“Up to 50% of women are on a diet at any given time” (livestrong.com, 2015) (1)
Actually, 100% of us are on a diet all the time. Our diet is made up of the food and drink we consume on a daily basis. What we eat is extremely important to our health, performance, physiology and psychology. Our diets can shape our strengths, weaknesses, appearance and emotions. We really are what we eat.
The language of our society likes to separate conscious eating from unconscious eating. There is this strange notion that if you are thinking about your food choice; you are doing something out of the ordinary, called dieting.
Dieting is also often used synonymously with ‘trying to lose weight’ (as is most likely the case in the livestrong quote at the start of this piece). Again, this language is very unhelpful. Viewing ‘a diet’ as a temporary means for weight loss is the primary cause of the ‘yo-yo’ phenomena. Taking on an entirely different and often ridiculous diet for a predetermined period of time may lead to weight loss. However, it is unlikely you will continue to only eat juice, no carbs, or ‘clean foods’ forever. So what happens when you return to a different diet - like the one you had before, when you were heavier?
How about a different perspective. We’re all dieting all the time - so what is your current diet doing for you? Is it helping you to gain weight or lose weight? Is it helping you feel energised and strong or fatigued and sluggish? Are you happy and enjoying your food, or are you tearing you hair out calorie counting?
Assess how you feel about your current situation, your health, lifestyle and general happiness. Is there an area you want to improve or alter? For example: body composition, improving sporting performance, reducing alcohol consumption, or just better overall health. Rather than ‘going on a diet’ think about making small changes to your current diet that can steer you in the direction of your goal.
So if the goal was weight loss, what might a small change look like?
Depending on your current eating habits, some of the suggestions below may present a bigger window of opportunity for change than others. For example, if you are currently having after work drinks 3 times a week, limiting alcohol intake to once per week may be a great place to start.
> Adding protein and fruit/veg to each main meal
> Swapping sweet snacks for a fourth light meal, or a high protein afternoon snack
> Swapping fancy coffee calories (such as frappes and lattes) for lower calorie options
> Reducing alcohol intake to once per week
> Reducing restaurant indulgence to once per week
> Getting 10,000 steps a day
> Trying to get an hours walk/cardio/training in 2-3 times per week.
A significant calorie deficit for weight-loss is around 500kcal below maintenance. If your current weight is stable and not budging, even just implementing one or two of these strategies may be enough to bring you into that deficit. This is not extreme, this is not ‘weight loss dieting’. This is making small adjustments to the diet that is keeping you where you are now, and brings it more in line to the diet required to maintain you at your target weight, your target performance level or your target health.
We’re all dieting whether we like it or not, so why not make it the best diet for you.