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The new year is fast approaching — and diet culture is at a fever pitch. One thing is for sure: the most pressing issue in 2022 is actually diet scams. You know, those that drain your bank account, leave you with empty promises and take years of your life.

I must admit that diet culture is a big-concept word. Its philosophy promotes the idea that you must diet in order to be happy, healthy, and attractive.

We all know how it goes: you diet one day, feel crushed when you don’t lose weight, binge the next, and then feel guilty. The cycle continues as you begin to establish unhealthy boundaries in order to be perfectly thin — obsessed with physical attributes.

Word diet is made from fruit and vegetables. Healthy vegan diet raw food

It’s all too easy to get enthralled by rigid diets, unsustainable meal ideas, diet pills, and other such distractions. When we look at before-and-after weight loss photographs and Instagrammers announcing what they eat in a day, these trendy concepts appear even sexier.

We begin to imitate these dieters and diet trends, establishing what we believe is a healthy diet. In reality, they’re just another set of rules to follow in the new year.

In 2022, let’s break free from diet trends that don’t serve us and instead focus on sustainable practices that nourish our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

If you’re thinking, Awesome, let’s do this! Remember one thing; being healthy and well is a journey and not a one-time choice. In fact, it’s a journey of a lifetime.

Detox diets and cleanses

Selection of fresh citrus juices. Detox drinks. Selective focus

Detox diets are one of the most popular diet trends in the world. Many celebrities swear by them, and social media is riddled with their praises. Also, “detox diets” have been highlighted by Google Trends® (GT) as one of the terms most frequently linked with “diet.”

Following is a list of popular detoxes and cleanses:

  • Lemon diet
  • Master cleanse diet
  • Coffee enemas
  • Fasting
  • Food elimination regimens
  • Juice cleanse

Detox diets, like some other fad diets, are built on the idea that “toxins” make us gain weight. This is simply not backed by science. While we absorb some toxins from food, water, and air every day, our bodies have natural detoxification processes that work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For example, your liver and kidneys clear toxins as you go about your day.

Detox dieters claim that the liver, which is responsible for removing those “toxins” from your body, can be overwhelmed by a toxic diet filled with caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods — resulting in weight gain.

The truth is if you’re eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods and refined sugars, your liver is likely to be swamped by the amount of work it has to do. This is more a question of good nutrition than “toxins.”

There have been few human detoxification programs evaluated in the scientific literature.

Detoxes and cleanses have shown to lower weight and body fat, insulin resistance (a sign of type 2 diabetes), and blood pressure in some research. There are concerns with the studies; for example, they aren’t designed well enough, or too few participants were studied to reach meaningful conclusions.

According to a 2017 review, juice and “detox” diets may help people lose weight because of their restricted calorie intake. When individuals resume eating normally, though, they can regain the weight.

All in all, there have been no studies on the long-term effects of “detoxification” programs.

So, why do so many people claim to feel better after detoxication?

It may have something to do with a detox diet’s emphasis on eliminating highly processed foods, such as industrial fats, refined carbs, which include added sugars. Perhaps restricting these high-calorie, low-nutrient meals for a few days is why some people feel better.

Some people claim that detox diets are nothing more than starvation plans that promise miraculous weight loss in a short period of time. Not only are these diets ineffective, but they can also actually be harmful to your health.

Some detox strategies may also encourage the use of potentially detrimental methods, such as using coffee enemas. These have been linked to electrolyte imbalances, rectal burns and even death.

Low carb diet, including the ketogenic diet

Bulletproof coffe keto diet energy drink on white background

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat diet that restricts carbohydrate intake. It’s like other low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet or Paleo diet. The goal of keto dieters is to get 75 percent or more of their calories from fat; 20 percent from protein; and only five to ten percent from carbs.

The keto diet first gained attention in the early 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. It was reintroduced in the 1970s as a weight loss diet and has gained popularity since then, especially in managing and treating diabetes and insulin resistance.

However, people with liver failure, pancreatitis, and other fat metabolism disorders are not advised to follow the keto diet.

The “keto flu” is used to describe the short-term adverse effects of starting keto. The following are examples of symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • and low exercise tolerance

There are also long-term consequences to consider. Liver disease, kidney stones, and nutritional insufficiency are some of the potential problems.

Additionally, chronic high fat intakes have shown to cause metabolic imbalances, including blood sugar and fat disturbances, which results in an overall energy imbalance. The primary reason for insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes is a disruption of energy balance. What’s more, this has been suggested to play an important part in developing heart diseases.

While the advantages of following a ketogenic diet have been widely discussed, long-term adherence to the diet is an issue. The diet’s sustainability has come under fire, and the fate of the diet’s effects after discontinuation must be assessed.

Meal replacement shakes and bars

Raw Organic Granola Bars with Seeds and Nuts

Meal replacement shakes, and bars are diet products that replace one or more daily meals. The meal replacements contain fewer calories than the food they’re replacing but can also be high in sugar or fat.

Some even claim to provide all the essential nutrients our bodies need. However, there’s no solid proof of this being true for most meal-replacement products.

The diet shakes, and meal replacements are usually high in protein as well. However, consuming too much protein can also negatively affect your health. High-protein diets have been linked to heart disease.

It’s also been suggested that diets with an excessive amount of protein might lead to kidney damage, and gout.

Frankly, meal replacements are not considered a healthy long-term eating strategy because they’re not nutritionally balanced. This is especially true if you replace all your meals with these products throughout the day.

There’s also the potential for an unhealthy and fearful connection with food, since the term meal replacement vilifies eating solid or whole meals while promoting liquid calories.

The “eat whatever you want and work it off with exercise” diet

Fit young Vietnamese woman sitting on steps and tying laces of sneakers when getting ready to run in the morning

The major disadvantage of many diets is that they are too restricting. Which is why “eat whatever you want as long as you burn more calories than you consume” may appear appealing.

