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International No Diet Day 2020: The Dos And Don'ts Of Dieting

| Reviewed By Chandra Gopalan

Every year, International No Diet Day (INDD) is observed on 6 May. The day celebrates body acceptance, raising awareness on the importance of body positivity and body shape diversity.

INDD also focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle with a focus on health at any size.

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International No Diet Day

The first International No Diet Day was celebrated in the UK in 1992 and was brought to light by Mary Evans - a feminist and the director of the British group ‘Diet Breakers.' The symbol for INDD is a light blue ribbon [1].

The goals of INDD is to "question the idea of one ‘right' body shape, raise awareness of weight discrimination, size bias and fatphobia, declare a day free from diets and obsessions about body weight, present the facts about the diet industry, emphasizing the inefficacy of commercial diets, honour the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgery and help end weight discrimination, sizism and fatphobia" [2].

INDD has faced criticisms for its approach, where health experts assert that although the day is celebrated with the right intentions, it ignores the importance of staying fit and healthy. The Institute of Medicine's Committee To Develop Criteria for Evaluating the Outcomes of Approaches To Prevent and Treat Obesity stated that, "......it is inappropriate to argue that obese individuals should simply accept their body weight and not attempt to reduce, particularly if the obesity is increasing their risk for developing other medical problems or diseases" [3].

On this International No Diet Day, we will focus on understanding the dos and dont's of dieting.

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Dieting - An Essential Part Of Modern Living (?)

Healthy eating has become a significant part of an active lifestyle, with youths to adults engaging in a healthy lifestyle which help optimise one's overall performance [4]. However, you have to understand that healthy eating is not about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. It is all about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mood -without feeling slump.

Healthy eating does not have to be complicated [5]. The primary and also the central element in the habit of healthy eating is to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Because consuming food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it is the best means to consume it.

A healthful diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables of many colours, whole grains and starches, good fats, and lean proteins [6]. Eating healthfully also means avoiding foods with high amounts of added salt and sugar and has various benefits such as the following:

  • Promotes healthy weight loss [7]
  • Reduces cancer risk
  • Manages diabetes
  • Improves heart health and prevents stroke risk
  • Promotes bone and teeth health
  • Improves memory and overall mood
  • Improves gut health
  • Promotes sleep quality

With thousands of diet plans out there, it can get a bit confusing to choose the right one. While some diets focus on weight loss, others can be for weight gain, heart health, diabetes management and so on [8][9]. From Vegan to DASH, the list of healthy diets is (almost) never-ending. Studies claim that the last decade witnessed one of the major awakenings of health-obsession, where people switched to adopt healthy lifestyles and habits [10].

Therefore, it can be pointed out that while some diets can help you to stay healthy, some are outright harmful. So, let's take a look at some of the most important points you need to keep in mind while trying out a new diet.

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The Diet Dos and Don’ts

Please keep in mind that you DO NOT have to adopt a specific diet (unless you are required to). However, if you are looking forward to adopting one, please consult a nutritionist and discuss with your doctor regarding the best suitable one for your body and mind.

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The Do’s Of Dieting

  • Do have your breakfast, but make it a quick one: Breakfast may be considered the most important meal of the day, but make sure that the meal is a simple one. You can choose high-fibre cereal, whole-grain toast, oatmeal, and fresh fruit with yoghurt for a quick but healthy breakfast [11].
  • Do eat a lot of greens: Vegetables, especially green ones such as spinach, kale, cabbage etc. are low on calories and high on calcium, protein and fibre [12]. You can eat your greens raw or you can eat them with your salads for an energised day.
  • Do keep a check on what you're eating: One of the most important things to be considered while following a diet is to know what you are eating. While cravings can overpower you, DON'T let it. Make sure you stick to the recommended diet to get the benefits.
  • Do eat fat: One of the most common misconceptions of dieting is that one must avoid fat. Some fats, such as omega-3 fats are essential for healthy weight loss. In addition, these fats help maintain the smooth functioning of your whole system [13].
  • Do make healthy swaps: While you will have to give up on some of the unhealthy choices, you can always swap the unhealthy foods for a healthy version. For example, swap your butter with olive oil [14].
  • Do drink a lot of water: Drinking about 8-9 glasses of water can help improve your metabolism [15].
  • Do exercise: Just because you are on a diet, it does not mean that you don't have to exercise. Dieting and exercising go hand-in-hand where one compliments the other [16]. Doing some physical activity will help strengthen your body and keep you fit as well.
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The Dont’s Of Dieting

Don't starve yourself: First and foremost, under no circumstances starve yourself. Majority of people who take up diets take the ‘easy' way of skipping meals and starving themselves. While studies show that you can lose unwanted weight by starving yourself, 50 per cent of that weight loss comes from muscle tissue, not from fat [17]. This can result in your metabolism slowing down and paving way for several health problems [18][19].

Don't overdo the diet: Just because the diet seems to be working for you, does not mean that you have to overdo it. Stay true to the diet plan [20].

Don't consume too many fats: While it is important not to avoid healthy fats, you shouldn't be consuming too much fat as well. Avoid red meats, pork, beef and other fattening meats [21].

Don't eat if you are not hungry: Sometimes when you get bored, your hand may extend to a bowl of chips or even some nuts - DON'T. If you are not hungry, do not eat. Your body does not require extra energy for its functioning [22]. A lot of people overeat simply because the food is readily available - so stop staring at your fridge.

Don't be too hard on yourself: Give yourself the occasional treat, but make sure it is occasional. Being too strict with your diet plan can never be good for you, both physically and mentally [23][24].

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Why Most Diets Fail

Chandra Gopalan, a veteran of over 50 marathons and ultra-marathons speaks about why most diets fail.

  • Diets have a short-sighted approach: They expect that you change your behaviour overnight. They expect you to cut out many things from your meal, all at once. This fails. It's a slow steady approach that leads to success.
  • Diets make you hungry: Diets create fat loss through calorie deficit only. The truth is that you need to be physically active too. When you create the calorie deficit with a healthy eating plan and a good workout program, you create the deficit and boost metabolism at the same time. This keeps you from being hungry.
  • Diets make you tired: A chronic problem with diets is that many of them are too low in calories. Because they don't provide enough energy for you to do your workouts and accomplish everything else you need to do in a day, you are tired. This leads to stress which eventually leads to overeating.
  • Diets break down muscle: When the food consumed does not produce enough energy, the body starts breaking down fat. This is good in the short term. But in the absence of fuel, the Basal Metabolic rate (BMR), drops leading to weight gain in the long run.

On A Final Note...

While International No Diet Day promotes the acceptance of all body types, remember that whatever the body type or size, it is essential that you are healthy. In the same way, a lean body may not be an indication of healthy living, a heavy body does not mean unhealthy. It is not necessary that you HAVE to adopt a diet to have a healthy living. Eat a balanced meal, exercise, drink water and have a good sleep schedule to show your body that you love it.

Chandra Gopalan CrossFit Training Systems
American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Chandra Gopalan
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