The choice of different diets is almost unmanageable. They all have one thing in common: they are tedious and exhausting - and they only work for a limited time, after which everything is more often the same again. And you usually don't get healthier from them either. How you can still achieve your dream figure in 2020, keep it for a lifetime and do it without a tiresome diet, we'll tell you here!
With the turn of the year, the time of good intentions inevitably approaches again and again, and quite a few people regularly take it upon themselves each year to finally get "in shape". What is often meant here is to get rid of a few or a few more superfluous pounds and to tighten up the parts of the body that have lost their shape. However, losing weight and "shaping" is one of those things: diets require a lot of stamina and an iron will over a considerable period of time, and not all diets are really healthy. Again and again the question arises: "Can't you do without a diet?" The short and concise answer to this question is: it can be done. How, you will find out below.
Diets are controlled malnutrition
It is relatively unimportant what kind of diet you are on - the basic principle is always the same: you avoid certain groups of foods or limit the quantities of some foods, in the case of calorie-reducing diets the same as the quantity of all foods you eat. This puts the body (at least theoretically) in a state of undersupply and the body has to fall back on its stored reserves to compensate for the deficiency.
This can work - not every diet produces the desired metabolic change for everyone equally. Each person is slightly different and our metabolism is extremely complex. For him, a whole variety of individual processes play a role, which are intertwined and which are a little differently developed depending on the individual metabolic situation of each person. What works for one person does not necessarily have to have the same effects for all others.
Diets are certainly not pleasant - after all, it is a state of deficiency and your body will signal this to you: with attacks of ravenous hunger, frustration, irritability and the urgent desire to finally stop the constant hunger and get something sensible to eat. The dietary phase in classic diets is and remains a state of deficiency in any case, and your body will always protest against deficiency.
In addition, we Central Europeans should be a little careful with artificially induced deficiencies: despite the apparent abundance and overindulgence, most people in our country have a serious lack of minerals, many also have a considerable lack of vitamins, the so important secondary plant substances are also missing. This is due to our usually not exactly natural diet. If we prescribe ourselves a malnutrition, we often intensify these already existing deficiencies significantly. Of course this is not healthy.
The smart way to lose weight - without a diet
If we gave our body exactly what it needs - and exactly the right amount, we would have no problem with overweight. That makes sense, doesn't it?
If it's so easy, why don't we just do it? And why does it somehow not seem to work? Well: what makes it so hard is that most of the time we actually have no idea what our body needs - and how much of it. If we can solve this, the problem practically takes care of itself. And forever.
There is indeed a way to do this - and it is much less difficult than you might think. But first we have to come to terms with a rather unpleasant fact:
Our body awareness is completely broken
We eat when we are thirsty, we are very often seduced by foods that are neither healthy for us nor natural in any way - and we often eat far beyond our sense of hunger. We use food as a problem solver and as a consolation, we are constantly on the hunt for ever new and more unusual pleasures and often eat simply out of boredom or out of habit, because it is "mealtime". Hunger is our great enemy, which we fight long before it even shows itself - and we always take great care to have only enough food within reach.
These are all facts that can be scientifically proven without any problems and have already been proven many times. And they are all things that are completely unnatural and completely contrary to our entire biology. To believe that this has no consequences is extremely naïve.
Actually our body would tell us that what we are doing is not very good for us. In fact, it would do so, if we hadn't already gotten used to skilfully ignoring all the signals of our body and forcing habits on us that will cause us harm in the long run. We have practised this so well that the signals and messages of our body have long since faded away somewhere unheard and we no longer notice anything of them. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Of course, this can also be undone. All you have to do is pay attention to a few things and learn to interpret your body's messages correctly again. We will tackle this step by step in the next sections.
Anyone who is a little overweight has probably heard the phrase "You don't need a diet, you just need to eat normally". Nice advice, thanks for your understanding, but what exactly is "normal"?
