by Shrishthi Brahmarupa
The short answer is, no – they don’t. The health experts were right. A healthy, balanced diet will do more to help you lose weight in the long term, but starving yourself is always a bad idea.
What happens with most ‘starve-yourself-skinny’ diets is this: while you may lose weight temporarily by depriving yourself of food, you’ll also mess up your normal metabolism and shock your body into ‘starvation mode’. When this happens, your body will start preparing to conserve more energy instead of burning it.
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ couldn’t be more true. Think about this; the food you consume is constantly transforming into bits and pieces of your body – it gets digested and broken down, then replaces old, worn and dead cells. The better the quality of your food, the better the ‘quality’ of the body built from it. Now, what kind of results can one expect from a diet consisting of mainly factory-processed, synthetic-additive-laden or stale food?
So guess what happens when you start eating normally again, or lose control and go on a food binge? Bingo. Your body stores more calories than usual. This is why on-and-off dieting (and extreme dieting) is bad for you in the long term.
So what’s a better solution? Eating better and ‘eating cleaner’ consistently. Practise moderation and make educated choices when it comes to your food. Think long term, because it takes time for diet changes to reflect in your body.
What you should aim for is healthy weight and a fit, strong body. Also, be realistic about your expectations. If you have a naturally bigger frame, you may never be skinny, even at your healthiest point.
On the other hand, if you’re lean no matter what you eat, it’s unwise to push your body too hard to artificially ‘bulk up’. This will put unnecessary strain on your system. Respect your body and how it naturally works. If you know you’re exercising adequately, eating clean and nourishing food, getting the rest you need and generally living a fairly healthy lifestyle, that’s good enough. Keep your fitness and health goals realistic and don’t harm your body.
Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates, oils and fats are not bad for you. You actually need them in your diet so your body functions at an optimum level. For instance, you do need healthy fats and quality oils in your diet to keep your skin supple and your systems well-lubricated – you can get these from extra-virgin olive oil, ahimsa dairy products, unprocessed nuts and grains and ripe avocados (monounsaturated fat).
The real culprits are overly-processed foodstuff with cheap, synthetic ingredients (preservatives, artificial color, etc). These are hard for your body to break down, digest and absorb effectively. These foods also leave all kinds of unhealthy residue in your system (known as ama in Ayurveda) and can cause various health issues like gas, bloating and allergies.
And that’s not all. Hardcore dieting can leech your body of important nutrients, causing lethargy, weakness, fainting, weak immunity, dry skin, acne, cracked heels and worse. Always aim for fresh, vitamin and mineral-rich foods.
Here are a few quick lists (with examples) to help improve your diet as a long-term solution to weight management.
Foods to Avoid:
- Processed carbohydrates (factory-made noodles, instant porridge)
- Refined sugar (white cane sugar)
- Low-grade cooking oil (recycled cooking oil)
- Leftovers (no longer than 2 days in the refridgerator)
- Margerine (all kinds)
- Unrefrigerated cooked food (Ayurvedically considered unfit for consumption after 3 hours)
- Processed fruit juices
Healthy Food Substitutes:
- Honey, brown sugar, palm sugar, molasses and jaggery (instead of white sugar)
- Wholemeal bread (instead of white bread)
- Unpolished, parboiled or brown rice
- Fresh milk (instead of recombined or powdered milk)
- Extra virgin or virgin vegetable oils (instead of fractionated oils)
- Whole grains (instead of processed grains)
- Wholemeal flour (instead of white flour)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables (instead of canned or preserved)
Additional Eat-Healthy Tips:
- Consume something fresh every day (fruits or vegetables)
- Match each serving of carbohydrates with an equal-sized serving of fresh produce
- Eat normally for breakfast and lunch, but prepare a nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate dinner (e.g. a large bowl of salad with a few cubes of feta cheese, plus a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil)
A Final Note
Never torment your body for the sake of unrealistic ideals portrayed by the media. You may never be supermodel-skinny even at your healthiest point, and that’s perfectly okay.
Love your body, respect it, appreciate it and help it stay healthy. It’s been working hard for you since the day you were born, through millions of complex bodily processes every single day.
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