I have noticed over the last few days that there have been a LOT of advertisements on the radio that have mentioned the so-called 'consequences' of holiday eating and the word diet has been uttered many times in this context. One of the ads that I heard yesterday went something like this: "My pants aren't fitting me.. they are too tight and I can't get them on.. must be all that extra turkey and stuffing I ate. I really need to go on a diet and lose this weight fast. At least jeans are on sale at (-----) for 15$ so I can buy some new jeans until I lose all of this weight." I left out the name of the store not because I have a problem with jeans being 15$, but because the point is not about jeans- it is about how I have been hearing a lot about dieting lately!
Continuing to hear about diets and dieting over the last few days led me to want to post some information about dieting that you may or may not know. This post may be a little long, so bear with me- I think this info will be beneficial. Let me be clear though. I am not saying it is wrong or bad to want to be healthy or to want to feel good about yourself. What I am saying is that there are healthy and appropriate ways to pursue this goal, and drastic measures, unhealthy behaviors, and diets, are not included. Typically, diets promise quick weight loss with no regards to how much weight you actually want to lose, and the end result is that you turn out looking amazing. Diets are deceptions, because they are not capable of such guarantees. Here are some diet myths that help to point out the deception (thanks to Remuda Ranch for providing some of the information below):
Myth #1= You will lose weight. This is why most people pursue a diet in the first place, right? It may surprise you, but research shows that in the long run, 98% of dieters actually end up gaining weight. Why? Because the real issues behind food consumption and understanding metabolism are rarely addressed with a diet. And when unhealthy means are used, the weight loss is usually not maintainable.
Myth #2=You will look amazing as a result of your diet. If your goal is to look like someone else, or to look like some of the images that we regularly see on TV, in magazines, etc.. then you are chasing a goal that is not attainable. These images are altered by computers (check out this video for an example- yikes!). What is more is that a diet will not change your facial features, it will not make you taller, it will not make your legs longer, and it will not make your boobs bigger. Sorry:).
Myth #3=Diets are not dangerous. Whenever you restrict or cut out entire food groups (sugar, carbs, fat, dairy, etc..), this is dangerous-- especially for young people. Our bodies require a variety of foods in order to fuel our organs and keep us functioning effectively. Not to mention that studies show that dieting is an indicator of future eating disorders. A girl who diets before she is 14 is eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder. There are many health risks associated with dieting as well, such as weakened bones, dehydration and decreased heart rate.
Myth #4=Certain foods are bad. Often times, when we diet or approach food with a diet mentality, we label food as 'good' or 'bad.' We may even determine what food we consider to be good or bad based upon which particular diet we are on. The fact of the matter is that all foods are created equal and all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle. There are no bad foods, only bad diets.
Myth #5= Diets give you control. Having a defined set of rules, especially when it comes to food, may convince you that you will be in control of what you put in your mouth. However, what often happens when you eat the same foods, or follow similar rituals each day with food, you begin to crave foods you have labelled 'bad' or 'outlawed.' This can lead to overeating and binges, which ultimately take you to a place you were trying to avoid to begin with. Also, diets usually make you cranky, they tend to decrease your energy, and they leave you feeling tired and pretty irritable. When you get to this point, the diet is controlling you, and you have little control.
Myth #6= Diets are safe and healthy. Maybe a little repetitive (myth #3), but if you chronically diet, you risk potentially altering the natural weight of your body. Over time, if your body weight fluctuates from higher to lower, and lower to higher, your body generally settles at a higher weight than it would have needed to be if it was not altered in the first place. Our bodies become confused, because they do not know if they will get what they need nutritionally, or if they will not receive any food at all. Our metabolisms slow down because our bodies think we are starving. The irony in this is that the exact opposite of what is intended is likely to end up happening.
Myth #7= You need to follow a diet. Here are some healthy guidelines to follow (compliments of Remuda Ranch) that are not diet-centric. Eat a variety of foods in moderation. Having variety allows for you to meet your nutritional needs; we cannot get all we need from one single food, or from a small number of foods alone. Listen to your body, and your stomach. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. You don't need to eat food just because it is in front of you. Find out if you are eating because you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry (more on this to come..).
To conclude, Karen R. Koenig wrote a book called The Rules of Normal Eating. It is an extremely helpful book for anyone who has struggled with chronic dieting, overeating, undereating, emotional eating and anything in between. I wrote a post on her book awhile back and provided some suggestions that she outlines in her book as they relate to 'normal eating.'. Follow this link for more information.