In our culture the "normal", i.e. the usual eating behaviour is not normal. It's no coincidence that two thirds of all Germans are overweight today and many of the rest are still struggling with illnesses that can ultimately be attributed at least in part to an unsuitable diet. And if - as recently published - people in the country consume the same amount of chocolate as bread on average over the year, it is at least reasonable to suspect that the "usual" and "normal" is perhaps not the very best guideline.
In the course of such a critical examination we must also question whether everyone really has to eat copiously at least three times a day in order to stay alive. Or whether this is perhaps not simply "so common" in our culture.
If we seriously want to bring our weight back into the normal range without any diets, we have to be prepared to critically question the "usual" for once, and in one point or another perhaps find a better way for ourselves than "the usual", often referred to as "the normal" and then seen as "binding" for all equally. To violate this, however, can be connected with a whole lot of inner resistance, not least because of the often pale lack of understanding of our immediate surroundings.
In view of the current situation, however, we must be aware that doing "the usual" will in most cases have the consequences that are widely accepted: obesity and diet-related diseases.
So have the courage to find your own way, and occasionally with a smile to ignore what is usually considered "normal".
The crux of the matter: how much food do people need?
We have already briefly mentioned earlier that eating copiously three times a day is perhaps not necessarily the last word in wisdom when it comes to the optimal amount of food. At least not for everyone. In our culture it is only common practice - this does not automatically mean that it is right and optimal for every single person in our latitudes.
Calories: the right guideline?
The first and earliest form of diets took the calorific value of food as a guideline for "enough" energy. The term "calorific value", which means calories, can be taken literally. Do you know how to determine the calories of food? You take a certain amount of a food, throw it into an oven and burn it completely - and then measure the heat energy released during burning. These are then the calories, the calorific value of that food.
The theory behind this is that our body must somehow maintain its body temperature of around 37 °C at all times. This requires energy. This energy is generated by feeding the body food, which it then burns internally and uses the energy contained in it to generate heat. This is the so-called basal metabolic rate.
In addition, the energy it contains is also used to supply our muscles when they need to move, as they also consume a certain amount of energy to do so.
So far it is also true, this is true for all warm-blooded creatures. We generate the heat we need ourselves through the food we eat. (Crocodiles, for example, can be warmed up by the sun and always have the same temperature as their environment; when it gets cold, they can hardly move any more and also cool down internally because they cannot generate any heat themselves. They are warm animals. Therefore they need much less food).
If one follows this theory, one could now easily calculate how much energy a person of a certain weight uses at certain temperatures to keep the body temperature constant and to move around in a certain range. This is exactly what the calorie counting approach is based on.
Calorie counting works poorly in practice
Unfortunately, the whole thing works much less well in practice than in theory. Numerous processes play a role in our heat balance, which ensure that our body temperature remains constant. The width of the blood vessels, the amount of blood that is pumped through them and the speed with which energy can be provided at all are also responsible for this. This is actually highly complex. In addition, no one can say exactly whether the carrot you eat actually provides you with exactly 27.5 kcal of heat energy - this depends largely on how (well) you use it in the first place.
So the calorie calculation gives you - if at all - only a very rough indication of the amount of food you need. Counting calories is extremely time-consuming - and it only gives you a very rough indication. To calculate that an average 70 kg person needs about 2,000 kcal per day plus the energy for exercise is a very rough estimate and ignores at least ten other important factors.
The common theory is: "If you eat less than you need, you lose weight". However, since we cannot say exactly how much we need, it is very difficult to determine how much "less" is then. There are people who can easily cope with an 800 kcal diet, while others still feel like they are permanently starving at 2,500 kcal per day. You simply can't reduce people to standard numerical values, we are all too different and our metabolism is far too complicated.
In addition to this, your body will get used to the amount of food you eat over a longer period of time and will be able to cope with it to some extent. This is very well possible over a wide range of calories, even permanently and without negative consequences. This shows even more how unreliable such guidelines are.
