How often have you heard, “I ‘m not on a diet, I’m just not eating wheat at the moment?” This is one excuse used by otherwise smart women in a bid to stay slim. Of course I don’t diet. I have a much healthier attitude to food. I’ve done the occasional detox – no wheat, no dairy, no booze, and no meat. I’ve dabbled with food combining, never mixing those evil opposites of fish and chips.
I’m not alone. Dieting or old-fashioned calorie-counting is difficult, boring, and out-of-date. So instead, many women are now imposing bizarre rules on what they can and can’t eat. Models often attribute their looks to drinking lots of water. What they don’t admit is that they drink water instead of eating food, not in addition to it. They chew gum constantly, because mouths full of gum can’t be full of food. Hands-busy technique: when not chain-smoking, models can often be spotted knitting or playing video games backstage, because busy hands can’t be full of chips.
And they pretend that they’re naturally, effortlessly slim. This ‘my metabolism’s faster than your metabolism’ one-upmanship sees famously skinny celebs pretending to be big eaters – such as Victoria Beckham claiming to at bags of crisps a day. And it leads us into cutting out wheat or dairy or food-combining – only eating foo that’s green, or never eating after 4 p.m., all in the name of health of course.
This behaviour has been called ‘masked dieting’, and even vegetarianism can be a form of it. This evidence shows that the root of it all is fear. Fear of fat. Cutting out whole food groups like wheat or dairy foods, you instantly lose 50 per cent of your calcium intake which is dangerous to your health and can cause osteoporosis.
Constantly tricking out bodies out of meals is the gateway for eating disorders, but we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. It’s not necessarily out fault if we gain weight. Food is all over the place, and available 24 hour a day. Without some vigilance, most people are bound to become overweight.
We don’t diet, but…
- Jerry Hall doesn’t eat in the evenings and fasts on water and lemon juice one day a week.
- Elizabeth Hurley revealed that she stays in shape by eating meals with baby cutlery to slow the pace.
- Elle Macpherson claims she keeps her body perfect by avoiding bread and drinking three or more litres of water a day.
- Gwyneth Paltrow follows a super-strict macrobiotic diet.
- Claudia Schiffer only eats protein, vegetables and fruit. What does she eat for breakfast? Two boiled eggs.
Most of us would be happy with our bodies if we could just shift another few pounds. Forget faddy diets and deprivation. The only way to lose half a kilo of fat is, slowly. It’s better to set yourself realistic goals and lose weight gradually; for example, losing a kilo a week and then maintaining that new reduced weight. You should take a nonjudgmental look at your current, eating habits. Ask yourself, ‘What is going to work for me?’
- Become an expert on yourself. Spend a couple of weeks doing a research on yourself and your eating habits. You should be aware of the periods when you feel pangs of hunger and judge: if it’s grazing every two hours or having three meals a day. Ask yourself why you are eating. Just by taking that responsibility you’re on the way to becoming an expert on your own weight.
- Vary your exercise. You’re unlikely to lose weight via exercise alone but it is recommended; at least 20 to 30 minutes’ activity, five days a week. Take a pick-and-mix approach to exercise and try to vary what you do from day to day. For example, 20 minutes of walking would burn 90 calories; cycling – 160 calories; swimming – 100 calories; and dancing – 200 calories.
- Eat what you like, but in the right proportion. It’s not about good food and bad food; it’s about changing the proportions of your diet. Carbohydrates (starch and sugars) and proteins contain four calories per gram, alcohol contains seven calories, and fat contains nine. The recommended daily intake is 50% carbs, 15% proteins, and 35% fat.
- Identify opportunities to make small changes in your diet. If you are too much of a junk freak, then you have to be very careful. A smaller portion of chips at work and extra vegetables during meals might help keep your belly full and prevent you from going on a munching spree; a piece of fruit instead of cake or some other tempting stuff might do the work.
- Beware of hidden calories. A large cappuccino could easily be adding at least 150 calories to your daily intake. Two a day means 300 calories or more, which adds up to over 1,500 in a working week.
- Hold the salt. There is one way in which we can lose water beneficially – by reducing the salt in our diets that causes fluid-retention. Cut down on salt and you’ll lose about one to one-and-half kilos of fluid within a day or two.
- Snack on fruit. Keep fruits close at hand for a snack. An apple has just 60 calories, while a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate comes in at around 200 calories. It would mean an alarming amount of calories and a lot of fat each month.
- Think thin. It might sound strange, but it could help you achieve your goal. Imagine yourself 10 kilos lighter. See how you stand, move, dress, feel… then walk around like that for some time every day for a week till it develops into a habit.
- Take care how you cook. Switch to low-fat cuts of meat and other low-fat sources of protein such as fish, pulses and grill or steam instead of eating fried stuff.
- Say ‘No’ to processed foods. And you’ll avoid water retention. Around 80% of the salt we consume is from processed foods and bread, so eat fresh food whenever possible. Check labels for added salt and monitor your bread.
- Take longer to eat. And you’ll probably eat less. Treat your food properly; set the table and sit down and you’ll feel you’ve had a real eating experience. And only eat as long as you are paying attention to each mouthful.
- Check your hunger level. When thinking about eating, ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10. If you’re registering less than seven, don’t eat – do something else. If you eat when you aren’t hungry, your body will store that food as fat. On the other hand, if you go too long without food, your metabolism will slow down.
- Muscle in. the leaner your muscle-build, the higher your metabolic rate will be, as muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. This means that, while resting, a lean-bodied woman will burn more calories per hour than a fat-bodied one. Exercises that can be done at home include squats, press-ups, trice-dips, lunges and abdominal curls.
- Check your thirst. Drink enough water to keep your urine pale. When you feel hungry, make sure that it’s not thirst. It’s also important for high-fibre foods to be accompanied by water, so that the fibre can do its job properly.
- Keep moving. Use stickers to remind yourself to be active. Stick one on the phone asking, “Is this call necessary or could I walk and see the person?” Put one on your car keys saying, “Could I make this journey by foot or bike?”