Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: New Year, New You from New York City!

Image courtesy of eventa.co.uk
Well the good news is we're already one step ahead! We made it to 2013 (apparently the Mayans weren't as prophetic as we thought)! Phew.

So now that things are back to business as usual, it's time to get on with the business of resolutions. If you're like most people, your resolutions probably involve some sort of weight loss goal. You're not alone. Many Americans will jump on the diet bandwagon, most likely in the form of a fad diet, a diet promising instant results so you can fit into that bathing suit you wore in college.

I'm here to save you the trouble. You can thank me later.

The word diet is confusing. On one hand, it refers to a way of eating, a pattern often dictated by culture. On the other end of the spectrum, a diet can refer to a restrictive way of eating in hopes of dropping a few pounds. Here's the problem with looking at diets in this restrictive way. Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down?

They don't work.

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It doesn't take a genius to figure this out. The statistics speak for themselves - almost 95% of all people who lose weight through dieting gain the weight back within 1-5 years, with many gaining back more weight than they started with. Here's why...

Your body is smart. It's meant to survive. It instinctively knows how to do that. When you begin to drastically restrict your caloric intake, your body goes into survival mode by slowing your metabolism. The more you cut back, the more your metabolism slows. It's a nasty catch-22, making it nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off permanently. You know as well as I do that it's already hard enough to stick to a diet! Intense caloric restriction just makes it that much harder because as your metabolism slows, you have to eat less and less to keep losing weight. Talk about discouraging.

In addition to metabolism issues, many fad diets specifically lack the nutrients that your body needs to function properly, support your weight loss efforts and maintain your health. Just take the high protein diets for example. Many people lose weight eating in this way, but the consequence in packing your body with so much protein (and lots of animal protein at that, which is extremely high in saturated fat) is a sharp increase in your cholesterol, which could lead to heart disease or stroke. In addition, consuming too much protein puts a major strain on the kidneys, making you much more susceptible to kidney disease. Your body needs carbohydrates, and when you're restricting this important part of your diet, you're losing important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Most people look at their New Year's diet as a short-term action plan. They hold to a particular way of eating until the weight is lost, then 'wa lah!' they are right back to their old patterns of eating. If you had high cholesterol and took medication to lower it, would you just discontinue using the medication as soon as your cholesterol came down? Probably not! Your cholesterol improved for a reason - because you took your medicine every day. The same goes for a diet. Instead of looking to a fad diet for a quick, short-term fix, being to think of your diet as a long-term, sustainable, healthy eating plan for life - a plan that makes you feel good, satisfies you and keeps your body in tip-top shape.

You only get one body, and it's your job to take care of it. When you start to treat your body like you would your child - feeding it, nurturing it, making sure it gets the rest and care it deserves  - you will automatically begin to see the changes you desire in your waistline, not to mention drastic changes in your energy levels and well-being.

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Instead of going the fad diet route, I encourage you to explore the concept of 'crowding out'. Instead of telling yourself you 'can't have this/can't have that', focus on what you CAN have. Start to 'crowd out' your temptations with things that are good for you. A great place to start would be eating one big salad per day. This is a simple goal. If you make room for one big salad every day, I guarantee you won't have room for all the other calorie-dense foods that you're accustomed to eating. As you adopt this one simple addition on a daily basis, your taste buds will begin to change and so will your cravings. Your body knows what's good for it and when given the chance, it will begin to crave healthy options like it's instinctively wired to do. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, but very filling due to their fiber content. I'll bet that you can eat much more of them without ever coming close to your previous caloric intake. Why eat less when you could eat more?

Whether your goal is to eat a salad every day or just to add a side of vegetables to every meal, your resolution for the new year should center around nutrition, not weight loss. When you feed your body the proper things, your body will do you one better and reward you with the physique you spent years trying to attain through fad diets and the empty promises behind them.

Let your resolution this year be to nourish your body through nutritious eating and daily physical activity. It's as simple as that!

Happy New Year from New York City!

Oh...and P.S. If you need help reaching your weight loss, nutrition or healthy living goals in the new year, I am a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and I will be officially accepting clients in April. Please feel free to email me at laurenyarbrough@gmail.com to inquire about my services.

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