Find the right amount for your body
Calorie counting is tedious and time-consuming, and as we have just seen, highly uncertain. In principle, you can save yourself the trouble of using countless tables and a calculator - you have a very well-functioning calorie counter that is individually adapted to you: your natural feeling of hunger.
To be honest, when was the last time you were really hungry? So hungry that your stomach felt queasy and your knees started to get dizzy? A long time ago? Or never at all?
If the latter applies to you and you do not know this feeling at all, you are in good company. This is the case for many people in our country. We have always eaten before, just to avoid getting hungry for God's sake, because we believe that this will kill us. We buy a lot of food before a holiday, because the shops are closed and we get nothing. As a precaution, we do everything to rule out any risk that we might feel hungry.
Of course this behaviour is complete nonsense - almost everyone can easily go a whole week without solid food. Only after that does it sometimes become slightly unpleasant, if you are not used to it. If you have ever done a fasting cure before, you might know that. The risk of actually starving to death only starts after about 8 weeks. Not after half a day. Nevertheless, the panic of emerging feelings of hunger always wins in our mind and we behave accordingly - without even thinking about it.
This is not meant to be a plea for fasting cures - it is only meant to put things into perspective. Yes, hunger is unpleasant. But actually, the feeling of hunger is the signal that you need to eat something slowly. If the signal is missing, the body is still very well.
If you do everything in panic to avoid the emergence of any feeling of hunger right from the start, you will in most cases eat considerably more than you actually need. The emphasis here is actually on "considerably more", which often goes up to a multiple of what your body needs.
For now, I would like to recommend an experience that you should definitely try out:
Try to get away from your usual daily rhythm and just not eat anything. Observe when you really get hungry. For most people this will be in the middle of the morning and late afternoon to evening, but depending on your personal daily rhythm, these can be quite different times.
Try to eat a snack only when you actually feel a distinct hunger. Just enough to make the hunger disappear completely. If you do this for just a few days, you will find that the amounts you usually eat after that have already decreased noticeably.
This is the effect when we start to listen more to our body again. This little exercise recalibrates our system, which estimates required amounts of food, and brings our estimates back to a meaningful, body-adjusted level.
Eat slowly and consciously
When we look at our eating habits, it is not only about the quantities we eat - but also about how we eat.
The reason for this is simple: In our stomach there are nerves that report to the brain when we have enough and our stomach is sufficiently filled. The transmission of this message is one of the slowest reporting processes in our body - it can take up to 10 minutes before the "full signal" reaches our brain and is registered. If we eat very fast, we have shovelled a whole lot of food into ourselves during these 10 minutes, which we actually don't need any more.
If we gobble down food quickly and only very roughly chewed, our body also registers much less quickly whether we have absorbed all the nutrients we need at the moment. If food is only slightly chewed, it is very difficult for the body to analyse by taste what the food we have just eaten contains in terms of nutrients - and whether we should perhaps eat more.
The same is true when we are off our game at dinner: if you are going through the annual reports, watching TV or maybe even driving a car, you can hardly concentrate on your food - and on the signals your body is sending out. As a result, we fail to register many things that we should actually notice. The quality of the food also suffers - we perceive little or nothing of the taste and consistency of our food. The only thing we do then is simply fill our stomachs again as quickly as possible.
Eating slowly and consciously is the most important point if we want to reduce our weight and make our eating habits healthier again. Our body and our sense of taste needs time to analyze our food, to provide the necessary enzymes for the respective food in our digestive tract and to make some decisions about its utilization. If we simply bombard our stomach with food, many of these important processes cannot run in an orderly fashion - the damage is done by ourselves: Digestive problems, constant fatigue and listlessness, overweight and no sense at all whether the amount of food we eat has long since been too much.
Consciousness experience: No more than three foods per meal
Our entire digestive system has to determine which foods are just coming in based on taste alone - and quickly provide the substances needed to break down the incoming food in an orderly fashion.
