The health risk with ‘Health at every size’ – Calories matter
Recently, I have seen a trend in which nutritionists are promoting intuitive eating and the ‘non-diet approach to dieting’. I have listened to a few podcasts and read up on some blog posts to fully understand the concept. One of the principles behind this style of eating is that ‘healthy’ diets aren’t all that good for you, if they interfere with your mental or emotional health. To some degree, I agree with this. I believe the ‘best’ diet is one without restrictions and one in which you are actually enjoying what you eat. However, they also drive the message that you should not count calories because your body will ‘regulate itself’ to the size that it’s ‘meant to be’, as it’s all down to genetics. They say that it is okay to be obese, even if it poses a health risk. I tried my best to listen to the content with an unbiased view, but I couldn’t help but feel irritated the more I read or listened to. I think it is extremely selfish to completely disregard calorie content and portion control, let alone to promote this as a professional nutritionist. Why selfish? Chronic illness is on the rise, with poor food and poor lifestyle choices as the main driver. The inflammation caused by obesity can lead to a deterioration in health, with problems such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and so on. They are advocating body positivity with the slogan ‘health at every size’, but how can they honestly say that having abnormal health markers like high cholesterol, can be considered healthy?
What irritates me about these non-diet culture diets, is that physical health seems to be completely forgotten about. The clients are given a free for all to eat whatever they like, whenever they like. Sounds amazing right? The catch is, they are told that weight loss is not necessarily guaranteed, and not to expect it. The aim of the game is purely to establish a healthy relationship with food. I do believe this is also very important, as I know the negative psychological effects dieting can cause. However, you cannot promote taking ZERO accountability and blaming your ‘genetics’ on your weight. Sure, genetics and the gut microbiome play a role in weight loss/gain, but at the end of the day YOU are ultimately in charge of your decisions. YOU are in charge of what food or drink you put in your mouth. All of these decisions are ultimately YOUR choice. Mindset is everything. You can continue to feel sorry for yourself, for the shitty cards you think you have been dealt. Or, you can take ownership of your life and start by making small, but meaningful changes. I know I have played the victim of my own sob stories. Having IBS and PCOS can cause fluctuations in weight and how much water I hold, meaning I may look slightly ‘bigger’ than I’d like to at times. This can get to me sometimes, as I’m only human, but dwelling on these things will not make the situation any better.
People regularly comment on the volume of food I consume and ask me how I ‘get away’ with eating such nice food without gaining weight or body fat. The answer is that I am mindful in what and how much I eat. Calories matter. A basic law of thermodynamics is that, in order to lose weight, the calories you consume in one day must be less than the calories you expend in that same day. The opposite applies for weight gain. If you consume more calories than you burn that day, then you will gain that weight. Simples. You don’t need to do what the latest fitspo is doing. Be it macro tracking, extreme diets like low carb or keto diet – you don’t need to do it. At the end of the day, the bigger picture is that your calorie consumption for that day is balanced with the amount of energy expenditure you create – be it through daily steps or exercising.
What can you do? Make smarter decisions with foods. Educate yourself and track your calories for a while. This will give you an insight into your daily calorie consumption and the calorie content of your favourite foods. You don’t have to keep it up or obsess over it – because that’s not healthy, is it? These decisions are not meant to add stress to your life, they’re meant to enhance it, so do what works for you. You don’t need to follow any restrictive diet, as this restrictive mentality will most likely leave you with increased cravings, and the desire to binge. Eating healthy and dieting to be a healthier weight doesn’t need to be so dull. Life is too short to eat boring food, so recreate healthier, calorie friendly versions of your favourite foods. I eat chocolate every single day, so I never really feel the need to ‘pig out’ anymore. I do love burgers and cakes as much as the next person, but the difference is, I don’t feel the need to make a whole weekend of it anymore. At the end of the day, all that matters is what you want to do. The reality is, by continuing to blindly eat calories, you probably won’t make any progress.