To be more precise: You must read this sitting down.
What I’m about to say might come as a shock to you.
I know because I was shocked, too. I couldn’t believe it at first. It went against everything I believed in about diets.
Are you sitting down?
The shocking fact you need to know about diets is this:
Food is good for you!
I hope you didn’t fall off your chair reading that!
When I go on diets, I usually try to cut out as much food as I can. Sometimes I try to skip meals. Sometimes I eat small portions of food that aren’t enough to feed a goldfish!
Why? Because I see food as the enemy. The main culprit behind my excessive weight (where else am I piling on the fat from?).
But the truth of the matter is: food is good for us, and we shouldn’t try to fight against it.
So what is the problem? Why are we gaining weight? And what’s the right approach to losing weight?
Food Is Good
Before we even attempt to go on a diet, it’s important to have the right understanding of food and the role it plays in our lives. We must accept that food is necessary for us. We can’t survive for long without it. Our body needs food to keep it functional.
Therefore, food is good. We love food. It’s one of our best friends.
However, we usually don’t eat in order to supply our body with the nutrients it needs. That’s why most of what we eat isn’t actually good for us (it’s called JUNK food for a reason!), and the amount of food we eat isn’t appropriate to our needs (too much of a good thing is bad for you!). When we don’t eat the right food and in the right amount, our body tries it do the best it can to keep us alive and functioning…
Our Body’s Survival Mechanisms
Although we might hate ourselves for getting fat, but piling on the fat is a beautiful thing. I don’t mean that you should be happy being over-weight, but that you should appreciate what your body is trying to do when it stores fat.
Our body is designed to keep us alive. In many cases, it tries to correct the mistakes that we do. When we don’t take proper care of our body – by making the wrong decisions in what we eat and how much we eat – our body stores the excess as fat (energy storage) for future use. It builds an energy reserve we can use if we need it later. Of course, there’s a thin line between healthy fat storage and unhealthy fat storage.
I said the body was designed to keep us alive. I didn’t say it was very smart in doing it! That’s why it’s up to us to make the right decisions about what we eat.
But it’s important to understand how the body works in order to know what sorts of diet work with our bodies. Eating extra will lead our bodies to store the food as fat (for survival), and eating too little (which is the common approach to dieting, and when we see food as the enemy) will lead our body to retain that extra fat (for survival also!). This reaction to low food-intake is usually referred to as starvation mode: your body assumes that you’re starving (you don’t have enough food to consume), and so it reduces the amount of fat it burns so it can have enough to survive for as long as possible.
This is important to bear in mind, because your dieting can actually force your body to retain fat, rather than burn it!
How to Diet
Given what we’ve mentioned about food and our body’s reaction to it, the best approach to dieting is as follows:
Eat nutritious food: We should only eat in order to feed our body with the nutrients it needs. Eating food because it tastes nice, or because we’re feeling bad (and want food to alter our feelings) isn’t the right approach to take. Ever.
Don’t eat too much: If you’re gaining weight, it means you’re eating more than what your body actually needs. Cutting down on the amount you eat is sensible here, because you’re adjusting to your body’s needs.
Don’t eat too little: Don’t give your body the impression that you don’t have food to eat. Otherwise it’ll cling to whatever fat you have stored for dear life! Therefore, you should never skip meals or reduce the amount of food you eat to the point where you aren’t supplying your body with enough nutrients, and it might suspect that you’re struggling to survive and it ends up entering starvation mode! Create a slight “calorie deficit” (i.e. consume less calories than you burn) so that your body ends up burning the fat you’ve stored and not simply using the food you’ve eaten during the day.
Stay active: Your arms and legs aren’t there for aesthetic reasons. They’re there to be used! Food is meant to supply your body not so you can remain breathing, but so you can remain active! Our default approach in life is to reduce effort as much as possible. Although it’s sensible to be efficient, but we should always try to be active. This includes walking more and being active around the house. Don’t avoid movement because it involves effort.
Weight-loss involves a lot more than what I’ve mentioned, but the key point is to not see food as an enemy, but to consume it in the right way, so that your body makes use of it in a way that supports your life and well-being.