To diet or not to diet?

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We all know the syndrome! Between our busy routines and the stresses of daily life we all too often find our bodies reeling from the frequent snacking and unhealthy eating. Time does simply not permit for more habitual, sustained regimens—and so we get stuck within a vicious cycle of excess and starvation. A search for a “Diet” begins that will help us expediently lose the excess weight. These diets help us deal with the frustration of not being able to keep those recurring extra pounds at bay and direct our attention towards caloric intake. We search for the trending diet and take our bodies through a shock wave of depravation. After shedding a few pounds life takes over again and we digress to the same old eating patterns. It is a never ending cycle.

So what should we do? Integrative Nutrition is a holistic approach to nutrition and well being, including weight loss. Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches run programs specific to each client as we strongly believe that every individual is a bio-individual and that one diet cannot be equally beneficial for all. We help our clients develop an understanding about which foods best suit their bodies. But, prior to that, we have them turn their focus away from the food on their plate and towards assessing their level of satisfaction in their Relationships, Sleep, Exercise and other such domains. These we term as the ‘Primary Foods’, key aspects of our lives which we believe influence our eating habits and food choices.

Often we don’t see the synergy between Primary Foods and our eating patterns. For example, insufficient sleep, which could even be a couple of consecutive nights of less than five hours, can lead to an increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and a decrease in leptin, the satiety hormone. With increased ghrelin we tend to feel more hungry, and with insufficient leptin we are unable to tell when to stop eating, and so, ultimately, we overeat.

In addition lack of sleep leaves us feeling consistently fatigued. We tend then to veer towards foods with a high glycemic index, such as simple carbohydrates like white bread or sugar laden health bars, which, because they get broken down fast, cause sugar spikes, giving us the energy boost our bodies are craving. If these foods are eaten frequently, blood sugar levels increase as the body is rendered unable to break down sugar and store it in our cells for energy. This excess sugar in our bloodstream, finally, with time, converts to fat. And so we end up with excess weight, but—and this is the key point—the cause is not to be found in the domain of diet itself, but, rather, in the initial lack of sleep.

But the relation also goes the other way: that is, food determines, to a considerable extent, our wellbeing in the other Primary Foods. To support a balanced life and optimum health we must eat the foods and food combinations that are most nourishing, given each of our unique physiological compositions. Such nutritional issues we encapsulate under the heading ‘Secondary Foods’, because, in keeping with our ethos of holism, food is always to be considered after addressing the Primary Foods outlined above. But what should be the specific approach to diet in its own right, once the Primary Foods have been addressed? The focus, importantly, is not to eliminate food, but simply introduce into one’s diet sufficient quantities of the following ‘Whole Foods’:

  1. Fruits – berries, apple, grapefruit, orange
  2. Vegetables – colourful variety
  3. Whole Grains  – NON GMO whole wheat, brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa
  4.  Protein – sustainably raised fish, grass fed beef, free range chickens and eggs, lamb, lentils and beans (soaked the night before)
  5. Good Fats – Cold Pressed Olive oil, Nuts (brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts) and Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds)
  6. Water – filtered
  7. Your beautifully thought out plate!

More generally, any health plate is constituted as:

1/2 plate colorful vegetables

1/4 plate healthy grains

1/4 plate protein of your choice

And yet what of those unanticipated cravings in between meals? To be prepared for such urgings, it is imperative to keep ready-at-hand healthy snacks of the following kind:

Hummous and veggie sticks

Guacamole with Non GMO corn tortillas

Roasted Organic Nuts – Variety (Almonds, Walnuts, Brazil Nuts)

Roasted Organic Seeds – (Pumpkin, Sunflower)

Fresh fruit – a variety (Organic Berries, Organic Apples, Orange, Rock Melon, Grapefruit)

Once you have composed a plate comprising the types of foods outlined above, your attention should turn to the process of eating itself. Trivial though it may sound, such attention can have dramatic impact on wellbeing. Prior to beginning a meal, take a few seconds to look at your plate and appreciate what you are going to eat. Then begin chewing your food slowly, sensing the tastes and textures, as opposed to mindlessly devouring. This helps one reach satiety sooner, without a nagging urge to eat something more. Listen carefully to your body and, as soon as it feels just about satiated, don’t feed it further. This type of mindful practice embodies the Integrative Nutrition approach to weight loss.

In coming weeks, I will continue to write on a number of topics related to the Primary Foods, but my focus, in particular, will be on a certain issue within the Secondary Foods, namely nutritional regimens to redress hormonal imbalances and gut issues. Please feel free to share this blog with whomever you know who might have interest.


Author: Healthybalance

I am a clinical nutritionist and certified integrative nutrition health coach. I run workshops on wellness and work with clients individually. I believe in an integrated approach to health. Along with nutritional advice I direct my clients to address the root cause of any imbalances in their lives. I believe in empowering people to become advocates for themselves so that they can make long-term changes that lead to their optimum health and wellness. The work of an integrative nutritionist is to help clients understand the synergy that exists between the primary areas in ones life like sleep, exercise, satisfaction in our relationships, career and other such domains and the food we eat. I work with young adults ages 12 and above and women, mostly pertaining to weight loss, gut issues, and hormonal imbalances.

One thought on “To diet or not to diet?”

  1. I am an endocrinologist and this article can serve as a wonderful resource for patients I treat. It is a comprehensive, holistic approach to healthy eating and living. Thank you! Will keep reading!!

    Liked by 1 person

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