With a new year comes new, or possibly the return of old, resolutions. You might be clinically obese and need a lifestyle change, feel the need to shed a few extra pounds of fat, or just want to be healthier. Regardless, you might think “I need to start on a diet.” Whether you’re considering the Dr. Bernstein diet, the Adipose diet, the South Beach diet, a juice cleanse, or any of the countless other diets out there, here’s some things to keep in mind.
First, don’t consider any program that has the word “diet” in it. Unfortunately, the modern meaning of the word has come to refer to severely restricting the types and amounts of food a person consumes in an effort to lose or gain weight. There are a range of diet programs; the combinations are quite elaborate. One problem with these diet programs, however, is that they do not actually account for all the nutrients and energy sources our bodies need. Contrary to what the creators of these diet programs say, you do need some amount of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Fat molecules, among other things, provide insulation and energy, and are absolutely necessary for the body to absorb certain vitamins. Proteins are found in all cells of the body and are made of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids that the body needs to consume because it cannot create on its own. Proteins are also needed to form blood cells, and repair cells. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, are major components of the genetic molecules RNA and DNA, and play key roles in the immune system and reproduction growth.
When you go on a no-fat diet, you may be losing the pounds, but you’re also going to experience energy loss and an inability to stay warm. If your goal is to lose weight or even just to become healthier, the key is moderation. Make sure you fully understand what you are consuming as well as all of the good and bad effects these foods have on your body. For example, while carbohydrates are key to maintaining good health, some types of carbs are not healthy (think cookies and pop). Other than the truly bad stuff, don’t cut out any one nutrient just because excessive amounts of it can have negative effects. Again, the key is moderation!
Next, change your understanding of the word “diet” to its original meaning – think of it as a lifestyle change. If you try to lose a lot of weight really fast, you’re going to gain it back really fast. Your body needs time to adjust to these changes, and so changes – including habit changes – need to be gradual. Because permanently losing this weight is a long process, you aren’t doing yourself any favours by starving yourself of specific nutrients; you’re going to notice the negative effects of cutting those nutrients out of your diet well before you notice the weight loss. You might as well start on the long and never-ending path to consuming the proper amount your body needs of each nutrient to properly function, rather than jumping on the week or month-long eating programs that do more harm than good.
Keep in mind that, just as you’re taking in all this energy to fuel your body, you must also expend more energy than you’re consuming to actually notice any weight loss results. When your body takes in the energy from your food, your body uses what it needs and stores the rest. The loss of weight in your body comes from using more energy than what you’re providing your body with. It’s not enough to just start eating healthier; you need to be active and exercise as well.
Realize that you are unique. Your body has specific needs that are not exactly the same as that of another person. Whatever those differences may be, your body is different than others’. Why would you treat your body the exact same way as others do? The answer is, you shouldn’t. Go see a health professional who can help you design a unique nutrition and exercise schedule that fits your needs. Take your likes and dislikes into account—if you hate asparagus with every fibre of your being, don’t expect to be feeling happy about eating healthier when you’re forcing yourself to eat said asparagus all the time.
Finally, drink lots of water. It’s amazing how beneficial water is to your body!
Originally published through The Ontarion, on January 22, 2015