Look in any magazine, website, tv show and it won’t be long before you see something about weight loss. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s fuelled by messages that insist that to be healthy we have to be light. So why is it, that for some people, trying to lose weight is a game at which they keep failing, causing a cycle of disappointment and damage to their self-esteem?
Could it be that we’re not all built the same, and that one size, literally and figuratively, doesn’t fit all?
That’s the idea behind Poodle Science - which uses the example of different dog breeds to explain that humans come in a wide range of naturally differing shapes and sizes. They’re not intrinsically good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Each body shape makes its owner great at different things - like strength, speed, agility, keeping warm.
The problem is that so much health and weight ‘advice’ comes from a single breed of dog - in this case Poodles - who assume that everyone should look like them. They don’t realise that other breeds have complete different shapes, sizes and dietary needs, yet are still perfectly healthy. So the Poodles dish out this so-called advice as if it were the single and only truth. When in fact it is coming from a very limited and narrow view of the world- the Poodle view. If other breeds try to follow this advice, they are never going to succeed. As the video so succinctly puts it: ‘A starving mastiff will never be a poodle’.
We need to value our own individual shape and aim to be healthy within the body we have, not try and mould it into what we see in the media. Whether you’re a mastiff, a chihuahua or a poodle, be healthy in the body you have.
We hear a lot about mindfulness and the benefits of focussing on being present in the moment. But did you know that mindfulness can have a big impact on the way we eat and on our relationship with food?
Mindful eating means eating in a way that is driven by being aware of your body, and giving it what it wants. It’s not about eating to a timetable, or to a diet plan, but giving your body the fuel it needs.
The problem with eating plans or diets, or whatever you want to call them, is that they are not tailored to your body. Following a rigid eating regime doesn’t take your body’s needs into account.
Mindful eating is about learning to listen for cues, and realising that your body knows better than you. Some of the signs that you might not be fuelling your body adequately are fatigue, lack of concentration, or anxiety.
Of course, we all recognise that hunger is a trigger to re-fuel, so eat when you’re hungry. But it’s just as important to spot the cue to stop eating, and not carry on after we are full. Don’t ever feel guilty about eating - food is fuel and if we are fuelling our bodies with what they need, there is no need to feel guilt.
Distraction is the enemy of mindful eating - so often we eat whilst doing other things, and this makes it very hard to spot those all-important cues. Some tips for mindful eating include:
- Eating slowly
- Not eating whilst watching TV or being on your phone.
- Not walking around.
Food is the source of life. When you eat, focus on the food and how it makes you feel. You’ll very soon learn to read your body’s cues and you’ll be eating mindfully.
The importance of carbs
Carbs - we love them! But they are so often portrayed as a ‘bad’ food group that many of us think we should avoid them, or we eat them and then feel guilty.
But far from being unhealthy or unnecessary, carbs are not only good for us, they are an essential part of a healthy diet. Here’s the top four jobs that carbs do, and why we cannot manage without them:
- Food for the brain - carbs are the brain’s preferred source of fuel - so without them, our brains don’t function properly - meaning we get sluggish, confused or irritable.
- Bowel health - carbs keep us regular! They provide bulk to help keep our body’s waste products moving through our system. Removing what we no longer need is an essential part of staying healthy.
- Gut Health - carbs provide the fibre that our gut needs in order to stay healthy and working well. Research shows that when gut bacteria break down carbs, they release short-chain fatty acids, which have positive health effects such as reducing inflammation and colon cancer risk.
- Carbs maximise exercise performance - carbs provide readily accessible energy. So a small piece of fruit, such as a banana, can give an extra boost to our workouts.
In fact, carbs are so important, that dieticians recommend that 50% of our calories should come from carbs.
Top carb choices include fruit and vegetables, rice, wholegrain bread, grains (such as quinoa, couscous), oats. The key is to ensure that our carbs are unprocessed (a handful of blueberries, rather than that blueberry muffin!) and as fresh as possible.
So the good news is that, far from being the ‘bad boys’ of the food world, carbs are one of our great dietary friends.