Why do we love dieting so much? What is it about it that makes our minds go back for more when our hormones are telling us otherwise?
We’ll tell you this: it’s because these fad diets promote themselves as fast and effective weight loss techniques that’ll have you looking like the next Victoria’s Secret model.
It’s an incredibly enticing idea, but what we often forget is that they’re unrealistic, unsustainable and the results are often short term.
So, what is the answer to long term weight loss? The Healthy-ish team spoke to dietitian Lyndi Cohen – who was able to lose 20kg over four years and manage to keep it off – to get to the bottom of this matter once and for all.
Her answer: give up dieting, eat more and exercise less.
It sounds absurd, but once she did this, she saw the weight fall off.
“It meant that every time I adopted a new habit, it needed to be something I could do for the rest of my life,” Lyndi tells co-hosts Maz Compton and Eliza Cracknell on the latest episode of Healthy-ish ‘Let’s talk about our unhealthy relationship with diets’.
“People often ask me about intermittent fasting or about this diet. All diets work, until they don’t work. You can sustain something temporarily, but if you can’t literally do it for the rest of your life then it’s not going to stick, so any weight loss you get is going to be temporary.”
Lyndi admits she became a chronic dieter from the young age of 11 where she would go to some “drastic measures” and “try anything to lose weight.” Of course, nothing worked. It was only until she let go of her fear of food and intense exercise did she see her weight finally decrease.
“We can’t be sacrificing 95 per cent of our life just to weigh five per cent less,” she adds. “Many people are in healthy bodies right now and what we’re striving for is just those last few kilos that are going to make us feel so amazing. To get to the point, you need to compromise so much of your social life, mental wellbeing, and I say it’s not worth it.
“Stop trying to compromise our health to get to this ideal body that we’re told is healthy.”
The body positivity role model has now released her book ‘The Nude Nutritionist’, where she documents her dieting roller coaster and shares advice on how she was able to lose 20kg by simply changing her mindset.
These are Lyndi’s top five tips to successful long term weight loss
1. Heal your relationship with exercise
“Just finding a way to move your body that feels really enjoyable and great,” the 29-year-old says. “What is this obsession with needing to burn as many calories to get those results? The best exercise to do is the one you’re consistent at because that’s health and you have to enjoy it, even if that means you sacrifice a bit of intensity so you can be more consistent.”
She suggests a 20-30 minute walk around the block listening to some music or your favourite podcast is sufficient enough as it will help clear your head and give you a little endorphin kick.
“You don’t need to slog it out at the gym seven days a week.”
2. Stop focusing on what to cut out of your diet
“What we have is we have a whole lot of people being taught really unhealthy approaches to food, which is about controlling, restricting and about feeling guilty,” she explains.
“So, you wake up in the morning and try to be really good, you eat a salad for lunch, 3pm you skip those cravings, but then you get home from work and you’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re stressed and then you end up eating the entire kitchen… you lie in bed feeling so bad about what you’ve just done and then the cycle starts again.”
3. All food is healthy that can be made healthier
“It wasn’t about weighing myself, it wasn’t about obsessing; it was about focusing on what to eat more of, not what to cut out of my diet.”
To do this, she adopted a “crowding” technique.
What this means is that no food is off the table. For example, instead of thinking a delicious bowl of pasta is “unhealthy”, she will ask herself how she can crowd more veggies into it to make it healthier than it already is.
“It’s not a sense of lack; it’s a sense of nourishment. Crowding in more of the healthy stuff really does make a difference.”
4. Practise body love
“If you go on Instagram the idea of what a “healthy body” is, is one body type. For me to get to that one body type, I have to do really unhealthy things. I think for women we are so sucked into it.”
Instead of making yourself feel worse on a bad day by scrolling through social media, Lyndi suggests practising body love.
“You’ve got to go, ‘look, I don’t need to look perfect to be healthy, I don’t need to look great from every angle, I will look great sometimes and I won’t at other times.’
“It’s about reminding yourself that your worth is not attached to what you eat, what you weigh and how you look like each day. And once you start changing the way you think about your body, it also plays into your relationship with food, which is so crucial to our mental health.”
5. Sleep, sleep, sleep
We all know how important those eight hours of shut-eye are, but how many of us are compromising our sleep for an extra hour at the gym?
“Stress and sleep – that is the real magic sh*t we’ve got to be focusing on,” Lyndi adds. “I reckon just prioritising that sleep, even if that means that maybe you don’t go to the gym one day because you’re just falling behind on your sleep. Prioritise that.”