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Diets - Why Drastic Does Not Work

How was it for you? Did you get through the Christmas Season eating sensibly, taking exercise and avoiding the usual seasonal excesses? Or, are you sitting at your desk reading this and wondering why all of your waistbands are tight?

In the Northern Hemisphere, Winter and Christmas time are traditional periods of social excess and comfort eating. The short days curtail the amount of exercise we would naturally take and the pounds have a horrible habit of piling on.

We make New Year Resolutions to diet and these fall by the wayside, usually within hours. We get on to the wonderful diet merry-go-round-do you remember the one? The one with horses which go up and down, just like our weight.

Our bodies and their functions are governed by a wonderfully balanced mechanism called the endocrine system which is made up of glands and hormones various. It is this system which governs our metabolic rate and it is this rate which plays a huge role in determining how efficiently we can process the calories we eat.

The balance of the endocrine system can be disrupted by many things - pollutants, artificial hormones, stress and illness. Yo-Yo dieting plays havoc with this system as the famine/feast experience is not tolerated well. During famine (diet) days our metabolic rate is reduced to conserve fuel stores and energy. Unfortunately, this rate does not then immediately increase on the feast days, causing us to put on more weight than ever.

Sometimes glands of the endocrine system cease to function as they were designed. A classic example is the thyroid gland. An underactive thyroid will cause all sorts of problems including weight gain. The ovaries can malfunction, again causing weight gain amongst other symptoms. It is worth getting any unexplained weight gain investigated by your Doctor. If you know you eat sensibly (keep a food diary to check this) and that you take regular exercise but the weight is still increasing I urge you to seek medical advice.

Experience has shown that the conventional schools of medicine are sometimes not as up to date with current thinking on endocrine problems, particularly of the thyroid, as patients would both like and expect them to be. If you suspect you have a problem but find your Doctor unsympathetic there are several excellent complementary practitioners who specialise in this field. Ask around for recommendations; look for books on the subject; do some self-initiated research on the web; do whatever you can to ensure that your knowledge is up to date and that you are in a position to make an informed choice about your medical care.

If you are carrying more than 14lbs of surplus weight it is advisable to have a routine medical check up before embarking on any weight loss programme. This will include checks for diabetes and blood pressure levels.

We know we need to weigh an appropriate amount for our height and age if we are to be healthy and active. The question is, how to achieve such an ideal?

The first thing to consider is not setting up a panic response in any of the automatic systems of your body. By introducing small changes, slowly and carefully, the body will adapt without shutting down. It is important not to make too many radical changes in one go, for two main reasons:

1. Psychologically you are going to feel deprived and will then struggle to maintain the new way of being.

2. Physiologically, if it perceives a threat, your body will alter its systems to protect itself and this will mean converting more of the calories you swallow into fat.

Once you are ready to make a start, implement just one or two changes to your diet each week. Depending on your current lifestyle you may decide on any of the following:

- Cut out all fried food

- Eat a healthy breakfast

- Eat 5 portions of fruit each day

- Incorporate appropriate exercise into your day

- Cut out the take away and ready prepared meals

- Increase the number of "grown above the surface" vegetables you eat

- Increase fibre levels by choosing wholemeal bread and pasta rather than white

- Determine the amount of chocolate it is OK for you to eat each day and have just that amount

-Drink one litre of water each day

Don't be tempted to radically change your diet overnight. It is like stretching an elastic band - as soon as you relax, even for a minute, you will snap back into old ways of being. Be gentle with yourself and your body, incorporate one new thing each week and wait until that has become comfortable before introducing anything else. Take it one step at a time and improve your chances of achieving and maintaining that perfect weight and enjoying the associated health benefits.

Know that the extra weight you carry did not appear overnight so it stands to reason that it is not going to disappear in a hurry. Be kind to yourself and your body. Take it one step at a time.

Donnie Harrison is a UK Based Coach and Business Mentor. Donnie works with clients who are facing a life transition and who do not want to face it on their own. She describes herself as a companion on the journey of change.

In addition, Donnie specialises in working with individuals who are setting up or building a Professional Private Practice, particularly in the healthcare sector - be it traditional, alternative or complementary. More information is available at


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