Why diets don't work in the long term, lifestyle changes do
Most diets help with weight loss and lower blood pressure in the first few months, but the desired effects don't last
For decades, diet conversations globally have ranged from the simple and straightforward to elaborate and convoluted, the latter sometimes even bordering on crazy. In today's digital age, before you can say cheese, a new diet would have garnered a global following, with everyone from a lay person to experts swearing by its efficacy.
However, just a few weeks or months later, the same experts have moved on to another 'miraculous' weight-loss or diet program. That is what you get when you don't follow science, just fads. Health though, is not a fad. It is a lifestyle habit.
Amid all these fads, one cannot help but wonder if each of these programs are a sure-shot way to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, why don't they survive the test of time?
According to a study published in the BMJ, most diets help with weight loss and lower blood pressure in the first few months, but the desired effects don't last. So, people keep returning to new fads. But fad diets can be damaging. They often lack essential nutrients and teach you nothing about healthy eating. Excessively restrictive diets also take pleasure out of eating and may lead to eating disorders, slow down your metabolism, causing more harm than good in the long run.
One of the reasons for crash diets to fail is because the body views dieting as a form of starvation. When you eat much below your desired energy intake for a long time, your metabolism slows down and tries to fight back. The hormones that regulate our hunger and satisfaction waver making it harder to sustain the diet and hence weight loss. Further, the idea of taking extreme steps such as quitting certain foods can often lead to one feeling low and disappointed. Sooner or later you bounce back to prior 'unhealthy' eating habits. And a few months later, you are trying another new weight loss diet.
No wonder that the diet and weight loss industry around the world is growing leaps and bounds from $192.2 billion in 2019, expected to be over $295 billion by 2027. However, more and more studies show that if you are truly interested in losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle you need a more sustainable plan than a fad diet. We must also understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Not all weight loss might be healthy, you might just be losing muscle or water weight due to crash dieting and doing copious amounts of cardio.
To lose fat, a few components are proven to work: these are eating slightly less than your energy requirements, having adequate protein intake to preserve muscle mass, and strength or resistance training. Doing this regularly, will slowly help manage your weight in a healthy manner, and also boost your metabolism and tone your body.
Consider making these small, incremental changes to your lifestyle to embrace a healthy relationship with food and, indeed, life. Suggested by Habbit CEO and Co-founder Dhruv Bhushan.
Make healthy eating a daily habit
It is important to be in tune with your specific needs, and not feel deprived. The same plan might now work for everyone. Nutrition need not be complicated, and crash diets are not sustainable. Don't think about giving up the "bad" foods, instead focus on choosing foods that are holistic, nourishing, and pleasing for the palate. Don't be taken in by jargon-filled technicalities on nutrients. Opt for easy to use, nutritious products.
Play with your food choices, mix and match ingredients. Health and taste can go hand in hand. Even foods that you crave or are 'addicted to', have a healthier alternative out there. Ensure a balanced diet of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Balance these with whole grains and healthy fats. Meet your daily protein intake, whether from foods, or supplements using natural proteins. This can't be stressed enough since protein deficiency is one of the leading causes of lifestyle diseases, including obesity. Drink plenty of water.
Add physical activity into your regular routine
Make exercise, activity and movement a part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. In case you have very busy schedules, try and exercise first thing in the morning before the day consumes you.
Just like your food, pick activities that you can stick to, and not things that will peter out after a few weeks of initial enthusiasm. You don't need to be spending hours in the gym or hiring a personal trainer. Even a relaxing walk or jog while listening to your favourite music, a dance class or a yoga session can be a good starting point. Also, stay active throughout the day. Take stairs instead of the lift, walk around while on the phone, contribute to household chores, play with your kids or pets, enjoy a sport, have sex, walk or cycle to neighbourhood areas instead of driving there, just simple choices without the need to take out extra time also go a long way. And for more dedicated individuals looking to burn fat, lose kilos and tone up, research shows that strength or resistance training, and high intensity workouts offer more sustainable outcomes. More than how much or what you do everyday, what matters is that you do exercise everyday.
Start small and stay consistent.
Make sleep a priority
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of our well-being today. We should aim to get adequate restful sleep every night, which may range from 6 to 9 hours for different individuals. It is during this time that the body repairs and recovers. Essential hormones that also aid weight loss are at play only during sleep. Not getting enough sleep can have a detrimental impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.
If for some reason, you have trouble falling asleep, address it as a priority. Make time to sleep. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Unplug your digital devices before bedtime. Instead, unwind with a bath or some light reading. Create an environment that is conducive and free from distractions, with a bed and bedding that is comfortable..
Manage your stress levels
Stress might feel like a default response to the challenges of a modern lifestyle, but constant stress can pose serious health problems.
Stress causes an increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels which influences blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, sleep patterns, blood sugar, fat metabolism, and immunity. Long-term stress can also increase your risk of heart attack or stroke and contribute to depression. You can manage stress by adopting some of the above healthy habits, and by making conscious efforts to relax. Breathe deeply, enjoy your favorite activities, spend time with your loved ones. And ask for help, by speaking to those who care for you, or a trained professional..
Eating and living healthy, or trying to manage weight should not be a punishment or a sacrifice. There is no one size fits all definition or path to good health. It is a combination of different small steps that add up to big results over time. Health is a lifestyle. Trusting your instincts with food and actions that feel good, go a long way towards overall well-being. Eat food you enjoy without the guilt, just maintain a balance. With the right mix of natural organic ingredients, an indulgent low calorie Blueberry Crumble wise cream will be better and more delightful than so-called magic fat burner pills.
The next time, someone tempts you with the next-best diet fad, show them your intuitive eating and healthy lifestyle plan. You will develop a better relationship with food when you tune in to your body's needs and cues, and incorporate this into your everyday life.
Remember not to think of lifestyle changes as daunting behavioural changes. They are small steps on a journey towards good health -- ones that combine science, taste, and sustainability.