You probably already know the drill when it comes to dieting...
You start with restricting your calories to lose some weight. An online calorie calculator told you to eat somewhere between 1,200 – 1,500 calories a day, so you stick to the low range of that to be safe.
That very day, you begin inputting every piece of food that enters your mouth into an app on your phone. You start measuring your food religiously, and drastically reduce your portions.
As time goes on, you get better at this dieting thing. You discover that you’ll save 35 calories if you use water instead of almond milk in your smoothie, which means you can have a square of chocolate later on. Great!
Then one day, instead of having just one square of chocolate, you eat the whole bar. Plus 4 slices of toast with peanut butter and jam, before polishing off half a bag of trail mix.
Whoa, how did that happen?
You feel overwhelmed with guilt, so you go hard at the gym the next day and spend the rest of the week trying to eat even less to make up for all those extra calories.
But a week later, the same thing happens and you feel like a total failure.
It is time stop beating yourself up.
Your body is programmed with ancient wisdom, and you’ll need more than a smartphone app to outsmart it.
Here’s why your 1,200 calorie diet isn’t working...
#1. Your willpower is a finite resource.
Please listen closely: losing control and bingeing doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person.
The more you deprive yourself and restrict your diet, the more likely it becomes that you will “give in” and eat that birthday cake at the office.
And if you think the solution is to restrict even more to “make up for it” you are just burning through that willpower even faster.
Quit exhausting your willpower.
Change your mindset and heal your relationship with food. Allow yourself to eat what you want to eat, when you want to eat it. As time goes on, you will naturally choose healthy foods because they make you feel great.
Remove the guilt from the equation, it’s not working in your favor.
#2. A calorie is not a calorie.
This one is controversial, I know. But some foods are more likely to be stored as fat, while other foods actually encourage your body to burn fat.
Not to mention, certain foods cause cravings. Popcorn is well-known for being high volume, low calorie, but snacking on huge amounts of carbs will make it hard for you to ever feel full.
Counting your calories can make healthy foods like avocado or almonds seem less favourable than low-calorie foods like microwave popcorn or rice crackers.
Choose healthy foods, and let your appetite guide you. High fat, high protein foods will keep you full and encourage your body to burn through it’s own fat stores. Instead of eating a low calorie salad for lunch, eat something that will actually keep you full and prevent bingeing later.
#3. You are over-exercising.
Movement is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle. But... exercise should be something you do because you love your body, and love the feeling of getting your heart rate up.
Exercise should NOT be a way to punish your body for something you ate.
Spending hours on the treadmill, or trying to burn as many calories as possible at the gym will kick up your appetite. If you are caught in a cycle of binge eating, restricting calories, working out, then binge eating again… this is your body’s way of telling you it needs more fuel.
Use food as fuel.
Instead of trying to “burn calories” by working out, try fuelling your body strategically and see what you are capable of.
Try having a performance-enhancing pre-workout snack, like a handful of blueberries with some walnuts. The carbohydrates with fuel you and help you actually enjoy your workout. Plus, the anti-oxidants in the berries and the omega-3s in the walnuts can reduce exercise-induced inflammation.
#4. It isn't sustainable.
The most important part of any lifestyle change is sustainability.
Instead of going on a low calorie diet that sets you up for weight fluctuations, stop focusing on weight loss. If you eat healthy foods, listen to your appetite, and use food to fuel your body, your weight will naturally balance.
We need to stop hating our bodies, in the hope that enough torture will lead us to love them.
Do yourself a big favour: delete the app, get rid of the low-calorie, high-chemical diet food. Fill your diet with nutritious foods that you actually like and fall in love with yourself just as you are today.