By May El Habachi
If you are one of the millions of people trying to lose weight, here’s a tip: Don’t go on a diet.
In the effort to lose weight, many try fad diets only to realize that they don’t work in the long term. In fact, 95 percent of diets fail and most people regain their weight in one to five years, according to Statistics for Weight Discrimination study.
Meanwhile in Kuwait, diet and weight loss centers are becoming popular, with more than 10 centers operating to date. Yet, diabetes and obesity are skyrocketing and show no signs of subsiding anytime soon. About 20 percent of adults in Kuwait have diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation, and 42 percent of adults are obese according to the Food Security Index. So, what seems to be going wrong?
Why Diets Don’t Work
To lose weight successfully, there has to be a change in mindset, according to Angy Aboud, a nutritional therapist based in the UK. “Forget numbers. Forget that you have to lose a certain amount of weight within a certain time period. The best approach to weight loss is to adopt a way of eating that you can sustain for the rest of your life,” says Aboud.
While adopting healthy eating habits is no easy feat, it is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and maintain your health. “Diets that are very severe are also very unhealthy in the long term and rarely result in permanent weight loss,” says Aboud.
Aliaa, a middle aged woman and a mother of two adult children, has been conscious of her weight for most of her life. Although, she’s not considered overweight, she is no stranger to dieting. “I have tried a few diets to reach my ideal weight. Although, the diets worked while I was on them, as soon as I stopped, I would gain all the weight back,” she says. Despite having the discipline to follow through her prescribed diets, Aliaa decided to change her approach to eating. “I lost weight while dieting, but I didn’t feel very healthy. I wasn’t eating certain food groups and this affected my health and energy levels.”
Not eating a balanced diet can create nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. “Having a balanced diet and eating all food groups is not only important for weight loss, but it’s also important for maintaining overall health and wellness,” notes Aboud. As a part of her health program, Aboud provides nutrition education about the different food groups so that her clients can make healthy food choices long after the program is over. This means sustainable results, rather than fluctuating weightloss due to unsustainable diet practices
Effects of yo-yo Dieting
Repeatedly losing and gaining weight can have harmful effects on the body. May Al Gharabally, a certified health coach in Kuwait, believes that yo-yo dieting makes it harder for people to lose weight long-term. “When women are yo-yo dieting, their bodies think that there is a famine coming because they are eating too few calories. This ultimately slows down their metabolism to starvation mode and stores fat for later use,” explains Al Gharabally. “So any excess calories consumed will usually result in weight gain.”
Difficulty losing weight is not the only downside of yo-yo dieting. “Not all weight loss is good loss. Yo-yo dieting and other unhealthy ways of losing weight can result in losing muscle mass, and can sometimes cause kidney or heart problems,” says Aboud. “That’s why it is important to always consult with your doctor or physician before going on any weight loss program.”
While quick fixes are rarely the answer to healthy weight loss, they are usually the most popular because they almost always produce immediate results. “Most people come to me after having tried everything to lose weight from fad diets to weight loss spas and hypnosis,” says Al Gharabally. “Although my clients see weight loss results with my coaching, they also experience complete wellness and lifestyle changes such as sleeping better, having more energy and overall feeling better.” Avoiding yo-yo dieting altogether will also make for longer lasting results, and sustainable weight loss.
Applying Healthy Eating Habits
Sometimes, small lifestyle habits can have the biggest impact. “Drinking lots of water, practicing clean eating and incorporating mild physical activity such as walking are some easy and effective ways to squeeze healthy habits into everyday life,” says Aboud. Other options include eating natural, organic and whole foods and having moderate sized-meals recommends Al Gharabally. “I help people lose weight by putting together a program that is very similar to their current lifestyle, but with a few tweaks here and there to help them achieve their health goals.”
However, one of the most important habits of healthy eating is moderation, not deprivation. “When people feel they are on a diet, they deny themselves certain foods, so when they come off the diet, they will resort to their old eating habits and ultimately gain more weight,” says Aboud. She recommends ditching the “all or nothing” mentality and allowing small frequent splurges throughout the week to reduce the chances of over eating.
Healthy eating is ultimately about moving toward a new lifestyle and doing it through small and consistent changes. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” says Aboud.