In the words of that Bob Dylan song, times they…
How do you reboot the desire to eat more healthily… and stick to it?
Spring is approaching, evenings are lighter, the sun is rearing its familiar face and there’s an air of anticipation for another heatwave summer, but one thing may be leaving some of us feeling somewhat dispirited…
The most common New Year’s resolution, alongside participating in exercise, is to eat more healthily. According to U.S. News and World report, 80% of people have abandoned these good intentions by February.
We are continually reminded that eating healthily helps prevent poor health, boosts self-esteem and improves quality of life, yet the obesity crisis is on the rise. So why do we return to old habits by fuelling ourselves on sugar-coated guilt and lashings of self-doubt with extra cream?
Which diet is the right diet?
There’s no doubt that everyone and his mother has an opinion on what ‘healthy eating’ means. Low-carb, paleo, ketogenic, detox, vegan, fasting, gluten-free, juicing, high-protein, cleanse… what one diet advocates another trashes, causing the best of us a bit of a headache when trying to decipher the most effective approach to dietary harmony.
Many of these fad diets’ safety and efficacy have not been monitored in the long-term, have high rates of non-compliance and our lifestyles and bodies have evolved significantly since we emerged as loincloth-clad cavemen. Terms such as ‘detox’ and ‘cleanse’ carry no scientific merit – they mean nothing, and such diets are not able to take a scrubbing brush to our insides as suggested. The only thing able to detox the body is the liver, if that’s not doing its job, then we’re in trouble. No quantity of eye-wateringly expensive Chinese algae magic capsules will enhance or hurry this process along.
Incorporating all food groups in the recommended quantities is central to success as elimination may place us at risk for nutrient deficiencies, mood disturbances and non-compliance (with exception to those who have genuine medical reasons for eliminating foods). We even place ourselves at risk for undesirable weight gain because we either binge more regularly due to hunger or boredom or replace one food group with another e.g. replacing starchy carbohydrates for protein reduces our intake of dietary fibre (complex starchy carbohydrates have significant associations with weight loss and management) and increases our intake of saturated fat (protein sources are often derived from animal products, which are higher in saturated fat than starchy carbohydrates).
The Eatwell Guide is a great visual representation of how much of what food group we should be including each mealtime. Good nutrition does not have to carry a premium price tag and is accessible to everybody. There is no quick fix, no wonder supplement and no way to cheat ourselves to health.
Variety is key.