If you’ve ever struggled with your weight, you’ve likely come up against diet culture – those restrictive diets that cut out entire food groups, or cut down your calories to near-starvation amounts. Well 2021 comes with a sigh of relief: diet culture is dead.
Any dietician worth their salt will tell you that restrictive diets are not good for you, and they’re not sustainable. No one wants to go their whole life without chocolate, or potatoes, or that end-of-the-week relaxation drink. Yet that is what restrictive diets demand. And they seem to think we can keep it up forever!
The problem with diet culture
Besides the body issues that diet culture normalises, the restrictive diets that come with the concept of being super skinny, or really buff, can be very harmful. A permanent high-protein diet, for example, can do a lot of damage to your kidneys, which are not meant to process so much protein. A diet containing a lot of fat, but no carbs, can cause serious heart problems and high cholesterol. Cutting our carbs entirely deprives your body of its favourite energy source and brain food. In addition, these rapid weight-loss diets may work at first, but they are not sustainable. When you gain your weight back – which you will – you tend to gain even more back than you lost.
How to maintain weight in a healthy way
It’s a simple answer, and won’t come as a surprise: The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to stick to a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and get enough exercise. There is no one-size-fits-all diet or exercise program. How much you eat, how much water you need to drink, and how much you exercise depends entirely on your own body’s needs. It’s important to be aware of how you react to exercise and certain foods, and adapt accordingly. Of course, a registered dietician can always help you create a meal plan that works well for you.
What’s in a well-balanced diet?
To start with, your diet must contain all the basic food groups:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Fats and oils
When selecting your foods, the healthier the better. Carbohydrates should ideally be wholegrain and not
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too processed. Proteins should include legumes, eggs, fish and healthy fat. Red meat should be limited. When it comes to fruit and veg, the recommendation is at least five a day. Fruit can be high in sugar, so ideally include maximum 2 fruit a day. Veggies can generally be loaded up on. When it comes to fats, you need to be selective. A small amount of animal fat daily is fine, but should be limited. Rather enjoy healthy oils, like olive oil or avocado. Lastly, we look at dairy. It’s a great source of calcium, protein, vitamins and healthy fat, but again, don’t go bananas on full-fat dairy.
What about calories?
Calorie counting is another popular weight-loss method. Lowering your calories basically sends your body into starvation mode, causing it to start using stored fat and protein for fuel.
The below table indicates the healthy amount of calories that should be consumed on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that the above guidelines are very general, and won’t apply to everyone. People with digestive problems, diabetes, allergies and other health problems would need to adjust their diets accordingly. This blog does not constitute medical advice. Remember, diet culture is dead!