When was the last time you enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake or your favourite pasta dish? Yesterday? Last week? Just now?
OK, now how about the last time you indulged in these and really enjoyed them, without a wave of guilt? If you’re consumed by calorie counting and the latest fad diet, it’s time for a rethink on how to lose weight.
“The recent onslaught of restrictive, faddy diets disguised as ‘healthy lifestyles’ has unfortunately promoted the notion that a daily portion of chia seeds washed down with a blended green concoction will catapult you to superhero levels of health,” say Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison, authors of anti-diet book, Eat it Anyway.
Or, that cutting out all carbs, sugar and dairy will help you drop a dress size. Sound familiar? But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Read on for Eve and Laura’s ‘diet’ tips, that will have you eating what you want and laughing in the face of kale crisps.
So why do diets fail?
“Most diets help you to lose weight because they are based on restricting calories, but diets don’t work long-term; cutting out food groups for a sustained period isn’t realistic,” says Laura. At best, diets can be boring and socially limiting, but at worst, they can damage your health.
“Most people who embark on diets actually put on more weight in the longterm,” says Laura. “When we binge eat, restrict, or yo-yo diet for years, our leptin levels (a hunger hormone) can become off-balance and so it becomes difficult to decipher when you are hungry – a brilliant example of why diets aren’t worth your time.”
Laura also recommends you ask yourself if you need to lose weight. Have you been advised to by your doctor? Or do you just feel societal pressure to look slimmer? It’s all about what makes you feel your healthiest and happiest.
How to lose weight and eat what you want
If we’re not dieting, what do we call this way of eating?
“Living. Breathing. Eating. Humans love to label things, especially how they eat, whether that’s vegan, keto or otherwise,” says Laura.
“It’s a non-question; like saying, ‘how are we supposed to blink?’ Eat what you want, when you want, in moderation, and don’t worry about it,” adds Eve.
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Since 2010, sales of gluten-free products have doubled. “Despite this, it’s estimated that just 1% of the UK population have coeliac disease,” says Eve. So why are we frightened of bread?
Eve says, “Those who were plagued by agony after eating gluten genuinely experienced miracles from going gluten-free. Known as the ‘nocebo effect’, sometimes people who believe they’re sensitive and think they’re eating gluten (but were actually served a gluten-free dish) will suffer negative gut symptoms.”
Dairy Cow’s milk
Cow’s milk has been wrongly demonised. “It’s recommended by practically every dietary expert in the world as the most reliable, nutritious and easily available source of calcium for humans,” says Eve.
“Without fat, other things, such as sugar, would need to be added to food to make it tasty and filling,” says Laura. Additionally, low-fat products seldom satisfy us.
While The British Dietetic Association recommends that we limit fat, we’re not told to avoid it. The body cannot produce essential fatty acids omega 3 and 6, so our diet must include them. But it’s possible to eat healthy fats, such as nuts and avocados.
With the rise of veganism and vegetarianism, many have cut meat out, imitating our ancestors’ diet when the agriculture industry began 10,000 years ago. However, this can lead to more harm than good.
“The reason why humans have conquered the world, where other species have failed, is due to our ability to adapt to the environment.” And that includes eating meat. However, the NHS recommends limiting red meat to 70g per day.
“While we may be consuming too much sugar, the current moral panic is both uncalled for and unscientific,” says Eve. “I’m not telling you to eat six Hobnobs a day but if you do have a few biscuits or a cupcake once in a while, it’s perfectly OK.”
While it’s not recommended to consume vast amounts of alcohol, the odd drink may not do any harm. “Studies investigating the link between alcohol and weight have provided inconsistent results,” says Laura.
“Drinking habits may play a role. For example, moderate drinking is linked to reduced weight gain, whereas heavy drinking is linked to increased weight gain.”
How to detox from diet culture
Stuck in a diet rut? Eve and Laura explain that it’s about unlearning unhealthy eating habits. For example, practise eating in social situations. Telling yourself “I don’t deserve this” when you’re offered something to eat or choosing something ‘bad’ from the menu when out with friends only exacerbates the guilt.
“If only we stopped getting our knickers in a twist every time we fancied a packet of Haribo, we wouldn’t crave it as much and we’d be happier,” says Eve.
So, order what you really want when dining, and the next time someone offers you a treat, tuck in!
Think of food as medicine
If a doctor prescribed you medication for an ailment, you would take it. So why should food be any different? Eating a varied diet without restrictions gives your mind and body the fuel they need to function at their best.
“I believe that if you resist every urge to eat your particular ‘vice’, over time you will just end up overeating anyway,” says Laura. After all, life is hard and food is to be enjoyed.
“Sometimes, the only thing that will do is a larger-than-necessary portion of red velvet cake,” says Eve. “And that is one of life’s few treasures.”