Healthy Living: Don’t Diet This January

It’s the New Year and plenty are battling the “I ate way too much in December” demon, whether necessary or not.

Most New Years Resolutions revolve around losing weight, trying to get healthy or simply fitting into THAT dress again. Resolutions that involve some kind of diet, cleanse, eating plan or calorie chart that will now rule their lives for the next six weeks.

But – I am here with a radical idea.

I am here to implore you – please – DON’T diet this January.

Or February.

Or March.

Or… you know whenever!

There’s an old saying, “diet’s don’t work” and like many clichés, it is a cliché for a reason.

Diet’s don’t work for the simple fact they are a short term solution to a long-standing problem. If you are severely overweight, you will not (and should not!) get healthy or to your ideal weight in six-weeks.

If you want a quick solution to any kind of weight or health problem, even if it’s only a few kilos you want to lose – I still maintain that a typical “diet” will not do the trick. “Two weeks with no bread” will make you lose weight, but will it be sustainable long term? Only if you never eat bread again.

A long-term sustainable healthy lifestyle is the ideal way to create change in your life. Change that will STAY. Change that won’t fluctuate all over the place as soon as you go out for dinner with friends.

You want to build habits that will make you healthy for the rest of your life, not for six weeks. No one wants to live counting calories and denying delicious food until they reach their ideal weight. Because then what happens? You reach the weight, but once you’ve achieved it – how do you now just live life NOT on a diet?

What is life after dieting? Life after dieting, the majority of the time – is gaining all your weight back as soon as you go back to “eating normally”. Most dieters end up larger than they started, because their bodies have been starved into a dress size by methods that are unsustainable. Most diets don’t set you up with life-long habits and the tools needed to keep that dress size for the rest of your life, they give you a quick fix with an expiry date and then you’re left out in the dark. NO ONE wants to live their entire life on a diet. At some stage, you want to just live your life and not stress about the food going in. The only way to achieve this – is by establishing good, basic fundamental habits and keeping yourself healthy the majority of the time. And it’s easy – I promise.

When we diet, we usually restrict in some way. And guess what? You don’t have to restrict your foods, your calories or your happiness to be healthy and happy. Mad, I know. You can live with healthy habits that create a healthy and happy body so it becomes totally second nature.

So, this January, don’t make a dieting resolution. Don’t draw up a 1500 calorie a day diet plan to lose your Christmas weight. Like all New Years Resolutions, it will fail and drop away before you can say “green smoothie.”

Instead, let’s draw up a very realistic set of goals and establish healthy habits that can stick around forever. These healthy habits are addictive, easy to obey and will amaze you with the results.

If you can slowly but surely implement these five simple habits into your day-to-day life, I promise you it will be more beneficial than any 6-week dieting plan!

Also – if you aren’t already on a plant-based diet, please look into shirking animal products. Removing meat and dairy from your life will only help your body heal, shed weight and feel fantastic.

1) Start Your Day with Hot Water and Lemon

When you wake up in the morning, your brilliant body is still detoxing. Sleep is where we (hopefully) rejuvenate, rest and detox from the previous day. All your food is digested (unless there’s leftover meat in your colon) and your cells are fresh and rebuilding. As soon as you start putting food in – digestion begins. You’ve probably heard before that the body’s signals for hunger and thirst are nearly exactly the same. So, the best advice I can give you (and certainly the best thing I ever did) is to start your day by drinking delicious, fresh water and a lot of it. Have a good liter before eating any breakfast, nice and slowly. This will flush out any remaining bits from the previous day, wake up your body and make sure when you’re hungry for breakfast, you really do want food and not just water.

If you can have some lemon in your water – even better. A little boost of vitamin C and extra detox.

 2) Have an Early Dinner

Digesting food is a big job for the body and it takes time. If you’re still digesting food as you settle down for bed – sleep is not going to be as peaceful or successful as it could be. Ideally, you want to have dinner a good three hours before hitting the hay, so your body has had time to digest and can completely rest when you settle down.

3) Think About Food Combining

This honestly changed my life. Different foods have different digestion times, so mixing foods that have very, very different digesting time-spans, you are setting yourself up for bloating, gas and even abdominal pain.

If you’re having some problems with bloating, it can be an allergy like gluten, or as simple as bad food combining. For example – if you have some porridge for breakfast, which is a nice, slow-burning fuel that can keep you full for a while, but then follow it with a packet of apricots – that fruit will digest incredibly quickly. What happens when it meets the oats and can’t get past?

Not good things. Nothing horribly detrimental, obviously; these are still healthy, but it’s not optimal for your digestion. Ideally, you want to eat whole raw foods on their own and quite far apart from other big meals. I eat raw salads alongside my dinners, but try to keep large quantities of fruits on their own so they can digest quickly and efficiently without getting backed up.

4) What are Your Liquids?

If you are still drinking sodas, diet sodas, cheap fruit juices and such – please, let me beg you to stop. Instead of dieting, here is a RADICAL idea – swap your liquids for water. Yep. Just water. Water, raw fruit/vegetable juices and tea. That’s it. If you are drinking a lot of calorific and unhealthy drinks (equally bad. I don’t care that diet soda has no calories – it’s doing you no good) if you cut these out and replace them with refreshing, slimming, healthy water – you will see immediate results. Obviously, if you are happy with your weight and not trying improve your health – indulge in vegan milkshakes and coffees (I certainly do!) – but if you’re trying to lose weight, start getting the most out of your calories by consuming GOOD things that serve you. Don’t waste them on lemonade, coke, beer and giant caramel lattes. A glass of wine now and then is lovely, but again – if you want a health kick or to lose weight – for a week, try only drinking the following and be amazed at the difference:

  • Good old H2O (Water)
  • Hot water with Lemon
  • Water with added lemon/lime and mint
  • Herbal teas
  • Green juice
  • Fresh squeezed fruit/vegetable juices
  • Hot apple juice (homemade!) with cinnamon

It’s not about being “calorie free” (a black coffee has no calories), it’s about being healthy and training your body to know it’s getting investments, not withdrawals.

5) Be Prepared

The most obvious successful tool to any healthy lifestyle – is to prepare. Be a bit organized with your food. It makes all the difference in the world. Before you go to bed – prepare your lunch for the next day. Make some overnight oats for your breakfast. Chop some veggies to take to work and snack on. Think about the restaurants your going to with friends so you know you can have a wholesome soup or a really good veggie dish that will be fairly healthy. Enjoy it with the occasional glass of wine, guilt free. It won’t matter if you do – because this is your LIFE, not a diet. You’re in this long term and if you are healthy MOST of the time, you can indulge when you want to and not feel tempted to binge out and go completely bonkers. Of course you can go out for dinner! You can and should! Your mental sanity is equally as important.

All of these little differences will help healthy living be a long-term sustainable goal. Instead of dieting, take small steps to be healthy for the rest of your life.

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Hannah Ellis

Food Editor

Hannah is an actor and writer living in Manchester, UK. As well as all things theatre, Hannah's passionate about animal rights, travelling (home to Australia when possible!) and making incredible plant-friendly meals. In her spare time, she sneaks off to spread the vegan message on her website, Hannah has been a healthy, happy vegan for nearly three years.

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