10 Things I’ve Learned In A Decade Of Dieting
STELLAR writer Victoria reckons she's finally come full circle with food.
I was 17, I’d just lost a stone at Weight Watchers and I could barely bring myself to look at a bikini picture I’d had taken on a recent holiday.
While I’d always had issues with my weight, this was probably the turning point where I actually really tried to do something about it.
Cue years of yo-yo dieting and back and forth weight loss and weight gain.
Among the many diets I’ve tried throughout the years, there was the time I ate two or three low fat cake bars every day because I thought they were healthy, the numerous occasions I went on the very low-calorie ‘chemical’ diet that promised to help you shed up to 10lbs in three days, my three-month stint of super-strict clean eating and the diet I repeatedly used throughout college (I dubbed it ‘the student plan’) where I’d eat next to nothing all day and save all my Weight Watchers points for alcohol.
None of them were healthy and none of them were balanced, but somehow, through trial and error, I think I’ve come to understand food and learned to have a better relationship with it.
I’ve learned how to have a treat and (most of the time) not go overboard, how it’s about taste as much as it’s about nutrition and most importantly how weight gain (or loss) isn’t a marker of your self worth.
After 10 years I’ve finally come to a place where I think I’ve found a sustainable lifestyle, but it hasn’t been without some important – and often hard-taught – lessons.
Here are just a few of the learnings that have brought me a step closer to having a healthier – and happier – relationship with food.
You’ve got to let yourself off the hook
So you effed up and you ate an entire tub of Ben N Jerry’s/ scoffed a Dominos meal for two all to yourself/ went on a weekend-long wine bender. Get over it. Seriously. Years ago this might have been the point where I’d beat myself up and then comfort eat everything I could find, but not now. In my experience, swearing off things only works until life gets in the way, so cut yourself some slack and get back on the wagon again tomorrow.
Slow and steady wins the race
The idea of losing 10lbs in a fortnight probably sounds appealing to most but the thought of desperately trying to keep them off doesn’t. Science actually says you’re setting yourself up for failure if you lose weight too quickly. In fact, a recent study found that if you drop large amounts of weight in a short space of time you’re likely to do long-term damage to your metabolism and gain all the weight back again. Stop looking for a quick fix.
You can overeat healthy food
Back when I lived at home with my parents, I used to love grocery shopping day. That’s because I’d get my mum to stock up on tonnes of healthy food and then I’d eat about a third it before she even had a chance to take it out of the grocery bags. While I thought I was being saintly, in truth my calorie consumption was sky high.
These days what works best for me is eating only when I feel hungry. Typically that means I have three meals a day and two snacks, which seems to be enough to keep me ticking over.
It’s got to be about more than weight loss
It takes a whole lot of time and a stack load of determination to see significant and sustainable weight loss, and so, dropping pounds can’t really be your only motivation to eat well. Find other reasons to eat healthy and look after yourself. More energy, better health and improved confidence are just a few of mine.
You can’t eat bland food
I hate salads. Seriously, unless it’s topped with croutons and healthy serving of creamy dressing, I probably won’t eat it. Sure, I can swear off tasty stuff for a week or two and I’ll probably lose weight in the process, but can I commit myself to a life of eating food that tastes terrible? No. Learning to cook has been a big thing for me and constantly finding new ingredients and recipes has been key in helping me stay ‘on plan.’ Right now, I look to Joe Wicks, Roz Purcell and The Wonky Spatula for healthy food inspo.
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You don’t need to spend hours in the gym
This revelation was life-transforming for me. Up until the beginning of this year I thought there was no point going to gym unless you were prepared to spend at least an hour and a half in there. Now I train for about 45 minutes a session and no more. Realistically, few people have time to slog it out in there for hours, and science actually says training for longer than 45 minutes is detrimental, affecting your metabolism and causing muscle wastage. Get in, get it done and get out again. That’s my mantra.
Your food choices affect every single thing you do
That might sound like a pretty grand statement but I stand by it. When I eat well and exercise everything in my life seems to work better. I’m happier, I have more energy and I’m more confident, and that’s something that spills over into my job, my relationships and every other area of my day to day. Yes, eating a block of Dairy Milk will occasionally make me extraordinarily happy but it’s eating well most of the time that’ll give you the biggest boost.
Never let yourself go hungry
I’ve a feeling dietitians and nutritionists might disagree with me here, but personally I reckon life’s too short to feel hungry and miserable. Food is fuel and it’s my belief that if you’re ravenous it’s because you haven’t given your body what it needs. That doesn’t give you free reign to eat what you want but it does mean you can assess what it is your body needs and then eat accordingly.
The scales are not your friend
I used to weigh myself every single week and though I’d occasionally step on the scales and feel ecstatic about hitting my goal, for the most part weighing myself led me to feel disappointed and frustrated that I wasn’t losing the weight fast enough. The scales can’t measure how good you feel, how much extra energy you have or how much you’ve improved your health. These days I take progress pics once a month and only weigh myself roughly every six weeks.
Preparation is everything
This was one of those hard-taught lessons that I mentioned earlier. If I don’t plan out my meals or prep my food for the week ahead, then I will fall off the wagon. Simple as. Now I write a food plan every week and prep up to four days worth of food twice a week. Will I stick to my plan religiously? Probably not, but making sure I’m well stocked up on healthy, convenient foods leaves less room for error.
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