This eating plan, while appearing to be a healthy alternative, may have the unintended consequence of damaging your relationship with food. For example, rewarding yourself with delectable sweets for working out or skipping meals due to missed activity might result in disordered eating behaviours such as bingeing.

Additionally, if your eating behavior is driven by your exercise schedule and your routine is inconsistent, you’re not likely eating a balanced diet and could be at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Following such an erratic diet pattern might induce uncomfortable digestive symptoms (bloating, heart burn, constipation), weight changes, mood swings, and other health problems.

Furthermore, this diet mentality doesn’t factor in that not all foods are nutritionally equal. Highly processed foods laden with added sugar – when eaten regularly – are associated with higher weights, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, depression and some forms of cancer.

Let’s not forget that nutrition and physical activity have health benefits beyond weight control, such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving mental health and increasing lifespan.

Food isn’t only about nutrition.

Food is more than a source of nourishment and a method to change your physique. It’s also an important element of our emotional well-being. The eating experience itself also includes enjoying food.

It’s also closely tied to our memories, and thus we tend to have a strong emotional connection with food. Our meals should be a source of pleasure in our lives, yet fad diets focus only on weight loss at any price. These are not concerned with real-food experiences or pleasure-filled nourishment based on healthy eating habits.

Culture also plays a significant role in food. Contemporary diet ideals perpetuate diet culture, which seep into the media, educational curriculums, and the way we think about food. These ideals ignore the multidimensional dimensions of food and disregard multicultural cuisine.

Our food choices are a way to express our cultural roots and preserve our heritage. Let’s celebrate this diversity!

Instead of a new diet craze, consider this…

A better practice to adopt is mindful eating.

Portrait Of Woman Eating Pasta At Kitchen Island

Mindful eating is a deliberate and non-judgemental way of eating that pays attention to feelings of hunger and satisfaction, as well as the taste, texture, and fragrance of food. This means switching off from electronics and other distractions and chewing your food slowly.

Multitasking is not an option when you’re practicing mindful eating.

When we eat mindfully, we’re tuned to our bodies’ signals. We also enjoy our meals more, which helps us better regulate our food intake.

Reported benefits of mindful eating include:

  1. Improved awareness of hunger and fullness
  2. Better digestion
  3. Less overeating and binge eating
  4. Improved weight management
  5. Better stress management
  6. Enhanced self-esteem and body image
  7. Improved mental health

How to build a ‘mindful attitude’ when eating

  • Be non-judgemental. Mindfulness without judgment is critical. Try paying attention to the here and now and “being” with your food. Keep in mind that everyone has a unique relationship with food. Give yourself permission to experience food in a way that works for you.
  • Be patient. Mindful eating takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult to focus at first. Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
  • Trust yourself. You are capable of making decisions that are best for you. This means that you don’t have to follow someone else’s diet plan or rules about food. Trust your instincts and intuition when it comes to what, how much, and when to eat.
  • Surrender. Think about releasing your dieting anxieties and allowing yourself to be nourished by your meals in every way.
  • Develop acceptance. A big part of mindful eating is accepting your body, food and dieting journey. When you’re judgment-free, you can work on being more forgiving and compassionate with yourself. That also means embracing your successes and giving yourself a break when you need it.
Graphic showing four mindful eating tips to try during the holiday season.

Mindful eating during the holidays

The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy yourself with loved ones. However, the abundance of food and treats can lead to dieting anxiety. Mindful eating is a particularly helpful approach in these situations because it helps you stay present with your emotions around food instead of following diet rules, which can make you feel deprived and resent food.

Here are a few tips for mindful eating during the holidays:

1. Avoid diet rules and guilt trips.

One of the biggest problems with dieting during the holidays is that it often leads to compulsive eating and feelings of guilt. This can cause you to overeat later on or binge on foodie favourites. Instead, try to relax and enjoy yourself. Tune into your body’s signals and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full to avoid overeating. And when you’re tempted by a holiday treat, take a few deep breaths, enjoy and savour the flavour and texture.

2. Slow down and savour your food.

When you eat too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of how much food you’re ingesting. Mindful eating encourages us to pause and take a few seconds in between bites. This allows your brain time to catch up with signals from the stomach that can delay feelings of fullness.

This also helps slow down digestion and optimizes the absorption of nutrients. The result? You’re less likely to overeat and experience uncomfortable bloating or discomfort after meals.

If possible, try eating with your non-dominant hand as this will also slow you down.

3. Consider having a routine.

You can make room for mindful eating during the holidays by establishing a routine. For example, you might schedule a time to eat meals and snacks at particular times of the day.

Doing so will help you avoid skipping meals while also preventing overeating when hunger strikes or around the Christmas table.

4. Become an observer of diet culture.

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy mindset during the holidays is to be an informed observer of diet culture. This includes being cautious about social media posts, articles, programs and products that trigger food anxiety and make weight loss and body image the primary focus.

When you’re mindful, you’ll be less likely to buy into these messages and more likely to trust your own intuition about food and your body.

wall decorated with variety of plants and leaves with "and breathe" lit up

Final thoughts

As diet trends in 2022 continue to emerge, it’s important not to lose sight of the most important element: our overall health. Instead of worrying about that number on the scale or your body shape, adopt a sustainable eating plan and mindful eating practice that focuses on enjoying your meals and snacks.

Healthy habits, in addition to diet, are key for long-term health and vitality. So make sure you’re getting enough exercise, good sleep, and stress-reducing activities like meditation. When it comes to establishing healthy intentions in the new year, don’t try to do everything at once. Start with one healthy habit and work your way up from there.

Desi~liciously Yours, Shahzadi

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