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Edition 70: The Crucial Role of Adherence in a Successful Diet
When it comes to dieting, adherence stands out as the single most important factor determining long-term success. Sadly though, when somebody pushes their quick fix onto you, the first thing that follows is a long list of things you can’t have, and rarely a list of tasty delicious foods that you can have. While many diets only tend to focus on these strict rules and food restrictions, those of you interested in long term success will recognise the significance of incorporating foods you truly love into your diet. Depriving yourself of favourite foods often leads to a breaking point where the temptation becomes irresistible, triggering a binge cycle and hindering your progress until you jump on the next hot new diet.
Modern research supports this, and goes as far to say restrictive diets are essentially pointless without the bigger picture in mind. Perhaps the only useful example of stripping foods away from your diet entirely, might be to allow a certified nutritionist to assist you in identifying hormonal effects, impact on blood sugar/fat, metabolism etc. and lead you towards accurately identifying what your best ‘diet for life’ could look like - which had damn well better include the majority of foods you love (in moderation of course).
See, society has developed this idea that there are good foods and bad foods - I for one am not having it. All foods contain a variety of nutrients, some nutrients being more present than others to varying degrees depending on what you consume. Excessive consumption of a particular food may well have negative consequences - THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO DO IS NOT CONSUME IT EXCESSIVELY, NOT AVOID IT ALTOGETHER. Sorry. I just feel like I had to bold text that. It is not the specific food that is the problem. The problem is you consumed it 10 times in a month when you should be consuming it 2-3 times in a month. So let’s do away with the vilification of certain foods and accept that there is a place for almost any food in your diet (genuine allergies aside - for all the ‘allergic to gluten but not really according to a doctor’ gang) providing you consume them in quantities that respect the consequences of consuming them in excess.
Adherence to a diet is vital for long-term success. Restrictive diets that eliminate or severely limit the foods you love will result in frustration, decreased motivation, and eventually lead to abandoning the diet altogether. Research by Raynor et al. (2016) published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition emphasises that the ability to adhere to a diet plan over the long term is critical for successful weight loss maintenance. The study found that individuals who incorporated their preferred foods into their weight loss plan were more likely to maintain weight loss compared to those who strictly followed a restrictive diet.
Cutting out your favourite foods can also have negative psychological consequences, such as triggering binge eating behaviour - a huge problem in our society that all of our science, technology and advanced knowledge is failing to solve. A study conducted by Smith and Mason (2018) and published in the journal Appetite examined the effects of food restriction on eating behaviour. The researchers found that when participants were deprived of their preferred foods, they exhibited increased cravings and consumed more calories overall. Furthermore, the study concluded that allowing occasional indulgence in favourite foods improved overall adherence and reduced the likelihood of binge eating episodes.
Conversely, ‘Flexible Dieting’ is an approach that allows individuals to include their preferred foods in moderation while maintaining a calorie deficit. Individuals using this strategy were able to strike a balance between achieving their weight loss goals and enjoying the foods they love. A study by Gokee-Larose et al. (2015) published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics investigated the effectiveness of flexible dieting in promoting weight loss and adherence. The findings revealed that participants who followed a flexible dieting plan experienced greater adherence and were more likely to sustain their weight loss over time compared to those following a rigid, restrictive diet.
Recognising the importance of your personal food preferences can empower individuals to take personal responsibility for their health and dietary choices. By allocating space for your food cravings within a balanced diet (think back to the 80-20 approach, where your favourite, potentially negative impact foods, make up 20% of your diet) individuals are more likely to sustain their dietary changes for a lifetime. This approach promotes a healthy relationship with food, enabling individuals to maintain a positive mindset and a healthier lifestyle overall.
“Good and bad are artificial constructs” - Rick Sanchez
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