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  • Why You Should Stop Dieting and Start Living

    With a global market share of close to $600 billion, the weight loss industry is perhaps one of the fastest growing industries in the world.  Unsurprisingly, this industry is crowded; everyone’s trying to get the biggest share by investing in businesses that promise quick solutions. This post discusses how crash diets not only fail to keep their promise but also how they may ruin lives in the long term.

    My weight loss journey

    Years ago, I was overweight and attempting to lose weight. I’d tried almost all sorts of crash diet plans. Did I have success with them? Sure, as long as I was “dieting”, I was able to lose weight. But I always felt cranky, sluggish and had low levels of energy. And on top of that, as soon as I stopped dieting, I gained all the weight back (plus a few extra pounds).

    Now, as a nutrition and exercise coach, I understand the physiological and psychological damages these fad diets could have had on me if I had continued following them. Instead of helping me, these diets were almost ruining my life. Luckily, I’ve chosen a holistic weight loss lifestyle, and that choice has significantly transformed my whole life, Alhamdulillah! Read more about my journey here.

    3 reasons to avoid crash diets

    People often think that they can lose weight by eating less and doing more exercise. It’s not totally wrong, but this line of though is terribly incomplete! And most fad diets capitalise on this half-baked truth and offer cookie-cutter solutions. And who doesn’t love shortcuts? And, let’s be honest, who really thinks of the long-term negative consequences, especially if these consequences seem to be unknown?

    My goal with this blog post is to show you what some of these long-term negative consequences are. I’ll also tell you why these effects are concerning.

    #1. Crash diets often limit the consumption of one or more important macronutrients

    One of the problems with most crash diets is that they usually limit the consumption of a certain macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fat). You need these essential macronutrients in large quantities for your body to work efficiently. But cutting down too low, for too long of any of these macronutrients, you seriously damage your body.

    There’s a place and time for all these low-carb, high-carb, low-fat and high-fat diets. The effectiveness of these diets depends on the body type, physical activity and goals of each and every individual. It should also be done in a highly controlled manner for only a short time. As you can see, I’m not trying to demonise all of these diets. I’m just suggesting you that taking a crash diet that worked for one individual, would not necessarily be safe and effective for another person. A diet plan that works wonders for an athlete wouldn’t really serve the purpose of an inactive and out of shape person.

    Without taking these things into consideration, you’ll most probably hinder rather than help your weight loss goals.

    So, for an optimal lifestyle, you need healthy fats, just like you need protein and carbs. And limiting the consumption of any of these important macronutrients for too long can impact your mood, immune system, productivity and even your sleep!

    If you want to live a lean and healthy life forever, you need to strike a balance in all three macronutrients. Not high or low of anything for too long.

    #2. Crash diets disregard the importance of micronutrients

    Another drawback of these diets is that they disregard the importance of micronutrients. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) are essential nutrients that you need in smaller amounts (as the term “micro” suggests). Like macronutrients, they are as crucial for your health.

    Deficiency of these micronutrients shakes the foundation of your most important physical, psychological and even emotional activities! For instance, vitamin A deficiency can affect your sight, immune functions and even delay your wound healing. Or iron deficiency, which is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, sucks the energy and productivity out of you and causes anaemia. Anaemia is a common blood disorder and roughly every fourth person in the world is affected.

    Following crash diets means that you are most probably deficient in many of these essential micronutrients. If these deficiencies are prolonged, you are basically digging your own grave!

    Along with a moderate amount of macronutrients, eat lots of vegetables and fruits. They are full of good-for-you micronutrients.

    #3. Crash diets lead to long-term physical, psychological and emotional disorders

    Some of my premium clients are long-term crash dieters. They join my program because they see that behind the veneer of false and hazardous slogans, the weight-loss experienced with crash diets fades away within months after they stop dieting.

    When they join my program, I also notice the different types of disorders my clients are battling with. These are some notable ones:

    • Constant lethargy
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Binge eating disorders
    • Extreme negative attitude towards their own bodies

    Though most of them recover within 2-3 months after joining my program, there have been instances when I’ve had to refer them to clinical psychologists.

    The reason I’m telling you this is because crash diets can be mentally, emotionally, and physically destructive!

    Looking beyond the gimmicks

    The real solution to long-term weight loss is to quit dieting and to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes, one step at a time. Any other attempts will only harm you more than they assist you in your weight loss goals.

    As long as you are dieting, your diet controls your life. And when you quit dieting, you control your life. So, stop dieting and start living!

