Weight loss can be a journey filled with ups and downs for most people, accompanied by various methods and diets, all vying as the one-stop solution. However, researchers suggest that simply practicing intuitive eating can help people nurture a healthier relationship with food. By being more in tune with your body, researchers propose that people can see more positive results compared to dieting — which is known to be ineffective and counterproductive for both weight loss and body satisfaction.
Compared to emotional eating as a way to handle feeling stressed or upset, and restrained eating by following restrictive diets for losing or maintaining weight, dietitians and researchers emphasise the importance of prioritising your wellbeing and health. Mindful eating can be a dilemma when you focus solely on weight-based goals. Instead, putting your health and adequate nutrition first can be more beneficial in the long term, allowing you to lose weight healthily and sustainably.
In this post, we’ll look at the harm of fad diets, and how mindful and intuitive eating can make a positive difference for you, your body, and your relationship with food:
Fad diets are often highly restrictive and drastic, requiring extreme food and lifestyle changes to promise instant weight loss. Another trait of fad diets is that they tend to garner a huge following, often reaching viral status, without much science-based evidence or health expertise to back them up.
However, the reason fad diets are so popular and still gain interest among the public is that they do work, in the short term. Over time, this may lead to a phenomenon known as yo-yo dieting — which is when you lose and gain weight over short periods of time — and can harm your overall health. Instead, dietitians and experts recommend losing and maintaining weight consistently over time.
Research exploring the facts and fiction of fad diets highlight that they do facilitate fast and easy weight loss, and may be effective in improving health to an extent. However, compliance and commitment become a challenge because of the unrealistic combinations and nutritional inadequacy. This is because most fad diets depend on the complete elimination of one or more essential food groups, which leads to a lack of healthy nutrition in the long term.
Another disadvantage of following fad diets is that they may lead to disordered eating over time, and consequently, harmful eating disorders. In Australia, the number of new eating disorder cases increased by 34% in 2021. Similarly, the Butterfly Foundation, a helpline for those struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, stated they experienced high volumes of calls from people experiencing eating disorders during the pandemic.
The art of mindful eating
To counter the negative effects of fad diets and unhealthy eating, mindful eating has become a recommended approach to food for many. As discussed in our introduction, prioritising your health and wellbeing are crucial to ensuring healthy and sustainable weight loss.
This is why most modern weight loss programs encourage mindful eating habits. Aside from merely promising weight loss, these programs are designed to help people maintain their weight at healthy levels by adopting healthier lifestyle habits.
Instead of focusing on just eating less, for example, most weight loss programs also encourage regular physical activity to help burn calories and improve heart, bone, and brain health. Other lifestyle factors also come into play, including decreasing digital screen time, ensuring you get sufficient sleep, and surrounding yourself with people who positively influence your diet and exercise habits.
Exercise is a key component of healthy and sustainable weight loss, that is also often left out of fad diets. Experts suggest that movement and mindfulness may have a deeper relationship than you think. After all, your mental and physical health are closely linked to each other.
Research shows that exercise can make you feel good and provide a sense of achievement. Exercise can help you blow off steam when stressed, lift your mood when depressed, and centre yourselves when you’re anxious. As such, by helping you regulate and manage your emotions, exercise also helps prevent harmful dietary habits like emotional eating.