I realise that ‘hate’ is a very strong word to use, but in this situation I use it to it fullest capacity (if that even makes sense!). I absolutely HATE the word ‘diet’, I hate was it is, I hate what it signifies, I hate how it builds up false hopes for people and then crushes them again. I wanted to share my thoughts on something I feel very strongly about mostly based on my own experience. Five years ago. I lost 15kgs and changed my life completely, I fell in love with health and fitness and subsequently started this blog. Then, most recently, after my baby, I did it again, losing 21 kgs.
During that time (the first weightloss), while I was losing my weight, I started out as a clueless person, just like so many others hoping to get results any and every way possible. Luckily for me, unlike previous attempts to lose the weight, I was surrounded by knowledgeable people that gave me the right advice and direction. When you don’t know much, and you are totally committed to changing your body, you develop a very unhealthy relationship with food but in a different way from when you over indulged. It’s called ‘orthorexia’ – which is an abnormal obsession with healthy eating – you become almost afraid of anything you deem to be ‘unhealthy’ or ‘bad’ food and avoid it completely. This may sound like not such a bad thing to some of you reading this, but actually it can be quite soul crushing and anti social – it means, when eating out, you start getting anxious where you’ll be eating, will they have healthy options, and if they don’t and you eat the ‘bad food’ – how soon can you get to a gym to undo the ‘damage’. When going back home, it meant breaking my mom and mom-in-law’s hearts because I refused to eat anything they cooked no matter how lovingly prepared.
I realised after a while, that this was actually making me unhappy and those around me, they were so scared to offer me anything, because I would refuse to eat most things – this is not a way to live. This was all in an attempt to follow a ‘diet’.
CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE
I’m here to tell you – forget the diets, the detoxes and the juice cleanses – while they all have the potential to work for you for a little while, they are not sustainable and also not a way to live – if you want to be comfortable and happy around food. I realised through my own journey, that you have got to develop a healthy relationship with ALL food. We need to change our language when referring to food. I learnt this from my friend who is a dietitian – we need to stop referring to food as good and bad – because the minute you do that, you’re telling yourself – when I eat good food, I deserve to reward myself because I was good – so, what happens – you end up binging. Then, you eat ‘bad food’ so you think, I ate bad food, I need to punish myself and go to gym and torture myself so I can undo the bad. Can you see the vicious cycle beginning to form here?
So, you gain weight, so you hear about a diet that everyone is doing, or a celebrity swears by and you are determined to try it – the fact is, the minute you hear the word ‘diet’ know that it is not sustainable – if it means cutting out any food group, focusing on one specific food group more than another or discourages eating fruit – know that you probably won’t stick to it forever, which means you may very well get results with it but probably go through an endless cycle of losing and gaining weight your whole life.
It concerns me that regular people are trying to follow ‘bodybuilder’ style diets in an attempt to lose weight and that so-called fitness professionals are pushing these said eating habits on their clients. For men and women, a calorie restrictive diet is dangerous, for a woman, its even more dangerous as this can mess with your hormones, metabolism and even your fertility. Will you get results with these – yes, for sure, but at what cost? Just know not even bodybuilders do these forever, they follow it for a short period for a specific date in mind and then even they go back to eating normally again and most of them gain the weight they lost quickly, because of being in a restrictive diet for so long, their bodies then freak out with the extra calories and just stores the extra food coming their way.
So is it really all worth this – for the thrill of being “skinny”?
STRIVE FOR OVERALL GOOD HEALTH
This image on-line that being skinny equates with being happy or happiest or strong or confident is all lies. You can be all these things WITHOUT being skinny.
The point of healthy living is not about being skinny or fat – but more about you having an overall healthy well being – no high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes etc. Whatever you look like – if you are not suffering from any of this – you are doing well. This also doesn’t mean cutting out the food you love.
The thing is – we need to look at food as healthy and less healthy food and not good and bad food. A chicken salad is delicious and healthy but this doesn’t make a slice of cake bad, it’s just less healthy, even it can contain something the body can use. Since I lost the baby weight, I often get messages from women wanting me to ‘share my diet’ and I reply I don’t follow one – they probably think I am lying – but really I am not.
My ‘secret’ – I fixed my relationship with food. What does this mean – well, I stopped categorising my food as good and bad. I don’t curb eating anything – yes, I eat ALL the food groups, fruit and veg of every colour, I enjoy sweets and cake and burgers. Here’s how:
- Get to know proper portion sizes: If you master this, half the battle is won for you. Most food has the capacity to cause you to gain weight if had in excess – eg. peanut butter, nuts, avocadoes etc. With the same token, you could eat cake and never gain a single kilo if you get your portion size correctly.
- Find balance: Too much of even a good thing can be bad – exercise, yes for sure, but not to the point that it’s taking over your life, the same goes for eating healthy – don’t do it at the expense of your quality of life or the feelings of those closest to you.
- Stop the cycle of guilt: Stop beating yourself up for everything less healthy you put in your mouth. It’s not the end of the world. You are what you do most of the time, so if you have one meal a day out of the three that is perhaps not the healthiest option – its fine, you won’t put on a mess of weight. If you slip up one day and know you overindulged, let it go, move on and start again the very next day. Punishing yourself for that one day slip up is not going to make a difference, other than make you feel worse.
- Relax: This constant anxiety you create with the obsession to be thin or look like someone on social media is bad for your soul. Relax, take it easy, find a workout that you love doing and try and do it at least 2-3 times a week, live an active life i.e play outside with your kids, go for walks etc and shift your focus off that useless scale and even what the label says in your clothes – its counter productive – just focus on being happy in all respects.
This is how I lost 21kgs and how you can do it too. Yes, it may take a bit longer, but I can say without a doubt- I can maintain this lifestyle till the day I die, without stress or worry.
Happy Healthy Fabulous
Photography: Hemisha Bhana