AS the weather gets tentatively warmer, many of us might be contemplating the summer months.
If the thought of bikinis and skimpier clothing is making you think you want to diet to lose weight, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
"I’m constantly trying to fight pseudoscience about dieting and the culture that surrounds it," registered nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said.
The Sunday Times bestselling author of The Science of Nutrition told The Sun that many people think dieting – cutting calories, swearing off entire food groups or throwing themselves into extreme exercise regimes – is the best way to slim down.
But Rhiannon thinks there are more sustainable ways towards weight loss or, as she likes to call it, body fat loss.
Some things people try in order to reach their body goals might actually hinder their health journey rather than help it, she added.
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The nutritionist outlined three of those harmful 'dieting hacks'.
Setting unmanageable goals
Rhiannon told The Sun: "Whilst goal setting can be a really motivating and positive tool for people wanting to lose weight, it can also have detrimental psychological effects."
If your diet plans are unrealistic or too prohibitive, 'veering' off them could elicit feelings of guilt, shame, or failure.
Far from aiding fat loss, grappling with these feelings might even cause you to overeat.
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"If you do try goal setting, try to create small and more manageable goals to help you to achieve them, but also remember to be kind to yourself," Rhiannon advised.
The nutritionist was quick to point out that nobody can stick perfectly to a healthy meal plan.
"We’re all human and it’s okay to have days where we’re not always optimising our nutrition," she said.
"Just make sure that your next meal is more balanced and contains a variety of different foods."
Labelling foods as 'bad'
Another dieting trap many fall into is labelling foods as virtuous or naughty, Rhiannon continued.
"No food should be labelled as inherently good or bad, as all foods can and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced, healthy and varied diet," she stressed.
"Categorising food creates a restrictive mindset that may increase food cravings, and in turn lead to a vicious cycle known as the binge-restrict cycle.
"This may increase the risk of overeating these foods when they are available," Rhiannon added.
She said the practice of categorising items as good or bad might even sour our overall relationship with food.
Relying on scales
"Another important thing to remember is not constantly stepping on the scales when you’re looking to lose body fat, as these are not always 100 per cent accurate," Rhiannon pointed out.
Scales aren't the best way of measuring your overall health, she explained.
Instead of weighing yourself, try to focus more on how you’re feeling in yourself rather than the number displayed on the scales, the nutritionist advised.
So what can you do instead?
Rhiannon outlined some more sustainable ways to help you to lose body fat instead of ‘dieting’.
She advised you eat a healthy, balanced diet which includes a variety of starchy carbohydrates, wholegrains, healthy fats, protein, fruits and vegetables, fibre, nuts, seeds, pulses, and legumes, as well as maintaining good hydration levels too.
Instead of restriction, the nutritionist suggested practising portion control.
You could also try keeping a food and mood diary. Rhiannon suggested you try to fill this in before and after you eat to help you to acknowledge how hungry and satisfied you feel.
According to the nutritionist, it can really help you to understand your eating habits and behaviours over the course of time.
"After all, as psychology and nutrition are so closely intertwined, our behaviours surrounding food are half of the weight (body fat) loss journey," she stated.
You can still enjoy less-healthy foods, Rhiannon stressed.
"But be mindful of how often you consume them and keep intakes to a minimum," she said.
"Full restriction can lead to binge eating tendencies, which can have a negative impact on our relationship with food and may also lead to weight gain."
Lastly, she said you should listen to your body’s internal hunger cues.
"Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full," she explained.
Other lifestyle factors such as regular daily movement or exercise, getting good quality sleep each night, and trying to manage our stress levels as much as possible, will also help with body fat loss.
If you’re looking at embarking on a weight loss journey, make sure you are seeking support from a qualified healthcare professional such as a registered nutritionist or dietitian, Rhiannon emphasised.
The nutritionist also hosts the podcast Food For Thought – she delved deeper into weight loss myths and how to lose weight in a recent episode.
In a recent appearance on the Today Show, dietitian Vanessa Rissetto CEO and co-founder of Culina Health, echoed Rhiannon in saying there are ways to lose weight without going to extremes.
She advised against taking calorie restriction too fat and cutting out whole food groups.
"Please, everyone, eat protein and fat," Vanessa said. 'You need that to fuel your body.'
Carbs have gotten a bad rep in recent years: our mind immediately go to things like bread and biscuits, Vanessa said.
But the dietitian pointed out there are carbs in everything, like lentils or avocados.
'Carbs are not bad. They are our major energy source. We need them for fuel,' she said. 'We are scared of carbs because no one taught us how to eat them.'
Vanessa also advised you think twice before spending lots of money on something like a juice cleanse or an expensive diet programme.
She said people should 'do the math' and ask themselves: "Can I achieve the goal while not blowing up my pocket?"
If someone feels like they need some guidance, they should speak to a dietician.
Ultimately, you should have a think about whether you're being realistic with any diet plans, whether they fit into to your daily life and if they're sustainable to keep up.
A diet shouldn't so prohibitive that it'll make you lose your mind, Vanessa said.
And she gave the example of a busy working mum who is also cooking for her family. Preparing separate 'diet' meals might be costly and time consuming.
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She also stressed that a diet shouldn't be so regimented that you can't ever go out to eat at a restaurant.
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