2 major problems with diets and 2 radical solutions

BooksOne of the first self-help diets books to be published in 2014 was “The Best Diet for You” by Caroline Jones. The fact that it reviews the pros and cons of 30 of the top diets tells us where we are with dieting. Confused and overwhelmed with information is how I’d summarise where most people are, which means this succinct book may have a wide audience.

Diets focus on how to overhaul your eating in order to lose weight. Herein lies major problem number 1. When you encounter a new diet, you have a lifetime’s eating habits behind you.  We have evolved to learn how and what to do to survive and thrive in our place in the world as best we can, and then to keep doing the same thing on autopilot.

 Habits are not easy to change.

Each new diet presents you with a how-to-overhaul-your-eating-habits guide. Overhauling the whole set of what and how much you eat will take very considerable effort and energy. If the new diet suits you, and you like the food and the routine, you may be one of the small percentage of people who maintain the weight lost on the diet. Most people don’t maintain the weight lost because they can’t sustain the changes. It is too demanding psychologically or physiologically to maintain the new pattern, especially in the 21st Century environment of food and food advertising. This does not mean that you are weak; it means that you are normal.

Major problem number 2 comes with which diet to choose. This comes down to which types of food you are able/ willing to give up or which types you are willingly to eat all the time.  In a recent article “Diet and Health: of Expertise, Expectations and Exploitation”, Dr David Katz points out that serial repudiation of what we “know” about nutrition, health and weight loss is much of the problem. Every time a new mantra is created about food, the Big Food companies pile in and produce food engineered to contain or not contain whatever is the key goody or baddy of the day.

The diets which minimise entire food groups (such as low carbohydrate or low fat) are very new and we won’t know for decades what their long term effects are on health. The more immediate problems people face with low fat and low carb diets include boredom with the food. Over the course of evolution we have come to find food particularly pleasurable which contains a mix of fat and sweetness. When you remove either, food can become very dull. If you were on a desert island you’d have to put up with it, but with today’s western world of round-the-clock food availability plus added advertising, it’s hard.

So what can you do to lose weight that deals with these two major problems?

First, take your weight loss one step at a time. Rather than overhaul your eating patterns overnight, take a look at what eating habits are contributing to you being heavier than you want to be. These tend to include eating too much at any one time and eating when you’re not hungry. Choose one habit to tackle and begin to change that.

Second, eat what you already love. Your eating may not be completely balanced to start with, but if you focus on only eating when you are hungry and stopping eating when just full, you will be eating less. Once you do that, you are more likely to be able to alter the balance of what you eat because you will already have experienced success in making changes to your eating and because your perception of the taste of foods will sharpen. When you are never hungry, your sense of taste is never sharp and it is hard to tell what you really fancy eating. When you are hungry it is much easier to tune in to what your body fancies eating right now.

The one proviso to “eat what you already love” relates to any foods that you cannot stop eating. If you find yourself bingeing on certain foods, you may need to avoid these until you achieve greater control over your eating patterns.

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