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Changing our Minds – Changing our Bodies

16 March 2015

Melinda Overall Head

I recently prepared a talk about diets and detoxes … and even as a Nutritionist I was shocked by just how many diets and detox programs were flooding the market.  As I undertook my research for the talk I was astounded at how many empty promises were made to people (predominantly women) about quick, easy and simple ways to lose weight.

We are bombarded with images in the media of people with the ‘perfect’ body and, we therefore presume, the ‘perfect’ life.  Often when we attempt to achieve similar, and possibly unattainable, results we reach for promised quick solutions to lose weight and ‘fix’ our bodies.  Many of these diets, detoxes and other food fads can be severely restrictive (food -wise and socially) and if we fail to achieve our goals they can leave us feeling that we are failures.  Some of these regimes are expensive to maintain, some provide too little energy, some provide too few nutrients, many fail to recognise the differing needs of the individual and many can be unsustainable in the long term.

It has been estimated that in the fiscal year 2018/19 Australians will spend $7.1billion dollars (up from about $6billion in 2013/14) fighting the battle of the bulge – this includes (amongst others) weight loss products, weight loss counselling services, and gym memberships. We are likely to spend $100million on gym memberships alone and how many of these will go unused?

A survey undertaken in 2012 found that by the age of 45 British women had tried, on average, 61 diets in an effort to maintain their waist line.  I would suggest that our statistics are not too different from our British counterparts.

Be mindful that if weight loss is your goal, many small well-paced steps can help you achieve sustainable long term weight loss (I always liken rapid weight loss to going on holiday…the kilograms return often with excess baggage).

Remember there is no silver bullet or magic pill or a wondrous one-size-fits-all diet!

Good health and weight maintenance through good nutrition isn’t about depriving our bodies or our psyches.  A nutritious diet full of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, lean high quality protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates will provide our bodies with fuel and energy, tastes good and makes us look good (vital and vibrant) whilst taking into account our unique needs and likes.  Combine such a diet with moderate daily exercise, well maintained hydration and limited treat food (we still need to have fun with our food occasionally) and you will be well on your way to good health in a manner that is sustainable for your lifetime.

Changing the food you eat is imperative.  A kilojoule is not simply a kilojoule.  Give me ¾ cup of avocado before a standard 53g Mars Bar any day (each has just over 1,000kJ).  My micronutrient intake will be superior with the avocado.

Equally as important for our physical health, brain health and mental health we need to take some time out of our offices and lounge rooms and get moving.

As we commit to this change in eating and moving, our tastes change and our bodies start to enjoy exercise (my day just isn’t set up right if I don’t move each morning).   If we listen carefully our bodies  will tell us what food is needed and how much, but in our haste and busy-ness we have lost the art of being mindfully present – especially with ourselves and most especially around food.  Ask yourself these questions: when was the last time you stopped for lunch?  When was the last time you didn’t work or watch television or deal with an electronic device over dinner?  When was the last time you actually felt hungry?  Eating mindfully is about being fully present and appreciating the food we have on our plates and allowing our bodies to experience the sensation of eating.

Mindful eating recognises our bodies’ innate ability to let us know when we are hungry, and when we are sated, and helps us to appreciate the gift of nourishment.

So slow down, listen, feel and appreciate your body’s skill and wisdom – and eat and move accordingly.

Melinda Overall (pictured above) is a fully qualified Nutritionist. She is also one half of Brain Smart Talks – a joint project with Dr Nicola Gates, Clinical Neuropsychologist and Psychologist, running health seminars discussing how nutrition supports good mental, brain and physical health and helps us to stay on top of our game.