Dieting vs healthy eating / living

I hate diets! Typically, one perceives a diet as a quick fix to lose weight, regardless of their health implications. Also, diets come and go and even experts cannot agree which diet is the best.

One diet that I particularly dislike is a low-fat diet.

Low-fat diet

I have a pet hate for low-fat diets for two reasons:

  1. Fats are often replaced with sugar, which, believe it or not, may be even more detrimental than fat. When we eat lots of sugar, it provokes an exaggerated insulin response. Insulin is also known as a ‘storage hormone’ as any sugar / glucose not used for energy is stored as fat. Therefore, in the long-term, low fat, high carbohydrate diets can make you fat.
  2. Lack of satiety – one feels constantly hungry and once your will power wears off, people tend to compensate with eating all the foods they have missed (usually in excess) and they end up piling on even more weight than they have originally lost

It is important to remember that not all fats are the same – some fats such as monounsaturated fats in olive oil for example are particularly beneficial because a) they improve satiety, so you feel fuller for longer, and b) research shows they improve insulin sensitivity, so that glucose from any carbohydrates that you have eaten is more likely to be used for energy rather than stored as fat. When blood glucose and insulin are high (after a meal), excess glucose is converted to fatty acids by the liver and stored as fat in the adipose tissue (hence excess carbohydrates make you fat). However, one should avoid excessive saturated fats and trans / hydrogenated fats at all cost (reading food labels is really important).

How to lose weight gradually and permanently

Personally, I believe in healthy eating which is for life, not for a few weeks. One can lose weight safely and permanently by eating a balanced, personalised ‘diet’, which takes into consideration your health status, exercise levels, genetic makeup, thyroid and adrenal function, blood sugar regulation, food sensitivities that cause water retention and slow down metabolism, etc.

‘Me time’

Stress make us fat – it is scientifically proven the stress hormone, cortisol, causes fat cell proliferation, especially in the abdominal area. It is therefore important that you have some ‘me time’ every day (this could be reading a book, using an app – e.g. Headspace, meditation, yoga, dancing – anything that you enjoy)

We are all different

For example, my routine starts with breakfast (usually organic porridge with a sliced apple and oat milk, or toasted rye bread with sardines, or eggs or shitake mushrooms, etc.) with a cup of coffee

My lunch is the main and the last meal of the day. I will have some lean meat or fish or poultry, with vegetables and salad. I will have 3 squares of organic dark chocolate  for a dessert and a cup of coffee.

Around 4 pm I will have a grapefruit or an apple and that is my eating done for the day.

During the day I will have at least 1 cup of Japanese Matcha or Sencha tea and plenty of other herbal teas.

While this way of eating is prefect for me, my colleagues in the office may be starving by the evening… again, it is all about biochemical individuality.

Exercise / physical activity must not be neglected

We are all different, so we all require different levels of physical activity. Personally, I am a very slow metaboliser, so I need plenty of exercise.  However, the exercise I do, is enjoyable, it does not feel like a chore.

For example, most evenings I will do about 20 minutes of exercise on my stationary bike (it gives me an opportunity to catch up with the news) and every evening I will do yoga / Pilates exercise while watching TV. This helps me to speed up my slow metabolism. Luckily, I live near the college, so I also get my daily 30-minutes of power walk (to and from the college).

What makes me put on weight?

I am very sensitive to wheat. For example, if I was tempted with pasta or bread, I would gain at least 2 pounds in weight in one day (regardless of calorie intake) due to water retention.

Eating starches with protein – when I have my lunch, I avoid starches as they slow down my already slow metabolism. So combining protein with leafy vegetables and salads makes my digestion more efficient and therefore I can burn the calories much more easily.

In one word, we are all different and what works for one person may not be suitable for another. However, balanced healthy eating that is for life will ensure healthy weight and good health for life, not just for a month or two.

A few small changes can help you lose weight:

  • Eat regular meals but smaller portions
  •  Do not snack between meals – snacking can add up to another meal
  • Have some protein with each meal to help balance blood sugar levels and reduce cravings (vegetarian sources of protein such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, tofu, etc, are fine)
  • Do not have any starches with your evening meal (e.g., bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.)
  • Avoid foods that you know do not agree with you – there are plenty of alternatives on the market these days
  • Drink 1 – 2 cups of green tea daily – some research shows that phytochemicals contained in green tea increase energy metabolism, which may lead to weight loss (this may explain why many Japanese people are not fat despite having a very sweet tooth. The Japanese tend to not only drink green tea regularly, but they also add green tea to their sweets, cakes, biscuits, and even bread)
  • Get adequate sleep – research shows that sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and suppresses fat utilisation in the adipose tissue.
  • Keep active – if you hate exercise, at least do some brisk walking around the block a few times a day (anything that will increase your heart rate will speed your metabolism)
  • Do not take slimming pills, which may have side effects and stay away from meal replacement drinks, which are usually loaded with sugar.

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