    Question: If you’ve tried crash diets, what have you experienced? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email or leave a comment here.

  • Why Carbs Aren’t as Bad as You Think

    In the world of low-carb dieters, carbs are demons! But are carbs as bad as they’re portrayed? This blog will differentiate fact from fiction.

    As a nutrition coach, I’ve heard this statement at least a hundred times: “If you want to lose weight, cut back on carbs.”

    We all want short-cuts to achieving the body we’ve always wanted, even if the suggestions we get are, in reality, simplistic sound bites. Though these statements sound cool, they are totally out of touch with the biological complexity of our incredibly complicated bodies!

    So, are and can carbohydrates really be good for us? Or should we completely avoid them, if we want to lose weight? Let’s dig deeper!

    Why you need carbs

    You’ve probably heard of macronutrients. We call them “macro” because we need them in larger quantities. Carbs, just like fat and protein, belong to the three of the macronutrients we need to consume daily.

    The fact is, without an adequate amount of macronutrients, we cease to exist. So we need carbs, protein, and fat to survive.

    Most of us need some amount of carbohydrates to function at our best over the long term. Though temporary carb restriction can help us to lose weight, the long-term carb restriction has catastrophic consequences on our bodies and minds.

    So, if you’re active and if you exercise regularly, your low-carb diet can:

    • Weaken your immune system. This leads you to become sick often.
    • Decreases your thyroid output. The reduction of your thyroid hormones causes havoc on your blood glucose level and affects your metabolism negatively. This entire process makes it difficult to regulate your weight!
    • Causes mood swings
    • Impairs your cognitive function. This means you’ll have difficulty to learn, remember, pay attention or even to solve a simple problem.

    Overall, long-term carb deprivation can make you sick, lousy, sluggish and totally stressed out! Not so ideal, right?

    And apart from these things, there are many more body functions that are affected due to a low-carb diet.

    Carb requirements

    “Wow, I didn’t know that carbs are so important; does that mean that I should gorge on carbs now?”

    Nope, carb requirements depend on the gender, age, physical activity, your goal (whether or not you want to lose or gain weight) and even, to a certain extent, your genetics! Yep, some can tolerate carbs better than others.

    When it comes to carbs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It all boils down to the criteria mentioned earlier. However, if you have a desk job or work in an office, then you probably don’t need as many carbs at every meal.

    Are all carbs equal?

    Wait, before you run to grab a bagel or some chips, know that not all carbs are equal. The wrong type of carb can harm you more than it helps you. Be extra careful when you select carbs because there are two kinds: simple and complex carbs.

    Simple carbs

    Simple carbs are simple in their molecular structure and can be digested and absorbed pretty quickly. You can find them in most processed foods like sugary drinks, white flour, white rice and sugar. This type is great when you need an instant energy boost like during iftar or after a long run!

    But they’re not so great when you eat them regularly. Regular intake of simple carbs causes big spikes in your blood sugar level. When your blood sugar level is high, more insulin is secreted to absorb the blood sugars to save it as fat storage.

    When this happens too often, it isn’t ideal to become lean and healthy!

    Complex carbs

    Complex carbs, on the other hand, are complex in their molecular structure and take much more time to digest and absorb. Therefore, they can provide you with energy for a longer time without increasing your insulin spike.

    They are found in most whole foods, vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Since they are also full of great nutrients, your body needs, make sure you include them at every meal.

    Low-carb diets and weight loss

    “But Rushdhi, I know many people who lost weight by following really low-carb diets”.

    Yes, it’s true, you can lose weight quickly through low-carb diets; however, not eating enough carbs based on your body’s requirements and persisting in following this diet for a long time has many consequences as discussed above.

    The truth is eating an appropriate amount of complex carbs can not only help you become lean and healthy, but it can also help you feel and perform your best!

    What you can do

    As a first step towards a healthy life, replace your simple carbs with good-for-you complex carbs. This single step alone will perhaps protect you from many modern diseases, bi’idnillah!

    As a rule of thumb, stick to a ½ cup of carbs a meal. But again, it all depends on many factors, and this cannot be generalised for everyone.

    Questions: If you have carbs, are you consuming the right type and for the right reasons? Are you aware of your carb requirements?

  • How Whole Foods Can Make You Super Healthy!

    Are you interested in improving your cholesterol level, lowering your risk of developing type-2 diabetes and losing your excess body fat? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then this blog post is for you. 

    As a “whole food junkie” (at least 95% of my food come from whole food), I wanted to experiment the impact processed food has on my body. So this is what I did. During my recent getaway, I chose processed food (pizza, burgers, instant foods, etc.) at every meal and noted down how I generally felt, what my energy level was and most importantly how productive I was.

