The topic of ‘dieting’ is one that I am very passionate about. Food is such a large part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. Oddly enough an exam I had today is what inspired todays post. The subject was called ‘Foundations of Human Nutrition.’ In this subject we learnt about the importance of all our macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and the ways we can incorporate them in our diet. Needless to say I had a lot of things I needed to remember. Another area that we studied towards the end was ‘dietary theories.’
When assessing popular diets there are a few things to consider:
What is the promised outcome?
What is the rationale? Does this seem plausible?
Does it work?
Is it safe? Are there any long term adverse effects?
Is it sustainable?
Statistically speaking, the average woman spends 17 years on a diet – trying out two new ones every year! The unfortunate thing about this is that up to 70% of these women are in a healthy rate range. For the last five years, body image has been one of the top three concerns for young people based on a survey conducted by Mission Australia’s National Youth Survey.
Now I don’t really like the word ‘diet’ I feel like it is a simple word that was meant to just be defined as what a person eats in a day and has now be misconstrued very negatively. When I think of the word ‘diet’ I think of restriction, deprivation, fasting, excessive exercising, cheating, good, bad, naughty and misery. I am going to use the word ‘lifestyle.’ The reason I am going to do this is because I believe that it encapsulates more than just what we eat. It is what we do for a living, how we move our body, the way we choose to spend our free time and the people we associate with.
I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that we live in a society that celebrates thinness. It is plastered absolutely everywhere that it can be. Just ask my parents how passionate and frustrated I get when a weight loss product comes on the television (*takes a deep breath*). Promises of quick fixes, happiness, satisfaction and attaining the ‘ideal body’ actually make me sick. I say this because I know from experience and the experience of so many others that it is so far from the truth! If you intend on living a long life, why would you do something that is going to last a short time? …. Just saying.
Now I do a great deal of research at uni and at work on the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. I completely understand the importance of losing weight for some people because it really is the difference between life and death. But the motivation behind losing the weight is where the issue is. I have found that people that are losing weight for purely aesthetic reasons tend to have weight fluctuations like a “yoyo.” This makes sense if you think about it. Say for example you have an event and you want to fit into a dress. That event is the end date. Once you have achieved that goal very few keep the weight off because the motivation is gone. The event is done, there is no longer a need to fit into the dress. Let’s change the strategy. You have been to the doctor, you are overweight and a very high waist circumference. Your doctor informs you that you need to lose weight to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. You change your diet and your life. You lose enough weight to get out of the danger zone. Do you honestly think that person is going to the think “great I made it to the clear, let’s put it all back on so I can increase my risk of disease again”? – Food for thought… literally.
What I found particularly interesting in my studies was learning about something called the “Blue Zone.” The term “Blue Zone” refers to geographic areas where the people there have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else. The term was first used by the author Dan Buettner who was studying areas of the world in which people live exceptionally long lives. Some of the Blue Zones are:
Icaria, an island in Greece. The people there eat a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, red wine and home-grown vegetables.
Ogliastra, Sardinia in Italy. The people there typically work on farms and drink a lot of red wine.
Okinawa in the southernmost islands of Japan. The diet is characterised by high consumption of vegetables, legumes, moderate consumption of fish, consumption of meat, meat products and dairy.
For the people in these cultures exercise is built into daily life by gardening, walking, cooking and other daily chores. They get adequate rest and this is directly correlated with living a long and healthy life. They eat diets rich in vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. They consume fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which is associated with slower brain decline in old age and reduced heart disease.
I am going to put aside what the people in these Blue Zones eat and the physical activity they engage in. What I really want to talk about is their overall ‘lifestyle.’ There are a number of social and lifestyle factors that are common to the Blue Zone. Some of these include being religious or spiritual, living with people that are old and young, and lastly a healthy social network.
Being healthy and living for a long time is about so much more than what we eat. Why is it that diet culture is so fixated on that like it’s the only factor that contributes to weight loss? I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t matter how much weight you lose, unless you love yourself and love your body you will never really be happy. You will continue to seek out the next diet or restriction you can place on yourself. It is a sad cycle.
The past couple of weeks I have been studying for my exams. The reality is for me, and many others, when studying is an increased food intake. You’re taking in a lot of information and your body needs food and energy to retain that information and provide you with the drive to stay motivated. I am at a point now where I have completely accepted my body for the incredible body that it is. I am strong. I am toned in parts, have fat in others and that is the uniqueness and beauty that is me. I don’t fight my body anymore. If she requests more food she gets it. If she is tired I try and let her rest (this is a work in progress, one thing at a time).
My diet is so varied now, I love trying new things (I am sensing a coriander obsession starting) and encouraging others to do the same. Your “lifestyle” as I defined above shouldn’t be giving you headaches, making you crave things you’re “not allowed” to have, leave you hungry after you have just eaten, make you count down the minutes until you can eat again or restrict you from spending time with your loved ones. It should make you feel satisfied and energised. As we head into my favourite time of the year (Christmas duh) it is time to really re-evaluate. Do you really want to be the person at all the Christmas parties, drinks and celebrations thinking about how any sausage rolls you have eaten from the buffet?
There is no need to hate yourself skinny, perhaps instead you should love yourself healthy. I have said it before and I will say it again, the people that love you will not judge you if you eat dessert or put on a kilo. They want to see you happy and present! The relationship that we have with our self we have for life. Next time you are punishing yourself for eating one too many grapes (I used to do this) consider whether you would have said that to your three-year-old self. The inner child inside of you is just happy being alive, being curious and LIVING! Don’t you think you deserve the same level of joy when you’re making your way over to the dessert table?
Now I want to make it clear that I am not supporting a lifestyle that is constantly filled with junk food because it makes you “happy.” What I want to encourage is people together united in the kitchen cooking delicious meals made with whole foods and then sitting down with your family and friends to enjoy it. I am supporting eating nourishing foods filled with macronutrients and micronutrients that are going to make you feel AMAZING. I am encouraging walks outside in the sun, challenging yourself but not killing yourself on the treadmills to the point you’re about to pass out. It all comes back down to balance. A bit of this and a bit of that. No more extremes!
There is no such thing as the perfect “lifestyle” because no two people live the exact same life. You need to do what works for YOU and YOUR UNBELIEVEABLE BODY! Believe me from what I have been learning in biology the last week, our bodies are so much more incredible than we give them credit for!! LOVE YOURSELF, it is as simple as that!
Could I really punish my three-year-old self for drinking an apple juice with sugar in it by making her run around the playground for an extra half an hour? Think about how you speak to yourself…