How NOT Following A Diet Keeps You Mentally and Physically Sane

Maintaining a strict diet can be challenging, especially when it comes to avoiding certain foods or restricting calorie intake. While a healthy diet is essential for physical well-being, it is equally important to prioritize mental health and emotional well-being. The pressure to follow a strict diet can cause stress, anxiety, and guilt, which can have negative impacts on mental and emotional health. By allowing oneself to indulge in moderation and not feeling guilty for occasional indulgences, it can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Dr Eileen Canday, HOD, Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, says, “In this contemporary world where obesity is an epidemic, everybody wants to be healthy and fit. One common way that people want to achieve that is through following a quick fix diet also called fad diets that will help them achieve their weight loss goals quickly. These highly restrictive unbalanced diets often lead to side effects like fatigue, weakness, constipation, headaches, due to the inadequate intake of nutrients.”

Importance of food

In today’s fast-paced world, a sedentary lifestyle and the inability to maintain a proper diet can cause mental, emotional, and physical distress. Good food, water, clothing, and shelter are essential elements required for an individual to function correctly. If any one of these elements is lacking, it can result in other areas being affected, causing significant discrepancies in one’s health.

“A person’s health is a reflection of their diet. Nutrients such as vitamins, calcium, and sugar levels in the blood, insulin, blood flow, muscles, and strength are all essential for proper brain and body function. Food is a vital aspect of our lives, and poor dietary habits can eventually lead to stress and depression,” says Rucha Shrikhande, Psychologist (specialised in clinical psychology), Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

A nutrient-rich diet can help reduce mood swings and improve one’s ability to focus. In childhood, a lack of proper nutrition can lead to reduced energy and interest in learning, negatively impacting cognitive functioning and academic performance. It also affects physical growth, strength, resilience, body height, weight, and natural maturation.

Therefore, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial from childhood to adulthood for optimal health and well-being.

Body Positivity and Dieting

Weight is often looked upon as a health indicator, on basis of which people often judge themselves and the people around them. This creates a toxic environment of the highly health conscious, making one feel that they are not doing enough for their weight and how they are looked down upon from the society. “This can make one feel ashamed of their body, can lead to emotional eating, other psychological effects like low self-esteem and a negative body image. It has to be understood that weight is not the only factor to represent your metabolic and physical fitness status, and hence cannot be considered as a sole measure of health. Other factors like BMI, body composition, energy levels, sleep quality and gut health are also factors to be considered to determine good health,” adds Dr Canday.

How not following a diet keeps you mentally and physically sane

A common belief about ‘dieting’ is that it is a highly restrictive pattern of eating, which is often difficult to sustain for a long time. “They usually promise fast weight loss in a short span of time- a quick solution to any modern man. These highly restrictive Fad diets lead to mental and physical fatigue with symptoms like high irritability, stress, anxiety, guilt, confusion, muscle loss and increased chances of developing eating disorders. Restrictions, starvation and lack of fiber and protein in diet often lead to cravings, which leads to binge eating and therefore guilt. This ends up becoming a vicious cycle which becomes difficult to break.  Most of these diets are based on misinformation and do not have a strong scientific backup. These are difficult to follow in the long term,” states Dr Canday.

How To Adopt Healthy Eating Habits

A healthy lifestyle can be achieved by developing healthy eating habits, hydrating adequately, getting enough sleep, practicing mindful eating, managing stress, and exercising regularly.

A balanced diet should include all food groups in the right amounts. Including adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, whole grains and pulses like dals, chickpeas, milk and milk products, eggs, adequate hydration and mindful eating are imperative pillars of a sustainable healthy diet.

Mindful eating is essential to provide good digestion, an improved receptiveness of hunger and fullness cues and mental satisfaction. Mindful eating involves engaging in all senses by noticing the sounds, colors, smells, tastes, and textures of the food and how one feels when eating. It is recommended to pause periodically to engage these senses.

“Understanding and accepting your system with regards to your mental health and physical health is more needed. Everybody is unique and hence making an effort to understand your system is all what makes you mentally, emotionally and physically sane,” signs off Shrikhande.

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