A Diet for Life

When it comes to dieting, relax and think long-term. By Charlotte Watts

The whole area of losing weight – and the dreaded ‘diet’ word – has reached near-hysterical proportions. Many ‘quick-fix’ diets are based on a few sound nutritional principles, then taken to their extremes and packaged to be ‘new’ to satisfy a need to see instantaneous results.

These can promise weight loss in time frames that are simply not healthy – you may shed an initially quick amount due to fluid loss when cleaning up your diet and flushing out toxins, but after that any loss above 2lbs a week will only have you struggling to keep weight off in the long-term.

Many people have difficulty losing stubborn weight because of sugar and stress in their lives, which tend to make us accumulate excess fat around the waist. These may be habits which have been with you for many years and addressing the dietary factors involved can start to increase our ability to burn stored fat for fuel. This is a long-term health concern and is often the last weight to be lost, often worsened by the ‘quick-fix’ approach.

Long-term stress raises our production of the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to make us more apple-shaped. Yes, it is crucial to exercise as well as modify diet to lose weight, but it is also important to relax and recover. Convincing the body that it can feel safe rather than on ‘constant alert’ can take a while, but have a profound effect on cravings and raised appetite. Confusing the body with continual changes is also stressful for you. Wouldn’t you feel better if you could relax around food, enjoy it and let go of the continual cycle of guilt and denial? Bringing your body back into balance – a place where it naturally works hard to find its healthiest weight – involves getting back to a place where you feel in tune with your body and understand what works with its natural rhythm.

How and when to eat

A natural diet

We evolved with food that comes from nature, not a factory, and our bodies are confused by chemicals and processed foods that can also be toxic. Our ability to regulate weight can be affected by a sluggish liver, so a clean diet of vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains, lean meat, fish, eggs and beans not only takes toxins out of the body but also provides the nutrients needed for weight regulation by supporting your blood sugar balance, thyroid function and ability to cope with stress.

Breakfast is crucial
When you wake up you need to bring blood sugar levels back up after dropping in the night; those who skip breakfast can end up ‘running on adrenaline’ which puts the body in the stress response from the start of the day, not conducive to weight loss. Even if you have not had breakfast for years, start now, even with something small and build up.

Empty calories
These are foods that provide calories but little nutritional value, usually refined and processed foods like those made with white flour or junk foods; often high in the unhealthy combination of sugar and saturated fats. These foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and desserts are the worst culprits for laying down excess weight and ultimately these foods won’t satisfy your appetite as they don’t provide what your body needs.

Sugar and cravings
We tend to crave sugar when we don’t have enough quality protein or fats in the diet, meaning healthy sources from nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, eggs, fish and some lean meat. These satisfy appetite and slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream for a steady stream of satisfying fuel. A good quality breakfast including these will help reduce cravings later and reduce the tendency to be ravenously hungry by dinner, even overeat and make poor choices. If you’ve had enough calories before the evening, you only need a light meal; anything else, especially sugar and starches may well be stored as fat overnight as you won’t be using it up for fuel.

Eat calmly, slowly and chew
Bolting food means that it is digested less efficiently and that your mouth doesn’t get the chance to tell your brain that it has received enough food to be satisfied. Eating in a calm state is how you absorb food best and regulate appetite.

By Charlotte Watts 

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.