Friday, September 2, 2011

Are you on a diet?

Dieting is a fad in the life’s of many people – One which is usually initiated by a trigger [and in general an external one] and then is executed for a short duration before it is conveniently side-lined and people are back to their original [& mostly unhealthy] ways. Over the recent past, I have observed several people enthusiastically starting a diet program – but abysmally few have been successful in the long term.

Typically, one of the following possible outcomes occurs – There is some drastic weight loss in the short term followed by extra weight gain in the long term, there is some initial weight loss and then back to the original weight, there is no real weight gain or loss and for a very few, there is a significant weight loss which is maintained over the long term. Weight loss to reach the optimal body weight and long term weight maintenance are the true yardsticks for measurement of success of a good diet program.

It amazes me at the number of diet programs that are available – Ranging from diets based on your blood group, your Ayurvedic profile, your ethnicity, your gender, your age, etc. etc. etc. While all diets have their genesis and rationale, and also do achieve varying degrees of success on different individuals, what I’ve realized is that “No one diet is the best mantra for all!!!

To be successful in achieving tangible results in a diet program:
1) A diet program has to be objective driven and time bound – There has to be a specific objective of a diet program – whether it is weight loss, inch loss, fat loss, etc. And it has to be time-bound. For e.g.: “I want to lose weight” is a great thought, but cannot really be an objective. “I want to lose 8 kgs in 3 months” is a good starting objective.  Most importantly, the objective has to be realistic and bound by a reasonable time frame.

2) A diet program should really focus on the individual – One which takes into account the following parameters - Your family history, Your past (specifically in terms of what contributed to your weight gain), Your age, Your gender, Your medical history & current medical situation (if any), Your current lifestyle, Your strengths and weaknesses regarding food, Your motivation levels (whether you are self-motivated or not), Your support system at home, Your professional  demands and Your day-to-day routine

3) A diet has to be phased into your every-day routine - It is hard for most people to be on a regular diet today and start a radically different diet from tomorrow – Especially if there are a significant changes in terms of the amount of calorie intake and major changes in the permitted nutrients. Hence, it is important for a diet to be gradually introduced over a span of 2 weeks by slowly making the required dietary changes

4) Continuous Measurements are vital – A good diet program is one which monitors and tracks the progress continuously. Be it the weight or any other measurement, it is important to ensure that these statistics are recorded systematically. It is also vital to ensure that the measurements are tracked in the same way every time – For e.g.: Using the same weighing machine and at the same time of the day. Else, Minor variations are possible. Also it is important not to note the measurements too frequently [like every 3-4 hours] as there would not really be any great difference.

5) Periodic course corrections are essential – Based on the progress, a diet program should be modified keeping in mind an individual’s response. Close monitoring and tracking of what’s being consumed and how the individual is reacting to various elements of the diet should be factored in defining the next course of action. At the outset, it is recommended to create a diet plan for a short duration [say 2-3 days] and keep a close watch on the progress. Based on this, the diet program for the next few days should be suggested.

6) A good diet program should focus on long term – Once the recommended diet has enabled achieve the desired objective, it is important to phase-out to a normal healthy diet. This phase is usually called as the Maintenance Diet phase and is crucial to sustain weight in the long term. It is important to introduce a diet which is healthy and has a balanced composition of essential nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamin, minerals, etc.). The diet should also focus ensuring the required calorie intake on a daily basis , thus contributing towards good health and overall wellness

In conclusion, A good diet program is one which becomes a habit.. One which forces an individual to eat healthy and eat right!!!

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