The Diet Trap (And How To Break Free)

The Diet Trap
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With spring upon us, the distant memories of New Year’s Resolutions dead and buried come back to haunt us. Even a few weeks ago it seemed like we might be able to live in winter clothes forever, but as daffodils poke their sunny faces through the cold earth, it dawns on you – I’m still going to be overweight this summer unless I do something now!

Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel caught in this same, old cycle year after year? Imagine coming into not just next spring, but every spring, with nothing to worry you except what colour bikini you want this year. It is possible to leave behind the panicky countdown to summer, but you need to break out of the diet trap. The diet trap isn’t your fault. It’s a product of the ideas out there in media, your social circle and even from healthcare professionals that lead the masses down a path towards endless cycles of losing and regaining weight. Breaking free will mean treating your body with the care it needs and eating to give your body what it needs – not for a few weeks, but for life. It means forgetting what you learned in past, failed diets. Getting away from calorie counting and restricting and into filling yourself with foods packed with nutrients. Ready for a real change? Here’s the first steps to take:

Give up on the idea of a quick fix

You will need to focus on beyond just the summer. There are tons of weight loss plans out there for quick weight loss. Cutting calories and following a rigid plan will make you lose weight. What it won’t do is help you to stay that way. In fact, your body will be more inclined to pack on fat after a calorie restricted diet and in your calorie-depleted state, you will be physically unable to summon the willpower to stop you eventually binging. Most overweight and obese people are actually excellent dieters. It’s just that they are caught in the diet trap – on the diet, lose weight, off the diet, gain it all back, feel disheartened, gain more. To feel good every summer, promise yourself no more radical calorie cutting. Get away from wanting quick results and work on building a desire for a healthy body. Your body wants to be a healthy weight, provided you are giving it what it needs in realistic portion sizes. Which leads me to my next point – real food.

Get reacquainted with real food

Most people think they eat a healthy diet. Guess what, most people don’t. If you have weight to lose, there is a greater than average probability that you don’t have a healthy diet.   We have a tendency to remember things that fit with our self perception and forget those that don’t. So rather than it being a case of lying, I’d say that most people just remember the times they eat well and forget the nibbles and slip ups. We also easily become accustomed to even the most gargantuan portion sizes and lose a grip on what is normal. In addition, we are confused by an immense number of products masquerading as ‘healthy’ or good for weight loss. Pretty much any product claiming to aid in weight loss, probably doesn’t. I don’t know of any hard bodied hotties who eat Special K or drink diet soda. These deceptive products play into the idea of having everything you want, withless calories, and still lose weight. You don’t need to eat a low calorie diet, but you do have to eat differently.

You need to eat loads more vegetables, good fats and proteins. And you will have to say goodbye to some products that don’t have a place in a healthy body. You need to know what is in your food and how your body uses it. For many people who’ve been in the diet trap for a long time, they need to learn what real food is again. They also need to get used to cooking it. Make a deal with yourself for two weeks that whatever you eat must be made by you. You can eat anything, so long as you made it yourself. No precooked meat. No packaged sauces. No microwave anything. If you haven’t made it from the very basics of the raw ingredients, then it’s off the menu. Even bread, yes, eat it. But only if you have mixed and kneaded and let it rise and baked it to perfection all by yourself. What’s a raw ingredient? Things with either no label or things where the label only has one ingredient written on its list. This strategy will have you shopping in just about 1/3 of the grocery store. Entire aisles will be off limits. But cutting the pre-made, takeaway, convenience food out of your diet will help you become more aware of what goes into your body. You will get healthier and leaner as a result.

Stop the punishing workouts

You can’t outrun that doughnut on the treadmill. I’m not suggesting that you don’t work out, or that when you do, you don’t try hard. It’s just that for permanent change – to lose weight forever – you must get away from the half truth that you’re burning fat in your workouts. While exercise does increase metabolism, aid digestion and keep us healthy, the myth of the fat burning workout is something of a curse of the fitness world. Your body does require fat to fuel activity, but for your average person the idea that you’re melting that fat away typically has disastrous consequences for the diet trap.

Firstly, it leads you astray from what’s important about physical activity – that needs to be something you like to do. Fat burning implies you need to feel that pain to make it worthwhile. The truth is most people looking to lose weight would benefit from getting just a bit more active and building on that as they become more confident. Secondly, it is common to follow up a heavy workout with what seems like a well-deserved binge. It’s not rare for people to undo any progress made in a workout in a few minutes of eating. But lastly, viewing your body as a balance of calories in/calories out is a diet disaster waiting to happen. This mental approach leads to restricting at times and overeating on others. Your body wants consistency – a solid source of nutrition every day.

So what to eat? Other than my guidance about getting back to basics in point 2 above, have at least 3 meals each day. Include a source of protein in each meal, such as chicken, red meat, fish or eggs. Aim for a variety of protein sources, as some people find they naturally prefer ones with higher fat content. Mix it up to make sure you aren’t getting too much fat. Make up the majority of your plate in each meal with vegetables and include some starchy ones, like potato, sweet potato. Even add a little rice, but make sure the green or colourful veggies are taking up the majority of the plate. Eat a couple of snacks every day, again including a little protein. Fruit and few nuts or smaller meal. Drink loads of water. Avoid alcohol and sugar. It is a big change and requires effort, commitment and a long term focus. But just imagine feeling happiness and anticipation next year, and leaving that diet trap behind forever.

About the author

Jess Johns-Green is a personal trainer, level 1 CrossFit trainer and Psychologist. She specialises in interventions for obesity and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Jess is an athlete and coach at CrossFit Colchester.

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