Balanced eating habits
We asked ourselves, why is it that so many people take a more pronounced perspective at different times of the year, only to realise that reality doesn’t catch up with expectations and the gap between what should happen and what really happens remains considerable?
Scientists from the University of California looked at the effectiveness of obesity treatments1 in the US and found that most diets have no positive effect on weight management. There must be a reason why most people gain the weight back they’ve lost during dieting, and more than 40% gain even more weight.
So the typical outcome of dieting seems to be weight gain in the long term, instead of the desired weight loss.
In another study, scientists looked at the relative risk of death in relation to four healthy habits2: eating enough fruits and vegetables, exercising (at least three times a week), not smoking and drinking in moderation. The study found that adopting each of these habits would decrease the relative risk of death for normal weight people. But more interestingly, it showed, that the same was true for overweight or obese people.
This means that taking control of your health doesn’t necessarily mean to lose weight but to take control of your lifestyle and by developing a thorough understanding about your own body.
This may sound easier than it actually is.
Learning to eat mindfully
Everyone has their own way to metabolise food and in a hectic lifestyle we rarely have the time to sit down and eat healthy and undistractedly. Yet, this may be a good thing to learn: how to eat mindfully3.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to learn meditation. It means to eat as much as you want and to gradually learn which foods make your body feel good. It also means to eat regularly, without distractions and to keep your mind on how the food you’re eating actually tastes.
It’s normal to enjoy the first taste of your food, but then find that your mind drifts off elsewhere, often unconsciously. Keeping your mind on your taste is a good way to learn about how your body reacts to food. Eating a bit slower will also give you a clearer indication of when you’re actually full and keep you from overeating. On that note, smaller plates will also help to develop a more conscious understanding of your food.
Ideally you’ll understand how your body reacts to different kinds of food. This might help you relax a bit more towards what you eat and how much you eat of it.
What to eat?
What you eat matters. Carbohydrates should form an essential part of your daily diet. Many people choose to maintain a low-carb diet or to cut carbohydrates out entirely, however they’re an essential macronutrient and a valuable energy source. They serve as the main energy supply for your body and help keep your organs functioning properly. They also help fill you up which makes them an important food to eat when you’re trying to be mindful and focus on how different foods make you feel. It’s all about balance. A healthy diet should include more nutritious complex carbohydrates (vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains), than simple carbohydrate that contain little to no nutritional value.
Wholegrain starchy foods contain the most nutrients, such as fibre, calcium, B vitamins and iron. Think wholemeal bread, pasta, rice or breakfast cereals. Fruits and vegetables, such as root vegetables, are good sources too.
A healthy balanced diet should also include protein and fats. Protein, from sources such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, pulses and soya, also helps provide energy. But most importantly, protein supplies you with essential amino acids. Often known as the building blocks, amino acids are essential for growth, repair and development in your body.
A small amount of fat is good for you, as it contains essential fatty acids. Good sources of healthy fats include oily fish, meat and nuts.
Food and metabolism
When you’re trying to find more balance in the foods you eat and the foods you avoid, it can also help to consider the many aspects that can influence your metabolism.
Everyone reacts differently to foods, but generally speaking proteins are more difficult to digest than carbohydrates or fats. This doesn’t mean they’re not important – they are. It’s all about balance and getting the right amount for your needs.
Eating habits and metabolism are influenced by the stress levels we experience in our lives. Health conditions, such as allergies can have a major influence on your metabolism, as can age and activity levels.
Like it or not, men generally have a faster, higher metabolism than women. Things change as you get older, as your metabolism naturally slows down. Finally, your weight plays a part too, as it influences how fast you can retrieve nutrients from food. The more weight you carry, the lower your metabolism tends to be.
There’s much to learn when trying to find a balanced approach to food and wellbeing. Drastically reducing your calorie intake might show an immediate effect, but to successfully adjust your weight to a level you’re comfortable with takes much learning and time.
Changing your behaviour, compassionately and slowly is a long-term endeavour that can yield many results, from feeling more positive about your own body to becoming healthier and having more energy. So, finding your own balance and learning which foods are good for you might just be a realistic path to take this year.