Dieting is on the rise these days, and it's starting earlier and earlier.
About 1/2 of teenage girls and 1/4 of teenage boys have tried a diet to alter the way they look (1).
High rates of dieting have become normalized among teenagers who strive to achieve unrealistic body ideals highlighted in the media. This puts a lot of pressure on young adults and even kids to be accepted among their peers.
Women tend to follow diets more than men in an attempt to control their weight, and the dieting industry knows this. The U.S weight loss market was shown to be worth a record $27 billion in 2019.
But the thing is diets only focus on short term fixes, which is why there is such a high failure rate. Most people aren't able to follow these diets for long, in fact 95% of diets fail.
Chronic dieting and participation in weight loss programs have actually been shown to be a consistent predictor for future weight gain. Doesn't sound promising does it?
In addition, dieting increases the risk of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, a particular concern in young girls.
So what's the alternative you may ask?
In order to achieve long term results we need to adopt long-term changes. This means they must be sustainable! Heath isn't something we work on once and then benefit from forever. Our bodies don't work that way. They rely on continual nutrition and lifestyle changes that support health.
What may these changes look like?
Adopt a whole foods diet
When you are eating real foods there really isn't a need to track or count calories. We naturally feel more satiated and satisfied. This is because the body is receiving what it needs to function.
Processed foods are typically high in calories yet lacking in nutrients that the body is craving. This can increase hunger but also cravings for more food.
Ever wonder why you can't resist eating the whole box of Chip Ahoy! or the bag of Cheetos? It's not your willpower!
Scientists have actually been involved in the formulation of processed food products that are irresistible to keep you coming back for more! This is why it can be so hard to stop.
A diet focused primarily on whole foods will naturally trigger your satiety centers in the brain which ultimately keeps you feeling full and keeps you from over eating.
Develop a stress management practice
Let's face it, if you aren't living under a rock, you are impacted by stress!
This year in particular has brought up more stress for all of us as a collective. However the good news is, most of our stress is actually under our control.
In fact, most stress encountered by humans is perceived stress, which means it comes from the stories we make up in our minds about a situation. Most things that humans stress about never actually happen, which means we are stressing most of the time about things that don't even matter!
Did you know stress can also impact your weight? It's often an overlooked factor to health goals and weight loss however chronic stress can promote abdominal fat, decrease muscle mass, promote fat storage, raise inflammation, promote insulin resistance, and dysregulate blood sugar which can all lead to unwanted and stubborn weight gain (2)
Studies have shown that those managing their stress for weight loss experience greater results than those who don't address their stress (3)(4).
Check out some of our favourite stress management practices here.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Instead of focusing on what you can't eat, focus on what you can eat!
Following the whole foods recommendation, this goes without saying adding plenty of fruits and vegetables to your plate!
When you crowd out your plate with fiber rich fruits and vegetables you naturally feel more satisfied and less likely to overeat or indulge in treats after your meal.
In addition, fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which help to lower inflammation, regulate insulin sensitivity, and promote a healthy gut microbiome - all important factors in supporting healthy weight management (5).
The key to healthy diet changes is substitution! It's not about cutting out foods, it's about adding healthy foods into your diet to crowd out the not so good stuff. No need to restrict yourself or reduce your calories because when you eat mostly whole plant foods you actually end up eating less and needing less food to feel satiated.
Humans aren't made to be sedentary, they are meant to move!
Unfortunately our current lifestyle does not promote movement in day to day life as it is largely sedentary.
Of course we will need to be expending energy in order to lose weight however this doesn't mean you have to participate in a marathon or go to cross fit everyday!
In fact, workouts are not that effective at burning calories and remaining active during your day, also known as non-exercise physical activity, can be more effective than killing it in the gym for an hour.
Prioritize your sleep
Sleep is the time for repair, regeneration, and detoxification in the body so you bet it will influence your weight!
Less than 6 hours of sleep per night has been associated with an increased risk of obesity (6).
Just one single night of poor sleep can actually make you more insulin resistant the next day, which makes it easier to succumb to cravings and also store fat (7). Compound this over time and you got a problem.
Having trouble getting a good night's sleep? We got you covered.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.