Yes, Christmas seems a distant memory already and that means it’s time to think about eating healthily again and losing those extra kilos that seem to have sneaked up on us. However, that is easier said than done, especially when most of us have no intention of being seen in a bikini for months yet. But why do we make so many excuses to avoid going on a diet?
Well, basically because nobody likes dieting! It affects our social life, means we have to eat boring food and even go hungry. However, it is the only way we know of losing weight. In her new book, Hacer Dieta Engorda, which means dieting makes you fat, Gabriela Uriarte, a specialist in dealing with excess weight and obesity, suggests that diets aren’t necessary: we just need to change the way we do things, organise ourselves properly and be aware of why diets normally fail, to avoid falling into those traps. This is what she has to say:
Lack of flexibility
If you see a diet which has no room for treats, avoid it because it won’t be sustainable in the long term and you won’t stick to it, says Gabriela. “There has to be some flexibility. Mentally, it is good for us to go out for a meal sometimes, and what is good for the mind is good for the body,” she explains. “If you break a strict diet you feel bad and you lose control. And when you start dieting again, it will be an even stricter one because they always are. That’s because of our sense of guilt and blame, we feel the need to punish ourselves”.
How often have we heard people recommend that we place ourselves in the hands of some professional or other (or non-professional, which is even worse) to control our weight, because otherwise we won’t be able to?
“We have become infantilised. That’s why when people see their doctor they lie about what they eat or don’t eat. It’s the logical response to what some health care professionals do, when they think it is their job to tell patients off and give them a hard time. So what does the person do? Lie, of course, just like a child would,” she says.
It’s not all about compensating’
For a long time people have said that excesses are allowed as long as you make up for them afterwards. For example, we can stuff ourselves at Christmas and then start starving ourselves in the New Year, only drinking liquids on some days, or never touching carbohydrates.
“That is not a good thing to do. If you have eaten too much one day, it is better to do a bit more exercise, not go hungry the following day. You can eat light meals, or if you feel really full because you have eaten so much, then it’s OK not to eat. It’s best to just go with the flow,” says Gabriela. But nobody should ever get into a cycle of overeating-going hungry-overeating, because that is a terrible message for our body and our mind.
‘Forgetting’ the overall picture
“People need to understand that they have permission to eat and drink whatever they like, but they should decide to control it because they want to achieve good overall results,” says Gabriela.
No need to weigh so often
Gabriela asks us to think about what it means to weigh ourselves. If we see the scales as an “external judge”, it’s not a good thing. And if we do it compulsively, even worse.
“Also, scales aren’t very reliable. Your weight can fluctuate by two or three kilos in a single day. If you want to evaluate how you’re doing, it’s better to see how well your old jeans fit, or use a tape measure,” she says.
So should we throw out the scales? “You don’t need to be that drastic, but weighing yourself once every two weeks is fine,” she says. And it’s best to do so before eating for the first time that day, naked, after going to the lavatory and on a Thursday or Friday (because the day before is more normal, without the major changes that often occur at weekends and the days around it).
It’s never all or nothing
Put your hand up if you have never overdone it a bit when it comes to food - for example, having one cake and then thinking “oh, what the hell” and ending up eating several.
“The best thing is to realise that this is not the end of the world. It’s better to learn from the experience and invest more in planning. An all-or-nothing attitude doesn’t help,” says Gabriela.
The same goes for physical activity: people either spend a vast amount of a time in the gym or they don’t go for months on end. A little is better than nothing (especially if it is done regularly), says this expert. Oh, and make sure you get seven hours of good sleep a night! That might not seem relevant, but everything counts. If you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones will put a spanner in the works, make you crave sweet things and your body will expend less energy than normal.