Unhealthy, Strict or Balanced? How Do You See Your Nutrition?
How do you see your nutrition? The way you eat can be broken into three categories: unhealthy, strict, and balanced. There are obvious problems with the first as eating mainly high-fat and high-sugar processed foods will cause weight gain, low energy, bad skin, and mood swings just to mention a few. Plus, this way of eating tends to lack the essential nutrients our body needs to function optimally.
A strict diet is one which normally includes a limited amount of calories and foods. It also excludes alcohol as this is full of ‘empty calories’ – i. e. calories without any beneficial nutrients. This may appear to be the optimal way of eating because it cuts out unhealthy foods and produces the quickest results when people are trying to lose weight. Strict meals often appear on Instagram under the hashtags #healthyeating, #cleaneating, #healthylifestyle, etc. , usually posted by people in great shape who are #bodygoals.
However, the problem with a strict diet is that it’s not sustainable. Life is about more than obsessively thinking about your next meal and food sometimes needs to be about flavour and enjoyment. Plus, never eating carbs? Why? Carbs never made anyone fat the same way no food group on its own has the power of making anyone fat unless there is a surplus of calories (consuming more than you burn).
Those who follow a regimented routine might often find that their social life suffers because eating out while following a strict way of eating is hard. They’re also heavily restricted in their food choices, meaning that their meals can become repetitive. Strict diets therefore create a lot of pressure and mental strain, so it’s not surprising that followers often succumb to cravings and end up binge-eating. Not only is this bad for the digestive system and metabolism, the distress of binging has a detrimental effect on mental health too. This is why a strict diet should only be followed for a short period of time. For example, if you have a weight loss goal or an event coming up.
The optimal long-term diet for a healthy lifestyle is a balanced approach to nutrition, one which includes lots of fresh wholefoods and controlled amounts of carbs and good fats. And, most importantly, a few goodies! Social media has skewed the idea of a balanced diet somewhat as some people post about the strict diet they follow six days a week and their ‘cheat day’ when they consume thousands of calories in one sitting. This is not a balanced approach to eating. It’s a strict diet with planned binge episodes.
At the heart of it, a balanced diet is about eating the right foods most of the time and then enjoying a treat – not every day, but certainly a few times a week. It’s the only way to keep your body AND your mind well. After all, who wants to live a life without chocolate or a glass of wine with family and friends?
The final thing to note about diets is that if your goal is to lose weight then you need to achieve a calorie deficit, regardless of the foods you eat. The process will be a lot easier, however, if you pay attention to the nutritional value of your food. Choose high protein options, as these will keep you fuller for longer and will provide your muscles with the energy they need to maintain themselves. After all, you want to lose fat, not muscle! Meal replacement shakes can be useful when you’re following a strict diet as they take the hassle out of choosing and preparing the right foods. But they can also be a good addition to a balanced diet when your goal is to maintain your weight. For example, if you’re planning to treat yourself later that day or need to undo some excessive calorie consumption from the weekend. Shakes can help you balance your calorie intake so you don’t regain the weight you worked so hard to lose.