The Healthy Eating Hub provides a programme for people to learn how to build healthy eating habits long-term rather than go on restrictive diets. Photo / 123rf
It’s that time of year again – although for most of us, New Year’s resolutions are probably the furthest things from our minds.
If you’ve managed to get past checking the daily coronavirus updates and constantly changing travel and holiday plans to think about your goals for 2021, weight loss, healthy eating and fitness are usually on the list.
While lockdown saw some people embrace home exercise and ramp up their fitness regimen, others packed on the pounds in isolation.
We’ve been bombarded with celebrity weight-loss stories and the diets they underwent to shed the kilos this year.
But one expert is warning it’s time for “no more diet w*nkery”.
Canberra-based nutritionist Kate Freeman believes “diets are dead” and is on a mission to get people to replace food stress with the confidence of healthy eating habits.
“How often have you had success with a diet, only to then crash and burn and end up in the same place, or even worse?” she said.
“You can lose weight, have more energy and feel fitter and stronger without needing to follow an unhealthy and unrealistic diet.
“While diets are focused on rules and limiting choice, healthy eating is all about developing a deeper understanding of food to give you options and flexibility.”
Freeman said she had heard too many horror stories about restrictive diets that delivered short-term results but quickly led to food guilt, confusion, binge eating and body dissatisfaction.
She said even motivated dieters hit the wall eventually – and found it hard to get back up.
“Diets can deliver quick results, but they also come with stress and anxiety,” Freeman said.
“They can’t deliver long-term healthy living. There is so much diet w*nkery out there hurting people who are trying to do the right thing for their bodies and their lives.
“No more diet w*nkery – building healthy eating habits delivers long-term results.”
Freeman hosts a daily nutrition podcast and YouTube series called the The Daily Dollop which covers sustainable approaches to all the diet hot topics including sugar and carbs, snacking, cravings, weight loss and meal planning.
She also runs Australia’s only online healthy food habit-building programme, The Healthy Eating Hub.
“Healthy eating is a skill that can be mastered without the emotional manipulation from the diet industry,” she said.
The programme breaks healthy eating down into small, achievable chunks such as choosing wholefoods, having a balanced plate, or first focusing on making changes to breakfast.
Freeman said other programmes were fixated on calories which often didn’t achieve results.
Here’s her tips for what not to do:
Don’t set unrealistic expectations of weight loss – True fat loss takes time. It is slow. If your expectations are too high, than they’re likely not going to be met. However, it’s highly likely what you’re doing is working, you just can’t see it yet. But because our expectations aren’t met you’ll give up, which is definitely not getting you to your goal. Show’s like The Biggest Loser and Instagram testimonials warp our expectations of what is real. About half a kilo a week is good to aim for on average. Also remember that weight loss is NOT linear and peaks and troughs over the weeks and months. Be patient and use other markers of success such as how you’re feeling or tracking your consistency with healthy habits.
Don’t create yourself a set of food rules to follow – No chocolate. No sugar. No gluten. No meat. No junk food. Unless you have a medical or ethical reason for avoiding these, you don’t need to cut them out. Don’t set yourself a rule that you’re only going to rebel against later. Psychology tells us that rules are an inferior way to produce long-term change.
Don’t cut out whole food groups – There is no need to cut out foods to lose weight. Weight loss requires the creation of an energy deficit and health requires consistent diet quality. This means that you need to know how much energy your body needs and eat accordingly AND that what you’re eating offers your body plenty of vitamins, minerals and other health promoting components.
Don’t do a detox or cleanse – There is no scientific evidence this works. It will not result in long-term weight loss. Short-term fluid loss, yes. Long-term fat loss, no.
Don’t buy expensive supplements – These are often costly with no scientific backing and in the context of a consistently poor diet will not result in weight loss.
Don’t get too strict on your food – Yes, weight loss requires an energy deficit. However, if you cut back too drastically on your energy intake you’ll end up hungry, tired and prone to overeating at your next meal. Create a modest energy deficit that you can stick too, so your body has enough energy to function but is also sufficient to get slow, steady weight loss that lasts.
Don’t try to change everything all at once – Psychology tells us that self-initiated change is challenging and requires critical thinking, trial and error and a maintenance phase before it becomes part of your life. It’s simply impossible to do this long-term. You may be able to do it short-term, but once you can’t do it any longer, the weight comes back on.
Don’t fantasise – Fantasising is actually counter-productive to long-term behaviour change. So ditch the #fitspo that makes you feel #crapso and set yourself realistic and sustainable changes that you can actually stick to. That way you not only lose weight in the short-term, but you do it for life.