A few years ago, I coached a wonderful lady. She was in her late 40s and had been struggling with her weight for many years.
Her attempt at losing weight would revolve around latching on to the latest diet trends. For example, the time that eggs were promoted as bad, she would not eat any, and when the no-carb diet was popular, she would stay away from carbs, and so on. She was depending on whatever advice was given to her, and as a result got really confused.
She also had cravings which didn’t make it any easier for her to maintain her weight. She would attempt to eat healthily and then give in to her cravings. Once this happened, she would give up and continue to eat junk until she felt sick from all the sugar and fat. And this would repeat itself on a daily basis, which resulted in her eating unhealthy food and feeling bad.
Why was it so hard for her? Well, there were two main reasons:
1) Confusion over what is good and what is bad – information overload!
2) A thought process that was in the extremes – If she couldn’t keep to eating the ‘good’ stuff, she’d go the opposite extreme and continue eating the ‘bad’ stuff. And she is definitely not the only person I have met who has this thought process – even I was prone to this for many years.
The issue with general advice is that:
- We are all so different – with different genes, wants and needs.
- The truth changes and is different in many countries - ‘Scientifically proven’ changes over time and what experts teach vary from expert to expert and culture to culture.
- Not every day is the same – One may not feel like eating healthily or exercising every day and your daily routine, no matter how well planned, may be subject to change.
So how do we deal with conflicting and ever-evolving information?
The answer is to find out what works for you.
Let’s take coffee for example. In countries where the coffee consumption is high, studies recommend that 3-4 cups a day help to reduce Alzheimer, increase concentration and help you to be mentally fitter and alert. Of course there’s the other side of the coin which shows that coffee is addictive, gives you withdrawal symptoms when you stop consuming it and you should not drink it at all.
So this is what I did.
Coming from a country where 3-4 cups of coffee daily is promoted as healthy, I eventually came to the realisation that I was addicted to it. I needed my daily dose to feel good and not be cranky. And so I stopped taking it. The effects were bad! I suffered from withdrawal symptoms; sleepy, cranky, lethargic – I was not pleasant to be around! This was an eye opening experience for me and I decided that I never want to be addicted to anything ever again. Eventually my body adjusted to the coffee deprivation and I didn’t need it to function or give me that added kick. What I observed was that the happier I was and the more things I did that fulfilled me just removed my need for caffeine and I didn’t even miss it. On the days that I had to do something that I thought was a waste of time or made me unhappy – these were the days that I really craved this little black drink. So now my approach is that I drink and eat what feels good for me. I don’t think in terms of “either I am a coffee drinker or not”, I simply listen to my body. There are days when I don’t drink coffee at all, and there are days when I really enjoy a cup and then there are other days when I can’t even smell the stuff. And I don’t beat myself up on those days that I indulge in a cup of java.
Moral of the story is, don’t get confused by the load of information that is out there. Take things into consideration and find a middle ground that works for you and your body; what works for a friend may not work for you. Things are not always so black and white so it’s up to you to figure out what’s best. And don’t feel bad if you slip up – forgive yourself and move on.