Why ‘Dieting’ Has Become A Dirty Word

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Over 80% of us might have attempted a diet at some point or another, but three quarters of us were too embarrassed to admit that we’re dieting to our friends. While there was a time when following the latest fad diet and surviving on nothing but cabbage soup for weeks on end was deemed entirely logical if you want to shift the extra pounds you put on in December, these days we’re cutting out food groups under the guise of ‘mindful eating’ or ‘clean eating’. The ‘D’ word has become a dirty term that no one wants to use.

Despite the change in terminology, most of us fall off the healthy eating bandwagon within a few weeks and blame the allure of junk food, hunger pangs and comfort eating. ‘Regardless of how it is dressed up, the UK is currently filled with diets, and they can be effective in helping us achieve our weight goals,’ says Rob Rona, director of new markets, products and services at LighterLife Fast. ‘However, fad diets which cut out full food groups or significantly deplete key nutrients are unsustainable and can be unsafe.’

The idea of clean eating might seem appealing in the first few days of January, following a gluttonous festive season, but radical changes tend to lose steam as February nears – in fact, some research says it’s as quick as just 12 days. So, how can you improve your diet and stick to it? We’ve outlined the latest research and some straightforward advice to help you make an informed plan for 2019:

Start off small

Making dramatic changes can often leave you craving what you cut out within a couple of weeks. Instead, be practical and make small, achievable tweaks that are easy to implement. Take sugar for example. Recent headlines have highlighted that most of us are consuming far too much sugar, but going cold turkey straight away will leave you craving chocolate when the mid-afternoon slump hits. Look for low-sugar or no added sugar on food labels, swap white bread for wholemeal or granary, try eating two biscuits rather than three, and opt for fresh fruit rather than dried varieties.

When it comes to cutting back on sugar, it’s also worth considering taking a chromium supplement such as Optimized Chromium with Crominex 3+ from Life Extension, as this helps to maintain low blood sugar levels. Essentially, eating sugar causes a spike in your blood sugar levels, which eventually crashes and leaves you craving more sugar. Chromium helps to maintain a healthy glucose metabolism.

Do your research

Not every dietary decision is based the health benefits. It’s been reported that more of us are exploring veganism than ever before this January and the leafy diet is as beneficial for the environment as it is our health. That said, it is essential that you do your research. Cutting out animal by-products can leave you deficient in essential vitamins and minerals if you don’t ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet or incorporate supplements into your regimen.

Vitamin B12 isn’t available from plant-based foods, but it is essential for healthy digestion, circulation and energy levels. You’ll need to look for fortified foods, embrace Marmite, or opt for a supplement such as Methyl B-12 by Jarrow Formulas.

It’s about your mindset

MyFitnessPal has been championing this approach to food for years, but a recent study has called into question whether seeing the calorie content on food is beneficial. Measuring the brain response of both dieters and non-dieters when they looked at a range of food images, researchers found that both groups found food less appetising when they could see the calorie content. However, the study, which was published in Plos One, also revealed that seasoned dieters were more likely to engage the orbitofrontal cortex (decision-making section of their brain) when looking at food labels, regardless of whether the calorie content was shown, and tend to make healthier eating choices overall.

‘In order to motivate people to make healthier food choices, policy changes are needed that incorporate not only nutritional information, including calorie content, but also a public education component, which reinforces the long-term benefits of a healthy diet,’ says senior author of the study Kristina Rapuano.

 And if you really want to follow a particular diet…

Make sure it’s the Mediterranean diet. Yet again it was ranked the best diet of the year by U.S News’ panel of judges. With foods rich in omega 3 oils, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory ingredients, the Mediterranean diet offers a multitude of health benefits and you can even enjoy a glass of red wine with it. The judging panel stressed that it’s not a diet per-say, but rather an eating pattern and it’s up to you to determine how big your portions are.

The DASH diet was a close second in the ranking, but again the diet that was originally developed to help lower blood pressure, is more of a pattern rather than a diet. It’s focused on the healthy foods that we all know we should be eating more of. including fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It also encourages exercise.

New Year’s Habits

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Have you ever, ever kept a New Year’s resolution beyond – oh, about 3rd January? Maybe 1st February, if you’re really pushing it? That’s because New Year’s resolutions are often completely unrealistic goals. Going to drop three dress sizes. Going to walk five miles a day. Going to give up chocolate completely. (Were we MAD???) 

 

But what actually works, we find, is to focus instead on getting into good habits. And when you sell it to yourself like that, there’s an implicit sense of forgiving. Fall off the wagon for a day, or eat a Twix, or forget to drink those two litres of water, and it doesn’t feel catastrophic at all. You can just gently nudge yourself to do better tomorrow, rather than feeling like you’ve blown it.

 

Good habits don’t happen overnight, of course. 21 days is often quoted as the minimum, but often it’s longer than that. The average is actually two months – 66 days, to be exact (according to the most famous study into the subject, by University College London health psychology researcher Philippa Lally). But don’t let that put you off. And don’t aim ridiculously high; honestly, it’s the small changes that can make the biggest difference, because they’re achievable. 