    And the result was scary. I had the worst mood, lowest energy and was least productive in years! And most importantly, I’ve gained 1 kg of pure body fat within just four days, although I was physically active on those days. 

    This experiment helped me to understand two most important facts:

    1. The negative impact processed foods have on my health
    2. And more importantly, how whole foods have been defining my overall success up to now.

    I understood what it really means behind the saying of “you are what you eat”. And that’s the food I eat has an enormous impact on my physiology and psychology.

    What are Whole Foods?

    Whole foods are foods that are close to their natural form.

    I guess this table helps you to understand it better:

     

    In short, whole foods are closest to its natural state and only minimally refined to make it consumable. And they usually don’t come with fancy packages and don’t have any ingredient lists. Examples of whole foods are fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, fish, whole grains, legumes, etc.

    5 Reasons Why Whole Foods are Good for You

    Listing the incredible benefits of eating whole foods will, hopefully, convince you to eat more of them at every meal.

    Whole foods are full of beneficial fibre:

    Eating whole foods also means that you are taking in a lot of dietary fibre.Dietary fibre is an incredibly important ingredient for a lean and healthy life. Eating fibre rich foods is linked to the control of blood sugar, blood lipids (fats), and weight in adults.

    And on top of that, dietary fibres help you to maintain a healthy gut too. They play a critical role in your regular bowel movement. And I guess you’ll agree with me, that “emptying your stomach” at a certain interval is more important than “filling up your stomach” frequently.

    Whole foods have abundance of vitamins and minerals:

    Most processed foods (pizza, burger, doughnuts, instant foods, etc.) you eat are basically empty calories. They are high in calorie but low in nutrients. This is because most of the vitamins, minerals and other goodness that are contained in whole foods are lost during processing.

    So choosing whole foods mean, you are also increasing the number of nutrients your body desperately needs.

    Whole foods contain “the-good-for-you” phytonutrients:

    The science behind phytonutrients is quite recent. In last 10-15 years, scientists have been identifying the excellent source of phytonutrients (aka phytochemicals) that can even inhibit tumour cells, bi’idnillah!

    These phytonutrients are essential for optimal cellular function and communication. So increased intake of them means you are fortifying your “protection wall” against many of the modern diseases. 

    The potential health benefits of phytochemical compounds are really long. From reducing your LDL cholesterol to neutralising free radicals that cause cell damage, it has many important roles in protecting your health as well as improving it. To ensure you get the best result, try to increase the amount and variety of vegetables and fruits you eat every day.

    Whole foods provide the natural synergy of all of the nutrients together

    Sometimes we become so focused on the health benefits of a particular vitamin or phytochemical that we miss an important point: different components in a single food can work together to benefit our health, and so can components in various foods that are eaten together.

    We know that when a number of antioxidants, selenium and vitamin E are eaten together in a whole food, it give us all sorts of health benefits. But studies of these single vitamins and minerals in supplement form have not shown the same success. So, researchers say that it’s the combination and interaction of all of these different phytochemicals and proteins that give food its health benefit.

    So enriched white flour with various vitamins doesn’t really give you the health benefits you may get from whole-wheat flour!

    Whole Foods Burn More Calories

    A study conducted in 2010 found that the ‘processed-food’ meal required nearly 50% less energy to digest compared to the similar ‘whole-food’ meal.

    In other words, your body spends more calories digesting whole foods. So eating whole foods is a win-win situation for your body – it gets all the nutrients it needs while spending more calories to digest it! Alhamdulillah!

  • 3 Reasons Why Being Overweight Destroys Your Life

    Losing weight isn’t just about looking good; it’s about saving your life too!  

    Unless you take extra efforts to lose your excess weight, you may end up destroying your life. Sounds harsh, I know. But it is reality.

    Here are three reasons why being overweight can destroy your life:

    1. Increased weight means increased health problems

    A 10-year long Harvard study among 170’000 people came to this conclusion: an overweight person faces a higher-than-average risk of developing a whopping 50 different health problems.

    The variety of health problems include certain cancers, diabetes, heart related issues and even depression.

    A 2007 study in Archives of Internal Medicine examined the connection between weight and heart disease in a meta-analysis involving more than 300,000 people. The study concluded this:

    • Being overweight increased the risk of heart disease by more than 30%
    • Obesity increased the risk by more than 80%

    2. Being overweight affects your brain

    Overweight and obesity harm most of our organs in the body and the brain is no exception.

    Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found out that overweight people have 4% less brain tissue than people of normal weight and obese people have a staggering 8% less brain tissue. The lesser the brain tissue also means that people suffering from obesity have problems with memory, thinking and even reasoning.

    In addition to this, Dr. John Gunstad, a psychologist at Kent State University in Ohio, who studies how diseases affect thinking abilities, researched the relationship between obesity and scoring on cognitive tests.

    He and his team found that, in general, the participants who were obese scores lower than healthy participants. On some tests, including memory tests, nearly 1 in 4 participants suffering from obesity scored low enough to be considered as having a learning disability.

    But there is hope too, for getting rid of excess fat actually improves brain function, reversing the ill effects of the extra weight.

    3. Obesity is one the major causes for early deaths

    The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the effects of obesity lead to more deaths than the effects of malnutrition and being underweight.

    In the U.S. alone obesity accounted for 18 per cent of deaths between the ages of 40 and 85. Obesity is also responsible for more than 30,000 deaths each year in the UK.

    Alarmingly, it has recently been suggested that obesity could overtake tobacco smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death.

    Solution

    Prophet (SAW) said, “Your body has a right over you” (Sahih Bukhari). Being overweight means, you are certainly abusing your body and not giving the right your body has over you.

    What is the simple action you can take now to reverse this abuse?

  • The Fat Dilemma

    To eat or not to eat, that seems to be a million-dollar question when it comes to dietary fat.

    It’s important to note that dietary fat is a macronutrient, just like carbs and protein. In fact, dietary fat plays significant roles in maintaining a healthy body:

    • The building of organs: Dietary fat forms our nervous systems and builds our brain.
    • Absorption of vitamins: Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K need fat to transport, absorb and store these vital vitamins. They are absolutely necessary for many of our existential needs such as good vision, neutralising free radicals and thus protecting our cells, blood clotting, etc.
    • Energy provider: Dietary fat is a source of “backup” energy. The Body uses this energy when carbohydrates are not available for immediate use.
    • Provider of essential fatty acids: Omega-3 and Omega-6 are two essential fatty acids that our body can’t produce, but these two are crucial for our health.

    Before we delve into “healthier” vs. “unhealthier” fat discussion, let me show you the types of dietary fat:

    Ok, now who is the villain and who is the hero?

    Villain: Industrially processed trans fat!

    • This fat is produced through hydrogenation, which is a chemical process that converts the liquid vegetable oil into solid fat.
    • High trans fat intake is linked to many of the modern cardiovascular diseases.
    • Since these fats have a longer shelf line, they are contained almost in all industrially processed foods and fast foods!
    • Avoid them as much as possible; Research suggests that even a single meal with high trans fat content can impact the blood vessel functions negatively.

    As for the naturally occurring unprocessed trans fat, you can’t accumulate too much of them to harm you if you are eating a diet based on natural, unprocessed whole foods.

    Truth about Saturated Fat

    The fact of the matter is humans have been eating unprocessed saturated fat from time immemorial. Many of the civilisations thrived mostly from wild game and seafood.

    So any relatively unprocessed saturated fats from whole foods are healthy too. Coconut, meat from pasture-raised animals, dairy from pasture-raised animals, wild game, and wild seafood are few of the examples for unprocessed saturated fat.

    Saturated fat is fine if you are already having a balanced healthy diet. Intake of saturated fat is a problem, when you are already having a diet that is high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as foods based on white flour, processed foods, fast foods, etc.

    Unlimited Unsaturated Fat?

    Though most of the unsaturated fats are healthy, you should be aware that fat is the most energy-dense macronutrient. So having too much of them doesn’t help you towards a lean and healthy body. Follow our recommendations to get the best out of fat.

    • Strive to get your saturated fat only from whole food, such as from pasture-raised animals, wild-caught fish and wild games.
    • While consuming tropical oils, such as coconut oil, make sure they are unrefined, i.e. either whole coconut or extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
    • Eat from many varieties of nuts; they are full of healthy nuts. Enjoy from cold-pressed olive and raps oil too.

    Serving Size

    1 thumb is equal one serving. 

    Women: Try to add 1 thumb of healthy fat at each meal

    Men: Have 2 thumbs of healthy fat at each meal.

    1 thumb of healthy fat is equal to around

    • 6-8 almonds or cashew nut
    • ¼ of avocado
    • 1 tablespoon of healthy oil

    Want to know more? Sign up for the FREE 7-day course to learn more about getting lean and healthy.