Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Great Diet Debate: my personal take on diets

These days there is SO much diet info out there that it gets very confusing. Should we all be on a high fat, low carb diet? My mother has eaten this way for over a year now and lost over 15 kgs! Or should we be eating low fat, high protein? (This is what I call the "gym diet" as most gym buffs eat this way.) I lost weight doing that, along with exercise, however, I was often hungry. Or how about a "balanced" diet, whatever that means anymore? Perhaps we are supposed to have some of everything in our diets? Which is to say, we shouldn't exclude any macro-nutrient.

In this post I am just going to share my personal "diet journey" and try to answer for myself which diet I think is a good one, if any.

The very first "diet" I ever did was to become a vegetarian at age 16. Before then, I never dieted, but I was conscious of my weight, as I was a little bit chubby as a teen, and so I would sometimes think about eating less, or smaller portions, but I never ever dieted, per say. But then...a vegetarian I became. My poor mother! Lordy, she cooked special vegetarian meals for me. I became a vegetarian for two reasons: number one, I had a very skinny vegetarian friend and I thought, perhaps, I too would become skinny like her, and number two, I read literature on how they slaughter animals and how battery chickens are raised and I simply felt that I didn't want to contribute to that by eating meat. I still ate eggs, but ate nothing with eyes. And oh, let me tell you how many people wanted to argue with me over my lifestyle choice. I was a vegetarian for four years! I can't believe it now, but I was, and I liked it too. I felt like I was helping the animals in some small way, even though I later saw that me being one person made zero real difference. Anyway, I stopped being a vegetarian when I was living on my own at age twenty and I was just not eating a proper diet. I wasn't doing the right food combining or ensuring my protein intake was adequate, and I started to crave meat. So one day I just caved in and ate meat. I realised that my body was needing something that I wasn't giving it. But as for weight loss, that never happened. I both gained and lost weight as a vegetarian, so I can see that it had more to do with activity levels back then.

Whilst I was vegetarian, I also tried various weight-loss "tricks". One thing I did with great success was portion control. I still believe in keeping portions small and reasonable. If our stomachs are only the size of our fists then I believe it's no good eating two helpings, unless you've just run a marathon! I also tried cutting out fat as much as possible, but I did find that I would eat more of any food if there was no fat, so I guess it was kind of useless. I tried having only liquids on some days but that can never work long term, and I am wanting a lifestyle, not a quick fix.

The next time I did a major "diet" was when I started training in the gym with a personal trainer and competing. I did bikini competitions - which is basically the female section of bodybuilding competitions. So I trained and ate a low fat high protein and high veg diet and did intense weight training. It really worked, I have to say, and even I will admit, I had a body to die for! And I am not saying that to be vain because I no longer have that body now. But I worked hard and I firmed up and leaned down and I was very proud and happy with my results. But the downfall, like I said, is that I was often hungry and would think about food all day long. Also, eating every 3 hours gets tiring and honestly, I got bored with it. There is only so much chicken and veg a girl can eat!

Finally, I tried Banting. I loved this way of eating. It's something I felt I could sustain for a lifetime. The only downfall for me is this: when I Bant (eat high fat, low carb, moderate protein) I have no strength for weight training. When Banting, I do feel I could do endurance sports more easily - for example, I could fathom walking 10 or 20km. In fact, I walked the East Coast Radio long walk (20km) on Banting. I walked without eating much in the morning, and only ate lunch after the walk. But as for weight training...? Somehow I lose my power or my will to train. With Banting, I felt good overall but I must admit, I did not have "quick burst" energy. I don't know how else to describe it. With carbs in my system, I can power run up a hill, but with Banting, I would have to walk up a hill. I don't know if any other Banter has experienced this?

So now, I am doing no diet at all. I am eating as healthily as possible, but sugar has crept into my diet in small ways. I will have the odd piece of cake. I still generally avoid sugar, but I will have fruit, or potatoes.

I feel very good eating this way, (which is to say, no diet at all) but weight loss is hard to get going. I am attempting to get back into serious gym training now, so I will see if that will spark off my weight loss again. I just want to lose 2kg. That's it. I don't really have much to lose, so perhaps I should say, I want to replace my soft tummy with hard abs and firm up my butt. Cos that really is the truth.

In conclusion: I believe that eating from Mother Nature as closely as possible is the best route to take, always. I don't believe fat is bad, but I do think a balance between fat and natural carbs (fruit and veg) is optimal. I really think sugar is not good for anyone - I have seen what it does to kids at parties and it's not pretty. I have seen what it does to waistlines too. When I eat too much sugar I suffer from thrush a lot more regularly and I get small patches of eczema. The next thing I believe we should all cut down on is white flour. Just my personal opinion there too. I am no doctor, but I think when something is that refined it's so empty it's useless. It really is eating empty calories. Having said that, once now and then, a slice of cake (or whatever your favourite thing is) is heavenly and makes living worth while. I can't give up chocolate, believe me, I have tried. Even when Banting, I ate at least one square of Lindt Dark every day.

So which diet is best? I think each person is different, and we all need to experiment with what our bodies' respond to.
Lastly, I think guilt around food is a terrible affliction and we need to stop that. If we do eat a piece of cake or ice-cream, feeling guilty is no good. I think we should enjoy our treats fully so that we are truly satisfied by it, and then the chances of wanting it again too soon are less. I don't think it's good to vilify any food group and we need to always take a balanced approach.

I am still trying to find my best diet match. What's your take on all this? 

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