If a certain diet really worked, then everyone who wanted to lose weight would be on it, right?! Diets for short-term weight loss may work for some, however are they really sustainable long term? Are you trading in your health just to have a slimmer body and will you gain the weight back as soon as you come off the diet? People in today’s world, are often time poor, want an instant result, but in reality there is no quick-fix. Diets are a multi-million dollar industry, they will throw in every advertising trick in the trade to make you think and believe this is the answer to losing weight. All I can say is dieter beware, there really is no quick-fix and there is definitely not a one size diet that fits all.

Humans enjoy eating, we should be able to enjoy our food. The trouble arises from the easy availability of fast/processed food and sugar addiction. Our eating habits have not gone, for some at least, in the right healthy direction. The most readily way to lose weight is to cut out all junk/processed foods, sugar and trans fats. Start eating healthy, natural and nutritious dense foods, organic where possible. Cut out most, if not all, processed foods, start cooking from scratch if you can. Include foods such as lean protein, pulses, eggs and beans, cut down on red meat and include more fish, if you are not vegetarian or vegan. Eat an abundance of vegetables every day, in every colour of the rainbow, the more the merrier. Try a daily green juice, add superfoods to your diet. Adding herbs and spices is a great way to add flavour and gives a nutrition boost to any meal. Try and eat two to three pieces of fruit a day, no more as fruit still contains natural sugars, therefore you do not want to overdo it. Create healthy snacks to keep in the fridge to tie you over to your next meal if you need it, think carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus, so yummy! Drink at least 2 litres of filtered water a day, no fizzy drinks or fruit juice, include herbal teas and cut back on alcohol. Avoid low fat foods, as the alternatives are often laden with sugar or chemical sweeteners. Dieters also tend to think carbohydrates are the enemy, however we need to include some daily healthy carbohydrates, as our body converts it into glucose which is our body’s main form of energy. By cutting carbohydrates drastically, you will be seriously lacking energy, which you will need to do all that healthy exercise right? Include brown rice, whole-wheat and quinoa and avoid white rice/pasta, unless you are gluten intolerant or have coeliac disease, then you may like to try quinoa, rice or millet. Dieters are also often scared of fats, however your body needs healthy fats to function and absorb fat soluble vitamins. Include healthy fats such as polyunsaturated fats and omega-3’s, they help manage your moods, strengthen your immune system, fight fatigue and control your weight, try including avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil and non-salted nuts.

Exercise also plays an important role in helping to stay fit and trim, it helps to maintain and improve our cardiovascular system, improve muscle tone and our fitness levels. It also helps with our mood, releasing important feel good chemicals in our brain, this in turn will lift our mood and perhaps motivate us more to eat healthier and keep exercising, winner all round I say!

Certain diets like the 5:2 diet has had many health claims, even though in reality there hasn’t been that many scientific studies conducted, a few studies on rats and very few on humans. If you restrict your calories, then you are not putting so much junk food into your body, which may improve diabetes type 2 and may prevent heart disease. Some claim that it actually impacted negatively on women’s fertility and periods, also creating more bad moods and headaches. In addition, you have to be careful of your blood sugar levels, note if you feel faint or have dizziness etc. Diabetic and pregnant/breastfeeding women should avoid this type of diet and any restrictive calorie counting diet without consulting their health practitioner first. On the two days of cutting calories or with any restrictive diet, you may also be cutting back on valuable nutrients such as vitamins, calcium and iron to name but a few. Again be aware, make sure the days you are eating you are eating enough healthy foods and nourishing your body. No long-term research has been done on this diet, maybe it’s another fad diet that is a quick-fix, however if done long term with like with any restrictive calorie diet, it may cause health problems. Nevertheless like with all diets, one diet doesn’t fit all and if this works for you, you are losing fat, not muscle, you are feeling great, with no nutrient deficiencies or health problems, then you have to do what is right for you.

