I hate the word “diet”!
At least, I hate what it has come to mean in today’s society… a quick fix, a temporary deviance from our normal lifestyle. Its primary goal is to lose weight (with little emphasis on improving health).
Because diets do not involve permanent lifestyle changes, studies show that they usually result in the person returning to his previous habits and gaining back all the weight he lost (and even more!)
But that’s not all. Dieting is not only ineffective; it can also be dangerous to your health.
Here’s why dieting is bad for you:
- Repeatedly losing and gaining weight (yo-yo dieting) has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and decreased immune function.
- The stress of dieting causes your body to produce cortisol, a hormone which actually causes you to gain weight!
- The psychological effects of constantly depriving yourself are extensive and long-term. Dieting teaches us to obsess over and focus too much on our food. It can lead to depression and poor self-esteem.
- As children, we instinctively know when we’re hungry and when we’ve had enough to eat. Dieting teaches us to ignore these signals and instead focus on how much we “should be eating” because we are on a diet.
But at the same time, obesity has become an enormous global problem. Saudi Arabia was ranked second in the world for highest rates of female obesity.
A staggering 40-50% of women in Saudi Arabia and Egypt are obese.
So if dieting doesn’t work, how do I lose weight?
Here are 15 tips for achieving, and maintaining, a healthy self:
- DON’T count calories! An avocado and a candy bar may have the same amount of calories, but the avocado is infinitely better for your health. It’s packed with healthy fats and vitamins, while the candy bar is mostly empty calories.
- Instead of counting calories, focus on fueling your body with nourishing, wholesome foods. Cut out the processed, fake foods. Is your kitchen filled with foods in boxes and bags? Check the labels of everything you buy, and make sure they contain natural ingredients without preservatives and artificial substances. These foods contain high amounts of sugar, salt, and chemicals which cause you to crave more and never feel satisfied. Think about it, you may have binged on a bag of potato chips or biscuits, but have you ever binged on apples or oranges?
- Decrease your intake of grains and carbohydrates (refined sugar, rice, bread, etc). Many packaged foods contain large amounts of hidden sugar, another reason to avoid them.
- Eat lots of healthy fats and protein.
- organic pastured eggs.
- nuts & seeds.
- coconut oil.
- olive oil.
- butter (preferable from grass-fed cows).
- grass-fed beef.
- pastured chicken.
- Eat lots of probiotics foods. These foods provide beneficial bacteria which are essential to the health of your gut, and to your overall health.
- Drink mostly water (juices and soda contain a lot of sugar).
- Plan, plan, plan! This includes planning your next meal or snack, and planning when you will exercise. Waiting until you’re hungry to figure out what you will eat is a recipe for disaster! That’s usually when you find yourself making poor choices.
- Include strength training in your exercise routine. Studies show that you continue to burn calories for up to 38 hours after a strength training workout!
- Find joy in your relationship with food, rather than temporary pleasure followed by guilt and depression. After you cut out processed foods, you will find that your taste buds will change. Honestly, you will find yourself craving a bright, colorful, nourishing salad, rather than a burger and fries. And when you eat that salad, it will leave you feeling healthy, energized, and happy (without any guilt!).
- Learn to listen to (and act on) your body’s cues that you are hungry or full. Don’t eat just because everyone around you is eating. Eat because you are hungry and want to nourish your body.
- Learn to manage your stress. When you are under stress your body releases the hormone cortisol, which causes you to gain weight.
- Follow the Sunnah and fast twice a week. Western science is now discovering the amazing benefits of fasting, not just for your weight, but your overall health.
- Go to bed early and get enough sleep every night. Studies show that lack of sleep causes your body to release hormones which increase your appetite and your chances of being obese.
- Make sure your Vitamin D level is optimal. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with weight gain and obesity. If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels checked recently, I highly recommend you do so.
- Don’t obsess over numbers. That number on the scale can be deceiving. You may have gained weight today because you’ve been exercising and have gained muscle mass (Go, you!). Or your body may have held on to a little extra water today. Regardless of the cause, focus on how you look and feel, not on some ideal number on the scale. If you absolutely can’t live without the scale, I would recommend weighing yourself no more than once a week.
- Take it step by step. It probably took years to put on all that weight; it’s not coming off overnight! Start by replacing one unhealthy thing in your life with something healthy. Be patient and take it slowly, so the changes will stick.
- Don’t try to lose weight just so you’ll look good at the next party. Do this for yourself. For your children. And for your future. It’s all about changing habits. As the saying goes, if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten!