Nutritional Psychology helps to discuss with people how the food we eat impacts on the way we think and behave, and how it affects our life, and vice versa.
It helps people to understand what they eat and what it does to our health and behavior - not only what food reactions have on the body, but also the way we think about and behave with food that may lead to a positive or negative instance or outcome.
“Yo-Yo” dieting, or chronic dieting stems from an instant dislike of what we look like or what we are about, and a temporary desire to rectify this as fast as possible. It is a bit like actually having a craving for something, be that a chocolate biscuit or a bet on the horses, and HAVING to satisfy that need right away.
We often have a goal in mind – that wedding just around the corner we need to look good for, or that holiday coming up that we want to suddenly look slim for.
Acute dieting however can be dangerous to the body and longer-term actually make you put on more weight that you had I the first place. This is because when you suddenly go on a diet you are 'shocking' the body into doing something it isn't used to, and isn't designed for. Your body has relied on a constant supply of certain foods.
Changing this 'cold turkey' is a shock to the system. The immediate reaction of the body to this is to begin shutting down a little. This is the period where you think that the diet you are doing is working, because during this time you WILL lose weight.
As the body begins to reduce its normal functioning reserve fats are used, making you feel slimmer....adrenaline is pumped through the body at a temporary more constant rate, making you feel that you have more energy.
So what is actually happening during an Acute Diet?
When you suddenly stop giving the body food (or jump severely from high fat foods to no fat foods) the body begins to act as if you are in trouble. It needs to begin protecting your vital organs and systems during this period of starvation to try to, as your body reads it, keep you alive.
This emergency function change in the body is a desperate measure, a basic body instinct to keep you alive. Part of this process involves relying on your stored food reserves – blood, fat, fluid reserves.
By draining these your body survives the 'famine' initially, but in the most serious and chronic situations this can weaken your systems for future use. Your body releases more adrenaline to try to keep your energy and functions optimal. This helps you initially to keep moving and survive but longer-term can increase blood pressure and body stresses.
During all of this, chronic dieting usually only suggests 1 or 2 food groups, or even foodstuffs in some cases!!! (take the cabbage diet for example – a ridiculous suggestion that you should eat nothing but cabbage for a few weeks!!).
On top of the body weakening states we have talked about above, due to the severe lack of proper and varied nutrients, your body's vital organs and systems will be weakening. This can have major detrimental effects, even if not immediately noticeable, in the future, as many of these weaknesses remain for the long-term.
Having gone through all of this, and being under a misapprehension that you have done your body good by severe dieting, and you have reached your goal of losing weight......What happens next? 9 out of 10 cases go straight back from their no nutritional intake to an overload of the wrong types of nutrition.
This is where the term “yo-yo” comes in, and refers to your body's shock of fluctuating between no nutrients to nutrient overload, and back again.
It is impossible for the body's natural chemicals to keep balanced during this process. They are constantly changing their levels to try to cope with what it reads you need, and this can lead to long-term hormonal and natural chemical imbalance, which in turn can lead to many degenerative and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases and disorders.
To combat this common situation we need to try to redress people’s relationships with food and views of how to combine body needs with food (and fluid) intake, and undo the harm caused by chronic dieting.
The cycle of yo-yo dieting needs to be broken and a more balanced and level nutritional eating regime instilled. It is about understanding what your food does and how your body uses it.
Ask yourself a question – in a modern age where sales of celebrity fitness and diet DVDs are statistically the highest selling DVD category worldwide......WHY, statistically, are we becoming more and more overweight as individual western nations??!
Statistics show that when the body is in balance, you will feel happy and confident. These are the natural effects balanced life has on the mind.
The concerns over obesity, with the US, the UK, and Australia leading the tables, many experts are putting the impact on both mental and physical health of being overweight on the same detrimental health scale as smoking.
