We have all tried a fad diet plan at some point in our lives. Losing weight for a wedding, a holiday, an important date, we often just put our bodies through some drastic diet changes that allow us to lose weight quickly. The truth is the weight will start creeping back just as quickly and we will blame our lack in will power for the repeated weight gain. The reality is all fad diets are unsustainable on a long run. They are far too restrictive to be healthy and teach us nothing about real nutrition.
Proteins are responsible for growth, maintenance and repair of the body. Every living cell and some tissues, like skin, hair, muscle, tendons and ligaments are made of protein. Proteins also perform various physiological functions. Digestion, for instance, is based on a series of chemical reactions controlled by enzymes which are proteins. Antibodies are also proteins. These are produced by white blood cells and help us fight off infections. Proteins are made of amino acids, 8 essential and 12 non-essential ones. The former cannot be made by our body and need to be provided by our diet, the latter can be produced by our bodies if in short supply.
The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy. Carbohydrates are always converted into glucose by our bodies before they are used as energy by cells. Glucose is stored in the muscles and in the liver and is used by muscles to contract when the exercise intensity is high.
Even if some believe that fats are bad for our diet, they have some very important functions. Protection of organs, control of body temperature, growth, repair and development of body tissues, uptake and storage of fat soluble vitamins, supply essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6, just to name a few. In particular, the essential fatty acids (EFA) are extremely important for the prevention of heart disease, blood clots, transport of oxygen by red blood cells, controlling and reducing lipids in the blood. They are called essential because, like the essential amino acids, they cannot be produced by our bodies and need to be supplied by our diet.
It is very clear, reading through the above, how extremely important all macro-nutrients are for the correct and efficient function of our body. A balanced diet should consist of 50-70% of carbohydrates, 10-30 of proteins and 10-30% of fats. The percentages vary depending on the goals each individual wants to achieve, their physical activity, the intensity and type of physical activity and to some extent, age and gender. They should be applied to the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) of each individual as we all have different calorie requirements.
Here are the most common reasons your diet is letting you down.
- You are following the latest fad diet
As mentioned before, Fad diets provide quick fixes, nothing else. The weight will drop off quickly and be piled back on just as quickly. The unsustainable nature of these eating regime is make them impossible to be adopted in the long run. Aim for a balanced diet that includes all macronutrients in the right percentage for your goals as explained before. Eat three main meals and two snacks to keep your sugar levels up and keep you away from irrational food choices when you are hungry.
- You might eat more than you think you are
Most people underestimate how much they eat. Keeping a food diary is the best way to keep those calories under control. Many calories also come from hidden nutrients, those that we usually don’t take into consideration because they are so minimal we think they are irrelevant. Think of low-calorie drinks or low sugar sweets. Even if they contain 10, 20 or 30 calories per item, if during the day you take in five of them, It adds up to 50-150 calories a day, 350-1050 calories a week. That alone could be the difference between losing weight and not.
- You try to lose weight too quickly
If you try to lose too much weight too quickly, you are likely to eat too little and setting yourself an unrealistic goal. Undereating will leave you feeling exhausted, low in energy, moody and at some point will lead you to overeating. Eating too little also sends your body into “starvation” mode. Your system will hold onto fat to survive, exactly the opposite to what you want to achieve. Choose a rate of weight loss that is realistic and sustainable. 1-2 pounds a week is reasonable. It doesn’t sound like a lot but remember the weight that you lose slowly is one you will keep off.
- You are not being kind to yourself
Breakdown your total weight loss into several smaller goals and treat yourself when you reach them. If you have 20 pounds to lose, reward yourself every time you lose 4 or 5 pounds. Celebrate! You have come one step closer to your finishing line. Whether you saw an amazing little red dress you have been wanting to buy for ages or you have found tickets to see your favourite team play… Go for it! You have earned it! It is all about feeling good in more than one way. The ultimate way is looking and feeling great about finally managing to change your eating habits for good. Learning how to keep your weight under control because you have learnt about your NEEDS and not your WANTS is a step in the right direction to a healthier lifestyle, one that you can apply to your whole family.