 

So, here are our top recommendations for little habit shifts that could pretty much change your life – and your wellbeing levels – by the time 2020 rolls around…

 

Eat every few hours. (Don’t wait till you’re ready to gnaw your arm off.) It’s such a common misconception that skipping meals helps you lose weight. In fact, that’s going to impact on your blood sugar levels, making you ravenously hungry – often turning to caffeine or a sugar hit, as an antidote, keeping you on that rollercoaster. Sometimes, we might feel we need to skip meals because we’re working to a deadline, or because we’ve got a big dinner coming up – but far better to snack healthily. Keep a power bar (not one of the sugary ones), a banana, some almonds or other nuts in your work bag, so that you’re never without something healthy to nibble on. 

 

Make enough dinner to take leftovers to work. It’s so easy to grab a sandwich (always unappetisingly chilled) for lunch, when we really could do better than that. We’re not sure about the concept of meal-prepping on the weekend for the week ahead that is sometimes suggested – we’d rather spend our weekends out there in the fresh air, yomping the hills or planting bulbs, thanks, but what is perfectly realistic is to cook a little more supper and bring the extra to work next day. (Team Beauty Bible does this and Jo’s fridge is home to many a healthy Tupperware-d leftover waiting to be re-heated for lunch!) 

 

Put your workouts in your diary. Think of them as an appointment with your healthier self. We are great believers in the power of self-care. It’s not selfish; whenever we have to take care of anyone else, we need to take care of ourselves, first. (The analogy is that in-flight message which tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself, before helping anyone else.) It can feel hard to squeeze in a workout, or a walk. But if that’s a fixed point in your diary, it’s easier to plan around it. (We generally find that our energy levels are boosted by a power-walk or a yoga class, and that work goes much more smoothly afterwards when we’re back at our desks. So it’s a win-win.)

 

Buy yourself a big water bottle, and keep it on your desk.It’s now possible to get very generously-proportioned water bottles to keep water cool and encourage day-long sipping. You probably wouldn’t want to carry this size around with you (we like the Chilly’s 750ml bottle, BTW), but get through one in the morning and one in the afternoon and you’re two-thirds of the way there with your daily water goals. And whenever you feel stressed, take a glug of water. It’s amazing how it cools the brain as well as the body.

 

Set a limit on social media. We find the new ScreenTime social media limiting app pretty scary, actually, in terms of how quickly we can ratchet up half an hour of scrolling through Instagram pics or watching daft Facebook videos. (We find it much easier to avoid Twitter. Fact: nobody is ever, ever going to go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Twitter.) But for 2019, we’re really, really going to try to stick to our self-imposed limit – and maybe even reduce it over time. It’s way, way too easy to get lost in social media – so what we really find helps is having a book or a Kindle or a glossy magazine with us at all times, so there’s no risk of mindless scrolling because there’s nothing else to do. If it’s hard, switch your phone off. You really have to think twice about how important seeing someone’s latest ‘selfie’ is, before switching it on again just to look at that.

 

Above all, be kind to yourself. See above – but you should never, ever feel guilty about carving out time in a busy life just for you. Maybe for a massage. Or a class of some kind. Or even for a nap. We live in incredibly stressful, uncertain times and it’s only by charging up our batteries that we can be expected to cope – so never feel bad about doing the things that help you do just that. And above all, try really hard not to beat yourself up if habits do sometimes slip. Don’t throw your hands up and go, ‘Well, that’s that, then. I’ve failed.’ Just get back on the horse (as Sarah would definitely say), and re-establish your goal. No biggie. 

 

And have a wonderful, healthy 2019, won’t you?

Why Changing When You Eat Could Boost Your Health

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With the festive party season about to start some of us might be tempted to enlist in a quick fix diet to burn off the extra calories we picked up on holiday. Cue the endless fad diets and mind-boggling eating habits. The most bizarre one we’ve heard of so far is a diet that consists of just beef, salt and water.

For years we’ve been focusing on what we eat (or what we shouldn’t eat), but new research suggests that we should be just as concerned about when we eat. According to the Salk Institute, eating in a ten hour section during the day can actually help you to lose weight because it works with your body’s circadian cycle.

“For many of us, the day begins with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning and ends with a bedtime snack 14 or 15 hours later,” Satchidananda Panda, a professor in Salk’s Regulatory Biology Laboratory and the senior author of the new paper told Science Daily. “But restricting food intake to 10 hours a day, and fasting the rest, can lead to better health, regardless of our biological clock.”

The study found that by working with our circadian cycle and eating when our digestion genes are most active. Impressively, the study found that eating within that time-frame also reduced the chances of obesity, high cholesterol and other diseases.

A similar study found that eating breakfast 90 minutes later than usual and having dinner 90 minutes earlier could also be beneficial to your health and help you lose weight. Over a 10 week period the study found that those who tweaked their eating times tended to have a reduced appetite and snack less throughout the day, compared to those who had unrestricted eating times.

“Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies,” Dr Jonathan Johnston, Reader in Chronobiology and Integrative Physiology at the University of Surrey, told Science Daily. “Reduction in body fat lessens our chances of developing obesity and related diseases, so is vital in improving our overall health.”

While restricting your intake of food to 10 hours might not be appealing to some, it’s certainly more feasible than living off beef, salt and water. Regardless of what diet you’re tempted to try, ensuring your body gets the recommended nutrients is essential for it to function properly. Shabir recommends that almost all of us take a good quality multivitamin, such as Alive Multivitamins. Deficiencies in iron and magnesium are fairly common in seemingly healthy adults, so it is also worth looking into these supplements. If you’re unsure of what to take, contact us and Shabir can advise you.