Are you happy with your body? We all want to say yes to, but most say no. We live in a society obsessed with perfection and women struggle to live up to the standards set upon us. Cosmopolitan magazine could fill their pages with thought-provoking articles, but you’re more likely to find a piece on Kim Kardashian’s beauty tips rather than a piece on global warming. We want to be slim and we’ll do anything to achieve a flat stomach, but are we damaging our bodies?
Atkins, Dukan, Stillman…Oh Why?!
There are so many diets out there if we mentioned them all this post would rival War and Peace, but some of the most popular include Atkins, Dukan and The South Beach Diet. Years ago, specialists advised people to lower their fat intake, but since the 1990s, the focus has been on low-carbohydrate diets.
Let us be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to shed some pounds. In fact, studies have shown that obesity can cause an array of health problems. Exercise decreases body fat and improves our health but hectic schedules leave people little time to hit the gym. Instead, we turn to diets hoping to achieve a body to rival Carmen Electra, but do they work?
In the 1960s Dr. Robert Atkins developed his infamous low-carb based diet. The premise was simple; eat all the protein you want, but ditch the carbs. The Atkins diet is probably the most famous and is especially popular among celebrities. In recent years we’ve seen other carbohydrate excluding diets including the Dukan and South Beach regimes, but do they work?
The Balancing Act
Cutting our carbohydrates and focusing on protein-rich foods works in theory, but the reality is dieting is a short-term fix and rarely works long term. Restricting carbohydrates is difficult, and many people find they gain weight once they re-introduce carbs into their diet. Our bodies need a healthy balance of all food groups, and carbohydrates balance our blood glucose levels.
It’s In The Mind
Motivation comes from the mind, not the body. Every action we perform is triggered by signals our brains send to the body, but people often forget this. If you don’t have a healthy mind, you’ll never achieve the body you dream of. Restricting foods can leave people miserable, depressed and anxious.
Dieting is renowned for decreasing peoples moods, and the stress of restricting foods can leave some people feeling hopeless.
Do you remember when you were younger, and someone told you not to look? You looked, didn’t you? It’s human nature to want what we’re told we cannot have and dieting is a form of self-punishment. Stress can lower your resolve and a hectic day at work might cause a massive binge. If we can’t have something, we want it!
When Dieting Becomes Dangerous
Everyone wants a quick fix to their weight loss efforts, but quick fixes never work. Women often fall victim to the scams that promise they’ll lose 10lbs in a week because it’s easier than committing to regular exercise. Statistics from the USA show that the diet industry is worth $66 billion, and there is an abundance of supplements and pills available.
The scariest thing about diet pills is there’s no real scientific proof they work. People will spend $50 on a pack of pills that have the most innovative ingredients, but these supplements receive no backing from Doctors and diet specialists.
Phentermine is the most effective diet pill, but it was banned in the UK due to the risks it poses to an individuals health. The powerful appetite suppressant increases the risk of heart attacks, but people still buy Phentermine based products on the internet. Unfortunately, the web has made it easier for people to purchase banned products, and few listen to the fact that the most effective pills can be deadly.
As we mentioned before, our bodies need a healthy balance of nutrients to function correctly, but our determination to be thin means we restrict our intakes to achieve a short term weight loss goal. The worst culprits are detox diets, which cause more harm than good.
Detoxing involves limiting your calorie intake and restricting most foods. The most popular methods of detoxing are fasting and liquid-based diets. Juice diets can help people shed up to 5lbs within days, so it‘s easy to see why they’re so popular! However, days of consuming liquid leave you feeling weak, lethargic and frustrated.
When we starve ourselves, we deplete our bodies energy reserves which affects how we function. The weight loss we achieve through detoxing cannot be maintained, as the calorie restriction is too severe. Whatever you lose with a detox diet, you’ll gain back so there’s little point in suffering when there’s no real benefit.
Is There An Alternative?
If people don’t have the time to exercise daily and dieting doesn’t offer long-term results then what’s the answer? Advocates are asking people to take a healthier approach to lose weight in the form of intuitive eating.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
Intuitive Eating is an alternative to dieting and focuses on healing the mind and body from the negative effects of food restriction. Dieting can cause a multitude of problems including lowered self-esteem, bingeing, mistrust of food and depression, but intuitive eating aims to encourage people to have a healthy relationship with food.
The emphasis of intuitive eating is to acknowledge and accept hunger instead of ignoring it. People often associate hunger with greed, but it’s our bodies way of letting us know it needs nourishment. When we restrict our intake, we damage our body and it’s not afraid to tell us! Intuitive eaters listen to their body and are less prone to binges, so it’s a healthier relationship with food.
How Does It Work?
Intuitive eating isn’t a diet, and there are no restrictions on which foods you can eat. Instead, there are ten principles.
The first step in your journey is to reject everything you think you know. Throw away your magazines and delete your dieting apps. It’s difficult to do this, but to change your thinking, you have to reject the negative influences. You’ll probably have friends who are dieting, but intuitive eating is all about thinking outside of the box.
Imagine going without water for hours in hot weather. The moment you have access to water, you’ll consume it quickly because your body needs it. Intuitive eating requires you to honor your hunger, meaning keeping your body satisfied. Doing this means you’re less likely to binge on unhealthy foods.
It’s time to put your issues with food aside and embrace it again. Dieting teaches us to fear certain foods, which leads to a negative association. Telling yourself a type of food is bad will make you crave it more, so accept all foods into your diet.
Give yourself a break! You bought a bar of chocolate at the supermarket and ate it, so what? We can’t punish ourselves for enjoying a treat now and again, so challenge those negative thoughts and don’t beat yourself up.
When you’re enjoying a meal, you want to finish it. However, your body will send you signals when it’s had enough. That feeling of fullness is your bodies way of telling you to stop, so listen to it and accept that your stomach knows when it’s full.
In Japanese culture, happiness is one secret to healthy living. Unfortunately, western culture places success above everything else. Our drive to be the best leaves us feeling miserable and sets you up for defeat. Allow yourself to enjoy the foods you like to eat, just do it in moderation.
Sometimes life gets to us, and we have to deal with depression, stress, and anxiety. It’s good to have coping mechanisms, but some people engage in negative behaviours. If you’re the type of person to use food to fill a hole, then it’s time to find more productive ways to handle your emotions. This useful guide can help you reduce stress without overeating.
In an ideal world, we’d all have fast metabolisms and flat stomachs but the reality is different. Your body has its own genetic make-up, and some of us simply aren’t meant to be a size 8! Accept your body and place your health above how much you weigh. Striving for perfection makes people miserable, and there are many body types. Once you know and accept yours, life will be much easier.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to benefit from exercise. One of the best ways to get fit and healthy is to do something you enjoy. Whether it’s swimming, playing tennis or going for a walk, you’ll still burn calories.
Intuitive eating isn’t about what you eat in the short-term, but how you balance your long-term eating habits. Eating pizza and chips every day isn’t a good idea, but if you enjoy all foods in moderation, you’ll feel more satisfied. Maintain a consistent eating regime, but allow yourself regular treats.
Is There Evidence it Works?
While it’s a new concept, intuitive eating is a positive alternative to traditional dieting. A study published in Psychology Today proved that practising intuitive eating can at the very least help people to maintain a healthy weight. Research conducted by scientists showed that some participants lost weight, and all participants were healthier both mentally and physically.
A big part of intuitive eating is the combination of exercise and the study showed that when people undertake enjoyable pursuits, their blood pressure improved. What we can take away from the research is that intuitive eating works best with a combination of exercise. However, while most diets advise intense workouts, the intuitive regime places pleasure as one of its core values.
To Diet or Not to Diet?
We see dieting as a convenient way to lose weight quickly, but is it worth the effort? Women often indulge during the colder seasons, then get in shape for summer. Beach holidays, summer clothes and improved moods can contribute to the motivation for dieting, but the effects don’t last. For some people, Yo-Yo dieting is a way of life they’ve become accustomed to, but is there another way?
If you’re a seasonal dieter, you’ll probably experience significant fluctuations in your weight. If you’re a size 14 in the winter and a size 10 in the summer, then it’s probably due to the way you restrict your food intake. However, wouldn’t it be better to be a size 12 all year? This is what intuitive eating does and why it’s much safer than dieting. Maintaining a consistent weight is healthier than experiencing the fluctuations associated with extreme dieting.
Intuitive eating may not offer the drastic changes in appearance dieting does, but it leads to a healthier lifestyle. When we accept our natural body type, we can let all negative influences go and learn to love ourselves. The supermodels we see in magazines are Photoshopped and celebrities look so amazing because they can afford to. For us ordinary people without nannies to care for our kids and a hectic work schedule, spending hours a day in the gym isn’t possible. Once we accept that the standards society puts upon us aren’t achievable, we can learn to be happy.
Companies are altering their advertising efforts to appeal to the everyday woman and magazines are including plus-sized women. Cosmopolitan recently introduced a size 24 woman on their magazine cover, and celebrities are speaking out about the unrealistic expectations Hollywood places on them to look perfect. Organisations such as The Body Image Movement promote all body types, so our perceptions of perfection are changing.
There’s no doubt it will take time for people to accept their body shapes, but intuitive eating might pave the way for a healthy and happy life. You can find more information about intuitive eating here.