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The healthy 'diet' conundrum

aglobetrottinglondoner By aglobetrottinglondoner Published on November 3, 2015

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This article was updated on December 14, 2015

Atkins, South Beach, raw food, Weightwatchers, sugar-free, Paleo, macrobiotic or the 5:2 – the list is endless. At some point, most of us have tried a popular diet or perhaps even every diet idea going! It’s easy to feel we’re perpetually on a diet, but are we doing our bodies more harm than good by restricting food groups or denying our desires? Have any of these “health” regimes actually had lasting impact and sustainable longevity? Are we causing our metabolisms to be more temperamental by tampering with them?

We’re confronted by so much dietary advice daily, and much of it is contradictory to the previous piece of information we just digested. Perhaps it suggests cutting back on carbs, sugar, fatty animal products or red meat, going veggie or vegan, consuming only gluten-free foods, eating like a caveman – the advice, ideas and views are literally never-ending. Is it any surprise with all the whimsical and confusing advice at our fingertips that there has been a significant and consistent rise in food intolerances, or at least, claims to food intolerance? Perhaps we’re simply more in tune with our bodies than ever before, and certain foods just happen to suit some individuals better than others? According to Dr. Rob Lillywhite of the University of Warwick, “There's a direct relationship: we eat more processed food and we suffer more gastrointestinal problems.”

Whatever the reason, there’s surely something to be said for the principle of moderation. In the words of the Roman poet Ovid, “Keep a mid course between two extremes” and “you will go most safely in the middle.” This could be the key and explain why “French women don’t get fat” (see Mireille Guiliano’s international bestseller). A little of what you fancy can do you a world of good; moderation shouldn’t be about quashing our joie de vivre – far from it. Savour that chocolate éclair, that steak in gorgonzola sauce, some dulce de leche ice cream or a prosciutto and pesto pizza – whatever you crave, but keep the portion sizes down. Unless you’ve squeezed in a quick marathon or two, that is. Consider that it takes approximately 30 minutes to burn less than 300 calories through moderate exercise.

Furthermore, let’s not be so naive as to forget that we can’t control and define everything about ourselves. Our very natures – genetics, metabolism, gender and race (to name but a few factors) – play a pivotal and crucial role in our body shapes and predispositions.

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Diet fads come and go, but the following core principles are reinforced by medical professionals time and time again, so there must be something to them.

  • Sleep regulates our hormone levels.
  • Eating breakfast moderates our blood sugar levels and can help stave off snacking.
  • Regular (but moderate) exercise raises our heart rate and keeps our circulation pumping and our muscles in shape.
  • Nutritious and nourishing foods satiate us. Try to eat nuts, pulses, avocado, olive oil, whole grains, dark green vegetables, an array of colorful fruits and berries, etc.
  • Reducing our salt intake prevents us from retaining water and feeling bloated.
  • Steering clear of fizzy drinks keeps us off a dangerous path: they’re fine for a treat, but not for daily consumption – and they’re very bad for our teeth.
  • Reading labels reminds us of how processed readily available foods are and how much sugar they contain.
  • Managing our consumption of junk food. The need for it is questionable to begin with, but it can provide a tasty (but short-lived) fix.
  • Thinking about portion control – for example, simply using smaller plates –helps us eat less while enjoying the same foods. You might not even notice the difference if it’s tasty enough!
  • Engaging our senses and concentrating on what we’re eating when we sit down to a meal. Remember that it takes approximately 20 minutes for the “full” signal to hit your brain.
  • Considering better alternatives to some of our favorite treats, such as dark chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate because it reduces our blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Breathing properly can help us lose weight, reduce anxiety and sleep properly. Overbreathing, or hearing yourself inhale and exhale, can be harmful. Patrick McKeown’s book The Oxygen Advantage looks at its effects.
  • Using the power of the mind. Healthy eating is not just about your body; your mind plays a pivotal role in self-regulation.
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Whatever fad regime catches your fancy in the coming months, ask yourself if it’s really a long-term solution and whether there could be simpler, more sustainable options at your fingertips that you can implement, at a limited cost, for the rest of your life? Aim to achieve optimal health to tackle your later years in the best shape possible. Your priority should be a long-term vision that’s both feasible and well-suited to you.

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A PR & Communications whizz with a love of writing. I adore pugs (particularly mine), travelling, having a good old natter, humour, British sarcasm and pubs, meditation, Zumba & yoga, culinary ... Show More

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