Is Weight Loss the Best Way to Judge a Healthy Diet?

Is Weight Loss the Best Way to Judge a Healthy Diet?

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When it comes to adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle, the first question people tend to ask is ‘will this make me lose weight?’

Our society has a tendency to assume that living a healthier lifestyle should always result in
losing weight. Or that losing weight is always a sign of a healthy diet/lifestyle.
 
Popular diets promote themselves by promising dramatic weight loss results, the focus always seems to be on how many kgs can be lost in a short period of time, and this seemingly determines how ‘successful’ any particular diet is. However, weight loss is not always a sure sign of a healthy diet, just because a certain way of eating results in weight loss does not necessarily mean it is health promoting or good for you in the long run. I understand that we all want to look good and feel comfortable in our physical appearance. That is totally okay and not something to be discouraged. But the most valuable results of living a healthy lifestyle occur inside your body! These internal changes are what will ultimately affect our health and well-being throughout the rest of our life!
 
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To help explain my point; it is completely possible for someone to lose 10kg while eating only junk food, binge drinking, smoking and never exercising. But just because they lost weight, does not mean that their health has necessarily improved, or that the diet/lifestyle is healthy. On a less extreme level, you can follow diets that may be helping you to lose weight, but at the same time could also be promoting dangerous chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease or type 2 diabetes. From the outside it may appear that this way of eating is helping you to achieve your health and fitness goals; but in the long run, the quality of your health and longevity could actually be suffering!
 
Weight loss is typically achieved by consuming less energy than you are using. i.e. energy intake < energy output (although it can definitely be much more complicated than this!!). So if you are consuming less calories than you expend each day, you will likely end up losing weight. But this doesn’t speak to the health of your lifestyle at all. Eating a bag of lollies and smoking a pack of cigarettes each day could result in weight loss, but at the same time it is harming your health, and promoting disease inside your body.
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So how can we truly judge a healthy diet from an unhealthy one? It can be really challenging to tell the true effect a specific diet/lifestyle is having on the inside of your body! The only real way we can judge our individual experience is by analyzing how we feel, but even this can be confusing sometimes.
 
Try to be aware of how your food makes you feel, do you feel energized or tired after your meals? Are you satisfied and full after eating? Do you have more energy in your workouts? How often are you feeling bloated/experiencing digestive issues?
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The only other reliable way to judge the health of any particular diet/way of eating is by reading the relevant scientific literature. This can be a tedious and time-consuming process if you are not experienced in analyzing scientific literature, but luckily, most of the results are pretty well documented and summed in easy to understand online articles.
 
When it comes down to it, a healthy diet isn’t complicated or glamorous or always changing with the latest Instagram trends. It’s basic foods, eaten in sensible amounts, minimizing processed products. People are so sick of hearing the same general recommendations when it comes to food, but they are the official recommendations for a reason. The vast majority of scientific evidence points towards the same conclusions.
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My idea of a healthy diet is pretty much summed up by Michael Pollan’s famous words; “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

In this instance, ‘food’ means real food. Not packets covered in long lists of ingredients. The simpler the better.

Also, any diet that severely restricts any macronutrient (e.g. low carb high fat, or high carb low fat etc.)

is probably not ideal for long-term maintenance or health.

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There is a big difference between a diet that is designed to maximize weight loss and a way of eating designed to maximize your health and longevity. However, that is not to say you can’t lose weight while also eating a healthy diet. If you are carrying excess fat/weight, consistently eating a well-planned health-promoting diet will allow you to lose that weight at a healthy and sustainable rate. Restrictive fad diets are not designed to help you keep the weight off long-term, they are designed to achieve a rapid rate of weight loss in the short-term, but are extremely hard to maintain for the rest of your life. So from a health & nutrition perspective, it is much better to slowly lose weight through a sustainable and healthy lifestyle that is also keeping your insides well fuelled and happy, than to suddenly drop 10kg and only keep it off for a few months. When you are consistently living a healthy lifestyle your body will naturally find its happy place, but always keep in mind that not every body is designed to naturally sit at the same perfect healthy weight!
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So all I’m really trying to say is; try not to focus so much on finding ‘the best weight loss diet’, take care of your health inside and out by eating a non-restrictive, nutritious diet full of whole foods, and your body will find its healthy weight naturally. Just because you constantly see fad diets promoted online/in the media showing dramatic weight loss results does not mean those diets are good for you or that you should try to copy them. Look after your body and it will look after you!
Jess McLeod. 


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