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Sunday, November 7, 1999
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The woes of dieting

Most people who diet to lose weight will ultimately fail,
Anup Deb Nath

TRYING to attain a good figure is not all that difficult, it’s just that most of us go about it in the wrong way. The common ways of trying to reach the size you want is either through diet or exercise and sometimes through a combination of both. There are, of course, others who often take the easy way out and opt to have the fat literally sucked out of them by machines.

All these women weigh approximately 57 kgPossibly the commonest way of trying to lose weight is by dieting. Exercise for some reason is seen as difficult to sustain and many people carry the wrong notion that once they start exercising they will have to continue it for life otherwise once they stop they will gain it all back on again.

Another reason people tend to shy away from exercise is that they expect instant results from it. Exercise is not an overnight cure and you will certainly not see the kilos melting away the day you start exercising. Surprisingly what most people just don’t understand is that exercise helps you stay healthy along with all the other benefits it gives you appearance wise.

Dieting is often the easiest way out of the weight cycle, but it is mostly the wrong type of dieting that is practiced. The meaning of dieting as understood by many is eating less while it actually means eating the right food in reasonable proportions.

Studies have shown that women in particular are more likely to diet because they have strong ideas on how much they should weigh. Clinically and visually these women may not appear to be at all obese but they feel they need to lose weight simply because the weighing scale tells them so.

There is no correct weight for your height as a lot depends on your build and body type. The proportion of fat deposits also make a difference to the way you look and which areas you might need to slim down or bulk up on. The picture given shows 8 different women all of whom weigh in at about 130 pounds or about 57 kgs. Some of them are overweight all over to a slight degree, some have a pear-shaped figure — where the upper body is thinner than the lower body etc. This picture best illustrates that you should not see your body through the weighing scale but the mirror and how you feel.

Diets when followed sensibly can actually work and make you feel as well as look good. Eat the right type of food that your body needs rather than filling up on junk food and other non-nutritious options. Lots of vegetables, fruits, salads, cereals, natural juices etc are good for you but the colas, pizzas, burgers, fries etc won’t help. Crash dieting is the main reason most diets tend to fail. The majority of people who go on a diet feel it’s okay to skip breakfast, eat an apple for lunch and fill up on a little roti and dal at dinner time.

This is far less than what the body requires and so the craving for food intensifies while the metabolism slows down.

To understand why diets often fail Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, carried out a survey. They asked a group of dieters as well as a group of non-dieters to drink a large milkshake telling them it was for some research on taste. After this they were asked to taste some ice-cream and given the option of eating as much of it as they wanted. They found that the dieters tended to eat much more ice-cream than the non-dieters group, possibly because they had deprived their bodies from it for so long.

To overcome the numbers flashed by the weighing scale and the dieting woes there are a few points that have been put together by experts which have helped many people understand why diets fail and how to come out of their weight loss plateaus.

l Most of the people who diet to lose weight will ultimately fail. This is due to the fact that you will lose weight on the diet but the moment you go off it you will put it all on and more.

l A basic understanding of your body type, the ratio of muscle to fat in your body, your genetic make-up, lifestyle, food habits, weaknesses and strengths will all help you put what you are and what you can be in a better perspective and make your aspirations much more realisable and attainable. It is difficult and often impossible to try to change the body type that you are born with or the predisposition to gather fat around a specific area, but once you are aware of the problem you can certainly try to keep it off by working that specific area more diligently.

l It is important to realise what dieting will and can do to you — being perpetually hungry, often tired and lethargic are all side effects of stringent dieting.

l Instead of reducing how much you eat try to increase how much you workout your body. There is a limit below which one should not suppress one’s food intake if you want to remain healthy and fit. Increasing your daily exercise while eating sensibly is the way to long term fitness.

l Don’t get swayed by what you weigh. Learn to look at yourself in the mirror objectively and then decide where you need to lose from and then go about it. Your mirror will be your real guide to tell you how you look and your health an indication of how you feel.

l Don’t just exercise to lose weight, do it to stay healthy. Regular exercise apart from giving you a great body will actually take years off the way you look and you will begin to look and feel younger and healthier than ever before.Back

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