This is a considerable task - especially when you consider how many different foods we usually eat at a single meal. Ten or twenty different foods are not uncommon. (Think of a pizza: the bottom of the pizza is already made of flour, oil, salt, sugar and yeast, to which cheese and tomatoes are added, and then the whole topping, which may consist of ham, salami, tuna, artichokes or often a much larger number of things. Then we drink cola and then have dessert and maybe a mixed salad with dressing. Your body has to taste all these things, sort them out and use them in an orderly fashion. This is an enormous achievement).
On top of all this, we seem to take a perverse pleasure in changing meals so that food tastes completely different from what it usually does - this is "interesting" and is considered a "pleasure". The actually sour yoghurt thus becomes a sticky dessert, the salad suddenly tastes like walnut oil. For the body it is a medium catastrophe to want to analyze anything at all on the basis of taste. It learns from experience if we eat the same things over and over again, but in the end it remains an almost insoluble task for the digestion. The whole thing goes so far that a lot of people don't even know what yoghurt actually tastes like if there is no artificial strawberry flavour in it. Or what a cucumber tastes like. Or beetroot.
This makes it quite difficult for the body to specifically ask for something by arousing certain "cravings" because it needs certain nutrients. To make this easier for him, it is very helpful to recalibrate our taste system and "relearn" the taste of unprocessed things (if we ever knew it at all), so that our body can specifically crave for something and we can more specifically cover our nutrient needs again.
A little exercise can help you to achieve this again very quickly: you only need to limit the number of foods per meal considerably. It would be best to eat only three foods per meal so that your body can learn as quickly as possible, but even with five or six different foods in one meal you usually get good results very quickly.
Good and slow chewing and conscious tasting of what you are eating is also important. The body can then once again associate the ingredients with the taste and in the future play out "more targeted" desires to your brain. Of course, you should then follow these desires as far as possible. Just try it out for 1 - 2 weeks and take the opportunity to get to know as many different things as possible.
This not only aids your digestion, it will also have a very positive effect on your eating behaviour in the future and can also reduce your food quantities very effectively without you feeling that you are missing anything. On the contrary - your food will often taste much better and you will enjoy it much more intensively.
The break for digestion and disposal
One point that we have not yet mentioned is the question of what actually comes after the meal. Actually, quite clearly: the body digests.
In general, we pay little attention to this, because it is automatic anyway. However, we should pay a little attention to it. After all, digesting it is an enormously energy-intensive process that takes a long time.
Some time ago the so-called "intermittent fasting" came back into fashion as a dietary method. This involves eating one day and fasting the next. The purpose was to give the body a "digestive break" and the opportunity to dispose of all waste products resulting from the utilization of food in peace. Besides the alternating system (eat 1 day, fast 1 day) there are also different approaches, up to 2 days eating and 5 days fasting or vice versa. It is, as I said, a trend - from which, of course, everyone would like to benefit with their own "infallible system", which they advertise.
However, this "digestive pause" does not have to be as long as with all these systems to be effective. Our body basically has two primary "digestion windows", one at noon and one at midnight. If no new food is available, the body can devote itself entirely to eliminating the remaining harmful substances. For this reason, many Buddhist monks, for example, do not eat anything after midday so that during sleep at midnight all the waste products and residues can be processed and eliminated by the morning.
In principle, it is sufficient to reduce your food quantity considerably during the afternoon to have the same effect. The evening milk soup in the former East Germany, which consists only of liquid, aims exactly in the same direction as the well-known wisdom "breakfast like a king, lunch like a citizen and dinner like a beggar". We have been able to do all this much better, especially with our bodies. Many things the old folk wisdom has understood much better than we do today - above all, opulent enjoyment is more important to us than anything else, including our health.
If you eat less in the afternoon and evening, eat only easily digestible foods or soups if possible, or perhaps skip dinner altogether, you will most likely not only sleep much better and more restful and have more energy during the day, but your digestion will thank you for it. If you are exercising, dinner is also a good time for the obligatory protein shake, which is liquid and usually quite easy to digest. The protein contained in the shake also gives you a pleasant feeling of fullness, which lasts until you go to bed.