There is a constant quick fix attitude amongst the general public that if you lose weight temporarily and quickly everything else will be ok. Medically, and again statistically this isn't the case. It is a fact that temporary fast dieters either remain in the obese category in the long-term, and/or result in the highest categories of longer-term degenerative disease.
In summary: Yo-yo dieting is bad for your health and can result in a lot of the internal organs being under worrying pressure. And remember, as well as the physical impacts, “...if chronic dieting doesn’t kill you physically it will kill you psychologically because of the cycle of feeling good, then feeling utter shame and guilt all because you had an extra slice of cheesecake.”
So how do you maintain proper weight management?
Ok, the first thing to realize is that some people are naturally bigger than others. Not everyone is destined to be a stick-thin Victoria Beckham. People are varied and individual. Some people are naturally ideal in a slim stature that is what suits them and where they are healthiest. But this doesn't apply to everyone.
There are many body shapes, bone structures, and builds. So the first thing is to accept that there is an ideal weight for everyone, but it is individual. Everyone has what is known as a 'natural body weight.'
Now, this doesn't mean that you can use this as an excuse for staying overweight!! Being overweight is dangerous to health and there is a big difference between having an ideal weight and living with being overweight.
By taking the pressure off the need to be 'stick thin', we can go through a very simple process of suggesting varied healthy foods, fluids, and exercise, and supplements that can help encourage the body to optimize its functions. This in itself can help the body reach its ideal weight and optimal use of all its natural chemicals and systemic routines.
As mentioned above, individual situations are different and there may be different advice for any one set of circumstances. However, as a very general guideline, the average person should try to concentrate on a varied diet filled with plenty of fresh raw/steamed vegetables, fresh fruits, raw nuts (in moderation), plentiful seeds, lentils, fish, whole grains, and white meats.
Stick to 5 or 6 small portions through the day, rather than 3 big meals, and concentrate on your food when you eat it. Chew it thoroughly (lack of proper digestion, which begins with enzymes in the mouth, can lead to lack of nutrition into the body, which can contribute to weight imbalance), eat small amounts at a time, and stop as soon as you are no longer hungry (rather than finishing until you are full!).
Learn to listen to what your body is telling you. If you are no longer actually feeling hunger, you have enough nutrients for that time. Eat again later when your body naturally tells you that you need more nutrients.
Ensure that you increase your fluid intake – pure filtered or distilled water, and freshly blended mixed and varied vegetable juices (greens and others). For the average adult, try to drink 2-3+ liters per day, but ensure this is through the day, never all at once (see my article on water overload). This can help to fill you up, help to detox the body, and help to provide lots of energy.
Ensure plenty of regular adequate exercise, within your capabilities. Regular, daily cardio exercise helps to burn fat. If you are doing this for at least 30mins to 1 hour every day, this is a good start and you can build up from there.
Never overdo exercise, never over-exert yourself, and if you are not used to exercise, start slowly and gradually build up, as your strength and abilities improve. Too much exercise, too much 'pumping' of the body can put strain on the cardio system and muscles. So go easy on yourself, it's not a punishment, it should be enjoyable.
Finally, begin to learn what foods and their contents do for (or against) your body. Learn about food compatibility (what foods go together to produce positive results), and learn to enjoy the foods that your body enjoys.
The only reason that we crave or 'enjoy' high fat and high salt foods is because our body learns to become addicted to them. As a result, our taste buds and electrical stimulus to the brain learns to reject healthy foods in favor of the addiction we are used to. Like any addiction, wean off slowly and introduce healthy alternatives.
This way you are retraining your taste buds, and as a result your brain, and you will come to love the foods that you perhaps hated. Once you realize that you don't actually hate healthy foods, it is just that your body and mind have 'learned' to reject them, you are back in control.......not only of your nutrition but of your life!
Note from Warren: It’s crucial that you remember the importance of comprehensive nutrient intake to help reduce cravings…this is how Total Balance may help. Also, when some people go onto a low fat diet, their cravings increase. Our Omega 3 range can help by supplying the body with the good fats.