In the last several years, people have been addicted to following restrictive eating and diets, and obsessed with dieting (Intermittent Fasting, Keto Diet, Low Carb Diet, Low Calorie Diet etc..). For most people, the focus is only on weight loss. Unfortunately, restricted diets will not provide weight loss for a lifetime, or even support overall health. So for runners and athletes who need to focus on eating healthy, balanced diets according to their body type, training, and proper refueling, will even maintain good health, fitness, strength, and increase their lifetime.
Intuitive eating is the best recommendation for runners and athletes but also even people that don’t exercise. Restrictive diets can cause many negative side effects, it might cause some health issues, weight gain after a few months, affect sleeping pattern, loss of energy, even muscle injuries, soreness or joint pain.
If your plan is to get back into shape or you have a weight-loss goal, it’s important to avoid restrictive diets and counting calories. Research shows that dieting does not work after a while. The best thing you can do to eat healthier, is to cook more your meals, avoid processed foods, eat more natural foods, fruits and vegetables, good protein, healthy fat, and listening to your body’s hunger signals. Calories should be according to our training and lifestyle.
Restrictive diets can be pretty enticing with all their promises for weight loss and eternal youth, which does not happen. Unfortunately, social media includes big restricted diet trends. But the truth is, dieting does not work, and instead can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. In the long term, most dieters regain the weight lost and a few new kilograms. Certain types of restricted diets should only be recommended to people with some types of diseases or illnesses.
4 Reasons Diets Don’t Work
1. Diets are the Opposite of How the Body Functions
Dieting is counterproductive to how our body functions. The body is constantly working hard to maintain balance, and when we restrict calories, our metabolism outsmarts us and slows down. The body produces stress hormones (like cortisol) in response to less nutrition, and these hormones signal cells to store up reserves, resulting in weight gain. Losing weight also affects the hormone leptin, making us hungrier and hungrier the more weight we lose. These side effects of specific diets can affect runners or athletes intensely.
2. You’re Always Thinking About Food
Dieting also leads to thinking about food throughout the day, which doesn’t help keep hunger signals away. The mind wants what it can’t have. A month without our favourite foods often leads to binge eating. Instead of completely restricting sweet treats, it’s better to practice moderation.
3. Restriction Leads to Cravings
Additionally, restricting healthy fats and complex carbs leads to an energy deficiency, which causes sugar cravings. Our bodies end up wanting the quickest fuel source possible, which are simple sugars from refined carbs. And sugar is one of the leading culprits of weight gain. Intermittent fasting also causes more cravings, hormone imbalance, energy loss and muscle soreness or injuries. When our body doesn’t get fueled properly, our metabolism will slow down, which will cause many side effects, especially for runners and athletes. We should focus on which nutrients our body is depleted of, refuel our body to cease our hunger.
4. Stressful, and Negative
Dieting is simply no fun. Healthy eating should not be restrictive, or uninspiring, and even healthy eating should not become obsessive. Food should be celebrated, it nourishes our minds, bodies, and souls. Instead of a diet resolution, focus on cooking more and eating more natural foods. Delicious and nourishing homemade meals will leave you energized and satiated.
Even to start with a hearty healthy breakfast will keep you sustained, refuel your body post-training and refill the body with all the nutrients.
What Is Intuitive Eating?
It is an approach to eating that focuses on listening to what our body needs rather than following a certain diet or rules so that we can have a better relationship with food. When we eat intuitively, we feel more in tune with our hunger and fullness signals, allowing us to eat based on what our body feels rather than what time it is or following food rules. If it’s 9pm and you feel super hungry but you’ve already had your dinner, the intuitive way to eat is to have a small healthy snack before bed. That’s why following Intuitive Eating, will follow our body’s hunger according to our running schedule and distance. Most runners who follow restrictive diets, tend to crash earlier and more often during runs or races.
It’s also all about eating what you crave and what satisfies you. If you love bread and butter or healthy crisps and hummus as a snack and it makes you feel nourished and happy, then that is healthy for you. Intuitive eating allows you to eat what you crave when you want to eat it without feeling guilty about it.
Eating in this way is a journey that you have to trust. It takes a lot of mental work to get to a place where you can let go of dieting and restrictive ways of eating (since dieting is a big current trend). It’s challenging for all of us and all we can do is try our best. We will often make mistakes and maybe eat too much of something that doesn’t make us feel good (ice cream, cakes etc..).
Tips For Eating More Intuitively
1. Avoid The Diets.
Many people follow diets in hopes that it will make them fitter, healthier or lose weight. The problem with following the rules of restricted diets, can be super stressful, and create an unhealthy relationship with food. If you're eating in a way that causes you stress, even if it seems super healthy, it’s not healthy for your body.
2. Eat Slowly And Mindfully
By eating slowly, chewing our food fully, noticing the textures and flavours in our food, feeling grateful for the farmers that grew our food, we will become more in tune with appetite signals and will feel more satisfied with our meals. If this sounds like too much to think about while eating, we need to try doing it for the first 5 minutes of eating and see how we feel. Chewing our food and slowing down is also better for digestion and nutrient absorption.
3. Eat What You Crave
If you’re eating things you actually want to eat and that feel both nourishing and indulgent, you’ll feel a lot more satisfied and less likely to grab a snack afterwards. Often, culture and media tells us certain foods are bad and others are good, but this is just an unnecessary and stressful way to think about food. What’s healthy for you may not be healthy for another person. A restricted diet dinner type can leave us craving treats and snacks for the rest of the evening.
4. Eat Until You Feel Full And Satisfied
We should not always focus on eating and finishing our whole plate, it will make intuitive eating challenging at times. We should prepare our portion size according to our body type, size, training and energy burn. Once we start to feel full, we can take a break from eating. It can take up to 30 minutes for our brain to register that we’re actually full. This is why eating slowly can make a big difference in feeling our appetite cues.
5. Respect Your Body
Diet culture often tells us we need to change the way our bodies look in order to be happy with it. Instead of trying to change our body, we need to focus on changing how we feel about our body and loving and respecting it for what it is. If we honour our body's hunger signals and cravings, we will nourish it from the inside out. For runners and athletes, focusing on a healthy weight, to support our body’s strength and energy, will also support our running performance. People who focus on low calories, weight loss, will lose more muscle mass, which will affect the running form and performance.
Enjoy Intuitive Eating, Feel Good, Look Good And Strong And Enjoy Great Runs!