BY LISA RENN
Most people begin a diet to lose weight – even if they have never been successful at losing weight and keeping it off in the past. It’s the cultural norm. It’s what everyone does.
But does that make it right?
Research says dieting is a predictor of future weight gain. Two thirds of people who go on a diet end up putting the weight back on, often ending up heavier than when they started.
The extensive list of problems with diets could fill the page. Many are nutritionally inadequate. Others are based on flawed science. Above all, most diets are unreasonably restrictive and fail to teach you anything about your own unhelpful habits or portion size or how to make your new eating habits work in your life.
Yet, instead of blaming the diet we tend to blame ourselves. We fall in a slump, then try to re-invigorate the flagging motivation for the next onslaught of restrictive eating.
When you examine diets from a behavioural perspective, that is, ‘are we human beings designed to follow rigid plans put upon us by someone else?’ you can begin to see why they don’t work.
Psychologists describe human beings as having three basic needs (self-determination theory):
Autonomy is our need to do things under our own steam. An ancient Greek translation describes autonomy as ‘one who gives one’s self one’s own law’.
Competence is the need to do things well.
Relatedness is our need to feel part of a community.
As an Accredited Practising Dietitian I am often asked for a meal plan – yet this is just another example of a diet – someone else telling you what to eat. I understand the temptation in this– it means you don’t have to think about what to eat and for a busy person that is a godsend. A meal plan will give you some more ideas of the types of meals that suit you and perhaps a better idea of portion sizes – and that is great. However, what if you don’t like the food? What if it’s too complicated to put together? What if it doesn’t suit the rest of the family?
It’s very tempting to look for an easy way out because everyone is so busy. However, a sustainable plan is one that you have created to suit your lifestyle. And above all, for the long term you need a plan that doesn’t restrict everything you love.
Four top tips to creating your ultimate eating plan:
1. Plan your meals and shop once per week: this habit will save you time, money and heartache. Imagine the ease of knowing what you are going to cook each night and having the ingredients there to do it. It means less time in the supermarket, less impulse buying and fewer take-away meals on the run. Set aside half an hour on the weekend before you go shopping to put the plan together and write up your shopping list.
2. Start the day with breakfast: it doesn’t have to be low carb - in fact, recent studies have shown that eating a good whole grain, high-fibre cereal means you live longer. Mix it up. Have cereal one day, an omelette the next and fruit with yoghurt the day after. Variety will mean you get more of all the vital macro- and micronutrients you need.
3. Take lunch from home: it’s a fact that food purchased outside the home generally has more kilojoules than food you make yourself. Plan to take food for lunch and make this part of your weekly shopping list.
4. Build ‘treats’ into the plan: don’t make the high-calorie favourites like chocolate be something you grab in times of need. Emotional eating is the natural enemy of sustainable weight loss. Plan for when you will enjoy a treat. For example: “I will eat one small snack size chocolate bar on Friday night and Sunday night after dinner.” Putting your favourite indulgence into your weekly plan takes out the guilt and naturally decreases your intake.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Renn is a Melbourne-based Accredited Practising Dietitian and a spokesperson for the Dietitians’ Association of Australia. She has 15 years experience creating individual eating plans suited to her clients’ lifestyles. Her mission is that women will know there’s an alternative to restrictive dieting and to teach them that sustainable weight loss is achievable if you avoid the current fad-diet obsession. www.bodywarfare.com.au