Dieting has negative connotations, and rightly so. Many diets involve restricting yourself of whole food groups in order to lose weight, but this tactic is actually counterproductive in your pursuit for a healthier lifestyle, as it has drawbacks for both your body and your mind. Drastic dieting can actually increase the likelihood that you will “fail” at healthy eating altogether and you may even develop worse eating habits.
Instead of embarking on a dramatic dietary fad, the best and most sustainable way to lead a healthy life and to see the changes you want to see is to practice balance. This article will discuss how and why you should create a perfectly balanced lifestyle.
Restricting yourself is counterproductive
Many people wrongly assume that the key to weight loss is a restriction, but this is far from the truth. In fact, depriving yourself is actually counterproductive to your overall health endeavors for a number of reasons.
For one, scientists and nutritionists have found that drastically restricting your body of calories actually slows down your metabolism, making it harder to shed the pounds. This is because when your body experiences a severe or long-term calorie deficit (either from starvation or over-exercising) it signals to the brain that it must conserve energy the best it can. In turn, your leptin levels (the hormone that sustains your body’s fat storage) drop and your metabolism slow. This means that although you may be cutting your calorie intake dramatically in order to lose weight, after a while you won’t see results as your body will actually work against you to keep it functioning.
Aside from the scientific reasoning behind why the restriction is counterproductive, there’s also the psychological downsides of restriction. Severe restriction is simply not sustainable – especially if it is done drastically – as it will send your mood into a downward spiral and you may experience more intense cravings than ever before.
Therefore, it is recommended by many healthcare professionals that giving into temptation is good for both your body and mind. By practicing the 80:20 rule – where you eat “well” 80% of the time, but allow yourself indulgences 20% of the time – you will experience better results. Not only does consuming a “cheat meal” or treat once in a while satisfies you and keeps you motivated, it actually keeps your body on its toes, so to speak, so that it does not go into “starvation mode”.
Indulgences don’t have to mean “bad”
Leading a healthy lifestyle is all about having a healthy mindset for food and balance. One connotation that many of us have ingrained into us is that treats and indulgences mean foods that are highly processed, high in calories and full of carbohydrates, sugar, and MSG, but this isn’t necessarily the case. “To indulge” doesn’t and shouldn’t mean to eat a whole 18-inch pizza in one sitting, or demolish a share bag of chocolates.
“Comfort food” is considered by many of us to be “bad” food. Foods like burgers, fries, fried chicken, ice cream, biscuits, pastries, white bread, doughnuts, pizza, cake, etc. that we were perhaps awarded to us in our childhood on a special occasion – food that we still have a hankering for now and again. Therefore, when we think of indulgence or treat, we conclude that the only satisfactory and worthy food option is one of the above.
Though these foods are rightfully vilified, one slice of your mum’s Banoffee pie every once in a while isn’t going to kill you or throw you off your diet, especially if it is homemade. If you have an unshakeable craving for comfort food, why not research healthier recipes online. You may be surprised at how delicious and satisfying they are.
At the end of the day, it’s all about treating yourself where you want but being sensible and responsible, and experimenting with healthier alternatives where you can to reshape your perception of food in general but treats in particular.
You will be happier
Moderation is key, and variety is the spice of life. These two mantras are important to remember when embarking on a quest to find balance within your diet and, on a wider scale, your life.
So, if you want to eat some chocolate, do it. Just make sure it’s in moderation. If you want a sugary can of soda, have it, in moderation. And enjoy a bottle of red wine, in moderation. And if your favorite thing to do is to go out to eat, allow yourself to peruse your favorite breakfast menu in Surry Hills on a luxurious Sunday morning.
The same rule of moderation applies to the “good” stuff too. Eating a plate of dark leafy greens three times a day is actually not that beneficial to your body as you may assume. You need to eat a variety of different types of food to remain healthy, both in the body and in mind. And this also means there is room for your favorite treats, too.
It’s also important to remember that you should also exercise in moderation, as over-exercising will put a strain on your body, especially if you are not nourishing it properly at the same time.
Scheduling in cheat meals will also aid your happiness when you’re on the road to a healthy lifestyle. It is so much easier to eat well in the week – applying the 80:20 rule – when you know you can order a pizza on Friday night, for example. In fact, you will probably enjoy that pizza so much more.
You may even find that your view on food changes throughout your healthy eating journey and that you crave “bad” foods less and less.
The crux of the matter is the less pressure you put on yourself to not be “perfect” with your eating, and to treat it as a journey, the happier and more satisfied you will be.
You can lead a healthy life and still eat what you like. Fact. It’s all about balance, making sensible choices and not placing guilt on yourself.
At the end of the day, as long as you are mostly eating a lot of colorful foods that are unprocessed, you can treat yourself to a glass of red wine over dinner on a night out with your friends.