By Jennifer Smith, Natural Medicine Practitioner and Certified in Holistic Nutrition
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If you want to lose weight and feel better about yourself, opt for healthy eating habits before turning to short-lived fad diets. For a more permanent solution, it’s well worth your time to focus on healthy eating habits. I know, it’s not easy to avoid looking at the amazing bodies you’re seeing all over social media thanks to those fad diets and those weight loss trends, but none of them are long lasting.
As much as you might want to lose 20 pounds in one week, remember your goal is to be able to keep that weight off for good. Once you’ve lost that weight and decided you don’t need to stick with the diet any longer because your goal has been reached, you will begin to bounce right back to where you were before the diet. Studies have shown that people many times gain more weight than where they started from.
Diets don’t work because they want you to do unrealistic things to your body, and without fail they expect you to eat unrealistic, artificially low amounts of food and calories. This goes against your biology. You were created with a way for your body to resist losing too much weight at once, in case of a famine so that you would not starve.
You might be able to give up carbs altogether for a week or two, but can you avoid them the rest of your life? No, you can’t. You can change your life and your body by skipping the diets and simply by following a few healthy eating habits. It’s not about depriving your body. It’s about giving your body what it needs, and it’s about occasionally giving your body what it wants. You will find your body begins to crave different items and feel different once you make healthy lifestyle changes and implement healthy eating habits.
You don’t want to deprive yourself of things you love, so learn to love them in moderation. If you love pizza, why not have it? As long as 80 percent of your meals are as healthy as can be, there is no reason you can’t allow yourself a 20 percent indulgence each week. Eat the donut on Tuesday morning, and then eat well the rest of the day. You can still have what you want if you remember to have it in moderation. If 80/20 seems too hard at first, try 50/50 first and slowly work up as you get more comfortable.
Positive benefits from healthy eating habits don't just happen when you are 100% consistent, they happen almost regardless of whether you are 10% or 95% consistent. Many times we have this false idea that you are only following your diet, if we are following it 100% of the time, but this is just not real life. Check out this recent study from Precision Nutrition on the impact of "imperfect effort" to reach your healthy eating habits and nutrition goals.
This may seem counterproductive, but most people are not eating when they are hungry these days. Either because they are too busy or they just want to make it to the next meal without snacking, or even because they are focused on eating smaller portions. We’ve been told to snack less, eat less carbs, less protein, less fat, smaller portions, eat in moderation. The bottom line is that people are avoiding food when they're hungry and they are not eating until they are sufficiently full. This is leading to our society as a whole being incredibly calorie and nutrient starved, yet having a higher and higher average weight.
According to Ancel Key’s Minnesotta Starvation Study, most adults have a daily caloric requirement of at least 2500 calories. Younger adults in their early to mid 20’s and pregnant and lactating women have much higher caloric requirements. If you are eating less than this for any length of time, you are likely in a state of semi-starvation. If you have some of the symptoms below, this reinforces the likelihood that you are probably consuming far less than your body requires. In order to recover your metabolism and heal these symptoms, you will need to consume far more than your minimum caloric requirement.
These are all signs of not eating enough calories. If you’ve been on one diet after another diet over the years, you need to start by eating more. Sure, you may gain weight at first. However this is weight you would have put on regardless, due to the rebound effect of dieting. But eventually, your weight will gradually adjust to a lower set point when you are fueling your body with enough calories to keep your metabolism burning hot.
Ancel Key’s stated the cardinal rule of healing from too few calories is “Eat, and eat lots”. Eating low carb, keto, low fat, Paleo, vegan, AIP, elimination diet or any other special diet will not help if you are not obtaining enough calories from the food you eat. Follow the cardinal rule, eat enough food.
The best way to lose weight is to skip diets and just follow these healthy eating habits for life. Eat more, worry about food less. There is a reason I don’t share lists of good foods and bad foods here, this is NOT A DIET. You need to get away from thinking one food is bad and another is good.
Satiate your cravings and then focus on slowly increasing healthy habits while removing unhealthy habits. Stop buying into fad diets because they hurt your health in the long run. Try this for a couple of months and see how your hunger starts to level off, cravings start to disappear and eventually your weight will normalize too.
Jennifer Smith, BA, NMP, CHN, FBCC
Jennifer Smith is a Natural Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, and Faith-Based Clinical Counselor. She has a Bachelor's degree in Christian Counseling. She has completed advanced training in Functional Nutrition, Functional Medicine, Natural Health Consultant diploma, Biblical natural medicine, and Biblical Eating and Clinical Nutrition. Jennifer has a virtual Natural Medicine practice in Naples, FL called Fx Remedies Virtual Care.
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