Restricting your calories to any less than 800 calories a day may have a negative health impact and consequences, such as tiredness, nausea, constipation and/or diarrhea, gallstones, heart problems, anemia, gout and electrolyte imbalances. Have you ever noticed these ultra-skinny people, constantly working out and restricting calories, then when they hold their arms up they seem to still have loose skin under their arms? Often the reason is by restricting calories your body goes into survival mode and as it’s not receiving the energy it needs it starts to actually break down muscle to survive. So when you step on those scales you may see the kilos coming off, however, make sure it’s for the right reasons, not because you are losing muscle mass, but rather you are losing fat. As we get older, from every year onwards from your thirties, we start to lose muscle, particularly if we are inactive. It starts making us look older, our posture starts deteriorating, our bones are not as well supported and it’s harder to lose weight etc. Making sure we get the best possible nutrition and healthy balanced diet is critical to maintaining muscle mass, in addition to performing exercise and strength training.

Dr Robert Portman, a well-known sports science researcher says ironically severe calorie restrictions are unnecessary and states as the body loses more muscle mass, the body’s overall metabolic rate decreases, since a resting muscle cells burns almost eight times energy per day than a fat cell. A recent study showed that a group that maintained a 200-calorie-per-day deficit lost as much weight in six months as a group that maintained a 750-calorie-per-day deficit. The bottom line: if you want to lose fat, not muscle, a moderate diet plan is the only way to go.

So if you are drastically and quickly dropping weight it most probably is not a good thing!

On restricted calorie diets, some people reported of their body crying out for energy and not functioning at their optimal best. If you feel tired and lifeless, you have to ask yourself is this the diet the way forward? If we are punishing our body through any diet and/or exercise you have to be careful of not pushing your body into the stressed dominance mode, igniting the nervous system into fight or flight, this will then have a negative health impact and perhaps even may encourage your body to hold onto fat. If we are correctly nourishing the body then we should feel full of life, full of vitality, clear-minded and healthy. Your body is an intelligent biological, electrical and spiritual organism. It will intellectually know when it’s being nourished by the right food, you will beam from every cell in your body and you will radiate energy like a shining light.

Fad diets are restrictive, may make you crave certain foods more and may make you feel hungrier, they usually don’t make you happy and long-term don’t typically work. If you are overweight, or even slim people who want to be slimmer, first try and look within and embrace your emotional side. Ask yourself why you are over-eating or eating the wrong foods, then be kind to yourself when you unravel some of the answers. Much of the time it’s not only our physical appearance we are unhappy with, it’s also our inner-self, our state of mind, thinking if only we were a bit skinner, it will solve all my problems and I will then be happy, this is often not the case. So try and dig deep, look within and learn to love yourself first, whatever size you are. Of course if you are overweight and start becoming healthier, then that can often jumpstart and encourage us to be more confident and happier which is a great thing. However, remember we want a healthy happy mind as well as a healthy body too, so that we embrace our healthy lifestyle change and learn to have a good relationship with food and exercise. Furthermore, be mindful when you are eating, slow-down, enjoy the senses, taste, smell, the look of your food, really get in touch with what you are feeling and tasting.

There are so many complex, multi-faceted psychological and physical reasons for weight gain, and depends on so many factors that the list and explanation would take far too long, factors such as emotional, hormone imbalances, hereditary, environment, intolerances, toxicities, allergies, metabolic, the list goes on, but this is just touching the top of the ice cap.

I would advise to stop looking for the quick-fix, look within and start feeding your body and mind with healthier natural, clean non-processed, nutrient dense foods and start exercise, yes exercise! Even if you start off with a ten-minute walk a day. In additon, mediate, do breathing exercises to calm the mind, we want as less stress in the body as possible. The healthier you get, the less stressed you will hopefully become, the more energy you will have to exercise and embrace new eating habits.

Over time you will start to naturally lose weight, you will start to feel healthier and you will start to feel happier. Long-term it is easier to sustain, you will be full of vitality, not suppressed or starved. You will also start to notice the changes and most importantly will not be harming your body, but preventing any health problems and improving your long-term health and wellbeing. After all, isn’t that deep down what we are all aiming for and truly desire?

Originally published at medium.com