How much is full?
With all the suggestions in the previous chapters, you may be moved by one question: "Won't all this make me feel terribly hungry?" The short answer is no, you won't. None of these methods, except the first one, where you consciously wait for the onset of a hunger feeling.
However, it is still time to think about the feeling of fullness for a moment. Usually we feel full when we have the best will in the world and can't get anything down. "Filling up with cardboard is not filling up - it is clearly too much. Always waiting for this feeling of fullness and eating for so long should really be avoided.
As you have heard before, our stomach is already pleasantly filled at 1.2 litres to 1.6 litres. Nevertheless, it can expand up to 2.5 l or even further if necessary, i.e. up to twice the optimal filling level. Only when this limit is also reached do we have a real "cardboard sate feeling".
The work of the stomach at this extreme filling level is only possible to a limited extent. The food can hardly be digested in an orderly fashion, there is not enough space and time - if necessary, something is stored for storage (i.e. where you wear it on your body), because it is no longer usable in a hurry. Your digestion works at a chord, consumes most of the available energy in your body (that's why you feel so tired and lethargic after a sumptuous meal) and works itself to the bone.
In the optimal filling state, your digestive system can still keep up well, can use what is to be used and produces significantly less waste material. All this is of course to your advantage.
If you compare the optimum with the maximum filling level of the stomach (1:2), you may realize where the well-known wisdom of the FDH (eat the half) cure comes from. It has worked in the past and has been the first popular answer to obesity. Half of "Pappsatt" is therefore also anatomically quite sensible.
Wichtig ist dabei nur, dass wir selbst zunächst lernen, unser Gefühl anders zu bewerten. Darauf zu warten, dass wir uns „papp-satt“ fühlen und alles darunter als „noch hungrig“ einzustufen, bringt unseren Magen bereits an seine Grenzen. „Satt“ ist immer schon dann erreicht, wenn wir uns nicht mehr hungrig fühlen, mengenmäßig ist das sehr häufig tatsächlich ziemlich genau die Hälfte der sonst üblichen „Pappsatt-Menge“. Bis das Gefühl sich gewohnheitsmäßig ändert, kann ein wenig dauern, den Unterschied klar zu erkennen lernen, ist es aber auf jeden Fall wert. Das solltest du unbedingt tun.
Don't let yourself be distracted
If you eat less than usual, the sentence "But you have to eat more!" will soon be heard. Or maybe even "Oh God, are you getting anorexic?" Even if your environment notices that you are chewing much slower than them or longer, in quite a few cases this will be commented on accordingly. You should already assume that. Don't let it upset you.
Eating is all about convention - most of the generations before us got by with significantly less food - including even those who could afford it. And eating fast or simply gobbling down food with little conscious effort is also a common thing in our society. This does not mean that these things are necessarily right now - it just means that the majority of people do them out of habit or imitation.
If your amounts of food look "frighteningly small" to other people, it may well be because they are eating far too much themselves - much more than they actually need. And if they laugh at how slowly you eat, it may simply be because they no longer notice how quickly they gobble down their own food each time - without even considering whether they are already full.
Remember: you are about to find out how much you really need. It's about your individual measurements. Someone else cannot judge that - even if they think they can. It is your food, your body - and in the end your health. It's all up to you, and you can also be in company while you eat.
Often people are almost forced by others to eat large quantities. They are laughed at when they "eat like a sparrow" or are teased with the idea that if you don't eat vigorously, you can't work properly either. These are stupid platitudes that have nothing to do with reality. If you have 50 kg too much on your ribs, you can't get a good grip either, but only breathe loudly and puffing at the slightest effort. It is basically the same situation as with alcohol - when the practised drinking parties accuse you of not drinking enough or not drinking fast enough or not being drunk enough yet. It's just stupid. