January is the month of the year that most people think about dieting and exercising. It’s commonly part of new year resolution’s of the majority. It’s important to review the definition of dieting, it’s perception and how should we look at it from a healthier perspective.
Diet has different definitions, “food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition and its effects on health; “it’s a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s condition or to prevent or treat a disease”.
Dieting is “to select or limit the food one eats to improve one’s physical condition or to lose weight”, “ to regulate the food of, especially in order to improve physical condition”.
In simple terms, the word diet could mean restriction or deprivation for the most of us, and this could have a negative effect in our brain, the effect of punishment. When this happens, on the majority of the cases, people will diet for a short period of time, losing weight, however they wouldn’t be able to sustain this “punishment” in long term. After this, they go back to their previous eating habits and all the weight they lost is back on. These fluctuations on weight cause frustration, disappointment and it’s harmful for the health of the individual.
However if we consider the definition of diet as “food and drink considered of its qualities, composition and its effects on health”, this definition doesn’t mean restriction or deprivation. It means, to think carefully about, especially in order to make a decision in which food and when to eat. This is called mindful eating. Being mindful is to be aware of our body, our needs and emotions. Is to distinguish hunger from emotional eating, for example.
When we eat because we are hungry, we don’t put on weight. Our body give us signals on hunger and satiety and we should pay attention and listen to our body.
How do we listen to the hunger and satiety signals of our body?
The hunger signal is send by a hormone called ghrelin to our brain and normally manifests in the form of stomach rumbling or headache. If you feel an increased desire of eating, this could not mean that you are hungry. It’s important to understand you are feeling hungry before you eat. Sometimes we confused being thirsty with being hungry. My advice would be to drink a glass of water and after that if you still feel hungry, then you should eat.
The signal of satiety is sent by a hormone called by Leptine which function is to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, reducing appetite and creating a feeling of fullness. Usually it takes 20 minutes for the signal of satiety to manifest. My advice is to eat slowly, at least 20 minutes per meal, so you allow your body to give you the signal of fullness. If you eat too quickly, the signal of satiety will manifest when you already ate too much, more than you actually needed.
A good exercise to start being mindful in when and what you eat is to have a food diary. During a week, write time, how you felt before eating, what you ate and how you felt after eating. At the end of the day, analyse what you ate, if it was healthy or not, if you ate emotionally or because you felt hungry, how food made you feel after eating, guilty or satisfied?
This is one of the techniques I use with some of my clients to help me to help them on their journey of weigh loss or healthy eating.
• Think about diet as food and drink that you considered in terms of its qualities, composition and its effect on health
• Be mindful when and what you eat, thinking about the food and listening to the signals of hunger and satiety. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you start feeling full
• Eat slowly, allowing time to listen to the signal of satiety (at least 20 minutes)
• Write a food diary including time, food, drinks and feeling before and after eating. This will help you to identify if you eat when hungry or by emotion
On my next post, I will give you practical tips in how to eat smarter and healthier.
Hi, I'm Joana, a Portuguese registered dietitian in the UK. I am passionate about helping others achieving their health goals.