Guest Post - Why We Should Ditch the Diet Mentality This Year by Anjanee Kohli
The very first guest post of many. We've posted this a few days earlier simply because talks of diets and detoxes are already doing the rounds. I don't give into this diet/detox mentality. I understand why we do it but the aim is to eat a balanced diet and to create a sustainable way of staying healthy.
Before we start Anjanee's post, may I just share a moment of gratitude with Anjanee herself who has been following my journey of Unleeshd since the very start.
Having her be the very first guest post of 2021 is truly special. Thank you for your support over the years lovely lady! - Alisha, Unleeshd
Why we should ditch the diet mentality this year
Anjanee Kohli is a Registered Dietitian who works in the NHS in the UK, and you can find her on Instagram as @anjanee.dietitian. She’s here to talk to you about how and why we should ditch the diet mentality for New Year’s!
Christmas and New Year’s have been and gone, and this is the time of year you hear everyone saying it’s time to ditch the diet and “detox.” I hope that I can change your mind if you’re thinking of starting a crash diet.
Whilst the New Year provides a lot of opportunities for goal setting, and we have the best intentions when setting resolutions, lots of these are based around dieting. Have you noticed there’s a surge of TV shows around diets at this time of year? The fact that it’s being rammed down our throats isn’t a coincidence, as the diet history is quite literally banking on diets failing.
The UK diet industry is worth an estimated £2bn a year (BHF, 2020) so, in the words of the great DJ Khaled, “They don’t want you to win.” Some estimates suggest the typical diet only lasts 19 days (BHF, 2020). For the diet industry, it’s an easy sell, as if we failed to lose weight the year before, we’re more likely to start another diet this year.
You may be surprised to hear this coming from a dietitian, but we need to stop making resolutions to lose weight. These are usually based on unsustainable diets and unfortunately, research has shown us that they do not work long term.
So what can we do? Failing a diet and gaining weight doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It just means we have to take a different, more sustainable approach. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to make healthier choices that may lead to weight loss. I’m just suggesting that we aim to make small, sustainable changes, and focus on what we can add in, rather than what we should be restricting.
If Keto Karen is telling you to ditch carbs after living on roast potatoes over Christmas, I will go ahead and tell her to politely do one!
Some researchers have suggested it typically takes around 66 days to form healthy habits (BHF, 2020), of course this also varies from person to person, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t implement all of these instantly! So what can we do?
Aim to increase your fluid intake
Cutting out sugary drinks might sound a lot more difficult than just making a resolution to drink more water. If you give yourself a goal to consume 6-8 cups of fluid a day, you’ll likely find that you are reaching for more water and reducing sugary drinks to do this.
Some ways to do this are having a glass of water first thing in the morning, having a herbal tea before bed, and getting yourself a water bottle to keep with you at all times so you’re reminded to drink throughout the day! Having more water can prevent dehydration, help digestion, aid in concentration, and also improve your skin, along with a whole host of other benefits!
Be more physically active
This doesn’t mean making yourself go to the gym everyday, as setting such a ludicrous goal after a fortnight (or longer) of sitting around watching Christmas films might set you up for failure, leaving you feeling burnt out. Have a real think about what kind of exercise you enjoy, not everyone is a runner or enjoys HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I used to go to spin twice a week until I realised how much I bloody hated it, now I go swimming and it doesn’t feel like a chore! If you enjoy something, you’re more likely to keep at it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going for a gentle stroll outdoors for half an hour, as going outdoors in green space is good for our mental and physical health. It can also help to think about where you are with your current level of activity levels and building this up slowly, reducing our sedentary activity (time spent sitting down). In the UK, recommendations suggest:
- doing strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week
- do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week
Exercising intuitively, and focussing on non-weight based benefits will leave us feeling happier and take the pressure off our fitness regime.
Focus on fibre
In the UK, it’s recommended we 30g of fibre per day, but the average adult only has around 18g. Eating enough fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Choosing foods with fibre also makes us feel fuller, which might mean we’re less likely to reach for a sugary hit, helps digestion and prevents constipation.
How can we do this?
● Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, we should be aiming for atleast 5 portions per day!
● Go for wholemeal or granary breads, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat versions of pasta or rice
● Try snacking on things like crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.
● Try a higher-fibre breakfast cereal, or porridge as oats for breakfast
● Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads
Now, I wouldn’t be on Alisha’s blog without suggesting this! After the year we’ve all had, this is more important than ever. We can practice mindfulness in all settings in our life, including eating, you might have heard this being called mindful or intuitive eating. One of the best ways to do this is to remove or reduce distractions while eating, such as watching television or scrolling through Instagram. If you’re reading this while eating dinner, put the cookie/ dinner down!
Implementing other techniques like journalling, or having a good sleep routine might mean we make better choices throughout the day.
Let’s focus on the bigger picture and take a more holistic view on our health.
If we have a plant-based diet, eat some lean protein, eat enough fibre, and drink plenty of water, then a few days of indulgence over Christmas won’t undo this!
It’s especially important to have this mindset after the year we’ve had.