What I’d say to those who wish to change their diet

Many choose to enter into a weight loss programme around this time of the year, this time being the timespan which begins these days and ends six months later. It is true that a healthy weight is a necessary condition for a healthy body. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoid smoking and exercising are the three main factors through which we can protect our health.

Oftentimes people follow unorthodox methods in order to achieve this goal. Those methods are usually a result of them setting a strict time frame for themselves to succeed. In this article we list 5 tips I’d give to anyone who wishes to start a weight loss programme.

  1. Eating right makes you feel well.

Based on my experience as a dietitian-nutritionist I observe that most people on a diet consider good nutritional habits only as a means to weight loss alas not as caring for their body. However, either we’re on or off a dietary regime, balanced nutrition makes us feel better organically and psychologically and therefore influences our behaviour towards food positively. Meaning there is a “vicious” cycle of improvement. The opposite is true when we “punish” ourselves with “dietary” foods. We feel unwell, we don’t enjoy food and are less and less motivated to carry on. This is when we need to keep our composure and be patient in order to stay the course.

  1. Eating as much as we want because we will “burn” the extra calories by increasing exercise is a dead end.

Exercise does offer many benefits and can indeed help us lose weight. However adjusting the volume of physical exercise based on what we ate, or are about to eat, won’t help and might even delay weight loss. In addition, we often overestimate the number of calories burnt through exercise, especially if we engage in intense physical activity, which in turn brings about a “reward for our troubles” mentality, and leads to eating more. That is not to say one shouldn’t exercise but if you think that vigorous exercise is the tip of the spear you should reconsider.

  1. A sweet can be both particularly enjoyable and part of a healthy lifestyle.

Eating right doesn’t mean always having chicken with lettuce. On the contrary our body needs a number of nutrients that dietary monotony cannot offer. Also, we don’t eat food solely to survive but for enjoyment too. Therefore sweets can be incorporated in a weight loss programme, albeit in moderation.

  1. It’s never all right to judge someone by their body weight, never.

We and others have often heard people say to us “you must stop eating”, “look at how you’ve become”, “don’t you think of your health at all?” etc. When well intentioned it’s based on the rationale that if we feel ashamed we will be motivated to reduce our weight. Nevertheless, studies have shown that “fat shaming” doesn’t motivate people to lower their body weight, but rather makes them feel bad about themselves and essentially makes them increase the quantity consumed. Furthermore, other studies suggest that criticism and harassment concerning body weight raises the risk of obesity by 2.5 – 6.6 times in the near future for the receivers (of criticism and harassment).

Apart from not helping in weight loss, this type of behavior may increase the risk of depression, nutritional disorders, low self-esteem etc. In other words “fat-shaming” does “damage” organically and psychologically.

  1. We have to work and strive to succeed.

There are no easy or quick solutions in losing weight. I repeat, there are none. Those who have tried to reduce their weight know that it doesn’t happen without toil.

Effort is required in both a behavioural/psychological level (change habits) as well as at a practical level (preparing and organizing food). Yet, the more we try the more we get used to it and it becomes “second nature”.

Initially, set reasonable rules and try to follow them systematically. If you’re pulling it off, be fair and reward yourself accordingly – not too much. If not, again be fair and first recognize what you’ve improved in your diet, second consider what needs more work. The satisfaction you’ll feel when hitting one of your targets is unforgettable and will give you the strength to go on. Through the years and experience I’ve had I realized that there is one way to be defeated and that is by quitting.

Of course, the contribution of a dietitian – nutritionist (who has a license) can help you to make it through.

In a few words

This year think of your own “New Year Resolutions” only if it causes you “creative” anxiety and helps you move on, don’t if it stresses you too much. Improving nutritional habits has to be a life plan and shouldn’t be seen as a strenuous period of a few months followed by indifference.

This year let’s make a difference. Remember:

  • Eating is a form of caring for our body as well as enjoyment.
  • We shouldn’t overestimate the calories we burn by exercising.
  • Sweets can be part of balanced diet.
  • Feeling shame for our body weight is not helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.
  • There are no quick and easy fixes to losing weight.