“Diet” Red Flags

Enter the word “diet” on any social media platform or web page and you have thousands of “quick fixes” with promising results, persuasive testimonials, and seemingly easy regimes. These will come across as the most scientific and healthy thing to do. While temptation does get the better of us, it is extremely important to know if it is truly a healthy way to achieve your goals or just another fad. 

The fad diets and trends are popular for a period of time, without having standard dietary recommendations, and often promising unreasonably fast weight loss or unwarranted health improvements. They are unfounded in science, set the dieter up for failure, and are harmful to long-term health.

Here are 5 ‘red flags’ that you need to look out for –

  1. Miracle foods & potions

Selling and promoting singled out foods or nutrients for better digestion, long life, detox, anti aging etc. etc. is a marketing gimmick, to say the best. The ‘one food, cures all’ tag is a result of consumerism and not in the interest of the general population. 

Year after year, we have miracle foods that claim to be ‘ideal’ for everyone and seem to be the solution to everything. While we were still recovering from the epidemic of green tea for weight loss and antioxidants, haldi was being re-defined as the ultimate immunity booster. Yes, haldi has anti-inflammatory properties and is sure good for us but not when taken as a shot in water or in the form of a pill. Fun fact – overuse (read abuse) of curcumin (the active component in haldi) comes in the way of nutrient absorption and leads to poor iron and Vitamin B12 levels in the body. Ready to pop another capsule, are you ? 

2. Food fears

Adding sugar in your beverages and sherbets and home sweets will not cause diabetes. Eating coconut laddoos and kaju (cashew) barfis will not raise your cholesterol. Having a banana or chiku or sitaphal will not make you fat. 

Shocked ? A little, I’m sure. All of the above ‘myths’ work only by targeting ‘guilt’ and triggering ‘fear’ towards foods you like. You are convinced that everything that you really enjoy eating is bad for you. Anything that is locally procured and easy to source, grows near you and covers lesser food miles to reach your plate, is not the “healthy” option. 

Making a food into a hero and then a villain is a tried and tested strategy of the food and weight loss industry. Ghee being the best example. From high carb fad in the previous decades where ghee is the worst kind of food, today with high fat diets becoming popular, the same clarified butter floods the market as the best food to eat. Have it on waking up, eat a spoonful and even add it to your coffee ! The next ‘hero food’, I am ready to bet, is going to be rice. Are you seeing it as the ingredient in your creams and lotions yet ?

3. Rapid weight loss

Weight loss is the most common reason behind ‘trying’ a food fad. Now, it is important to understand that changes in weight are not proportional to changes in fat mass. Increase or decrease in weight is the result of a myriad factors including – a) hydration levels b) sleep quality c) stress (mental and physical) d) exercise compliance and e) stimulant intake (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol). Any diet trend that is exclusive of this fact is bound to fail. Weight that crashes in no time, will lead to gaining double the weight in much shorter time than this ‘no time’. 

Weight loss will be successful only if weight loss is sustainable. The earlier you accept that a healthy lifestyle which includes workouts, eating right and at the right time, regular wake up and bedtimes will help you lose excess fat and also help you get stronger and smarter – the easier it will be to lose that stubborn fat and for good.

4. The number game.

Back pain ? Bad PMS ? Diabetes ? Thyroid ? Lose weight. Anyone who passes this advice is either too ignorant of scientific facts and basis or cares too little of you. If your goal is to improve hormonal balance, regulate blood sugar and lipid levels, reduce fat, increase strength, look fitter, slimmer, younger – you have got to look beyond numbers. Tracking only weight, like explained in the previous point, is quite pointless. 

Similarly, weighing each food you put in your mouth and constantly counting calories is a waste of time and energy in the short term and harmful for your health, mental and physical, in the long run. If your trainer/ dietician/ health coach asks you to measure food and calories, take the cue and run as far away as you can from them. A sustainable diet takes into account reason, region, climate, culture and cuisine. It allows you to get a good night’s sleep, wake up fresh in the morning (without stimulant dependency), get rid of sugar cravings, helps you have smooth digestion, exercise regularly, and live life beyond numbers and scales. 

5. No Exercise 

Exercise & diet are like the two sides of the same coin. They go hand-in-hand, ignoring one will not lead to lasting results. To be able to eat right and to eat on time, we need to re-establish contact with our bodies, especially our gut. Exercise puts us in touch with our stomachs. It strengthens the digestive fire and intestines, improves peristalsis and regulates hunger and satiety signals to avoid under or over-eating. Regular workouts increase the body’s bone density and muscle mass which are metabolically active and continuously use the calories from food for energy instead of being stored as fat. Furthermore, exercising improves blood circulation and hormone function. The key is to find the kind of exercise that you really enjoy and invest at least 150 minutes, each week, in the same.  

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