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Obsessing about diet is ultimately unhealthy

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Faith Kariuki | April 24th 2016

NAIROBI: Being healthy and fit shouldn’t be a fashion statement or a trend. It is a lifestyle. Losing weight to achieve a certain body image doesn’t necessarily make you healthy either. If Kenyans understood this, we would have a much healthier nation.

To be healthy and fit, one must adopt a lifestyle that encourages healthy eating and physical exercises all through. Adopting and living a healthy lifestyle isn’t something one achieves in a few days. It takes months or years depending dedication.

Societal ideals of physical beauty have resulted in idealistic body image expectations especially by the ladies. People are becoming more obsessed with the ideal body and will literally do anything that promises weight loss, a slimmer waist and firm abs. Sadly, this obsession is not driven by health reasons but rather by the pressure to acquire the ideal shape dictated by the society and magazine covers.

Individuals who think their body shape is distorted from the societal ideal find themselves pressurised to join diet and exercises regiments that promise results.

Staying physically active is important to maintain good health, ward off diseases, reduce stress and improve muscle functions. However, when exercising becomes an obsessive behaviour mainly driven by weight and body image, it can actually do more harm than good.

These obsessive exercisers also known as anorexia athletes are normally driven by the desire to exercise no matter their current circumstances. Their workout is more important than any social engagement and will push themselves through a workout even when feeling ill or exhausted. An obsessive exerciser will also feel extremely guilty if they miss a workout and will double their effort in the next session.

It is important to gradually build an exercise routine that gives the heart a chance to get stronger along with the rest of the body muscles. Straining the heart before it is well prepared, could lead to more dangerous consequences. Strenuous exercises can cause strained ligaments, joints and bones. In the absence of adequate nutrient intake, loss of lean muscle mass is common. Some people also become moody and irritable.

Diet challenges come up every month and people take them up without question. These diet ‘challenges’ often limit people to a meal they don’t enjoy, making their meal time a struggle.

The importance of being mindful of what one eats can’t be over-emphasized. However, setting severe eating rules that leaves one fixated and worrying all the time about what they should or shouldn’t eat is an indicator that a healthy behaviour has become an unhealthy obsession.

If one embarks on a ‘no wheat challenge’ will they never eat wheat products again? A healthy lifestyle is based on balance, it shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. There is no harm in having tasty treats once in a while as long as you mostly eat healthy. If you are too restrictive to yourself, you will eventually give in and over consume the same foods you are forcing your body to abstain from.

Don’t be a yo-yo dieter. With these restrictions you are likely to be successful in your initial quest to lose weight but you will most likely be unsuccessful in maintaining the loss long term. You will soon go back to the same or take up other challenges as you seek to lose the regained weight.

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There is no finish line in healthy living. Exercises and dietary habits that are sustainable will keep you fit and healthy.

Don’t restrict your body from foods that you will soon add back to your diet after the ‘challenge’ is complete. You will have done yourself no justice; instead, you will have wasted your time and energy.

For successful weight loss and subsequent maintenance,   focus more on adopting a healthy lifestyle than achieving a certain body image. Small isn’t necessarily healthy.

To be healthy and fit should be a lifestyle; it should not be a moment or period in your life. 

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