? Living on these foods is hardly sustainable or enjoyable – and would result in severe malnutrition if carried on for too long.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: While it is true that these foods are low in calories, there is no scientific evidence that backs up the claims that they are “fat burners.” Food does not burn fat. Moving your body does. Legalize all foods in your diet. If you’re aiming to lose some weight, focus on keeping active and eating a variety of real food.

Red Flag #5: Dessert and sugar are off-limits.
Sugar has a bad reputation, but believe it or not, it’s actually part of a healthy diet. Sugar occurs naturally in some foods such as dairy products, fruits, and vegetables and is broken down during the digestion of carbohydrates. These sugars are essential for your brain and body. While it is important to be aware of consuming too much added sugar in the form of “empty calories” from packaged foods like cakes, cookies, and candies, it is equally important to keep in mind that not all sugar is bad.

McKenzie & Lisa’s (non) diet Advice: Take advantage of eating foods with naturally occurring sugar such as fresh fruits and starchy veggies, breads and yogurt. It’s also important to balance nutrition with pleasure. When you have a craving for something sweet, allow yourself to have a serving of something you really enjoy. Restricting yourself will only cause you to overindulge later.

To learn more about our (non)diet philosophy, visit me (McKenzie) at my next workshop at 24 Hour Fitness in Santa Clarita, California on Thursday, January 17th from 4:30pm-5:50pm where I'll be sharing my basic non-diet strategy for achieving optimal health. I'll also teach you how to keep a well-stocked (and healthy!) kitchen & pantry, and how to turn the most nutritious ingredients into a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a snap!

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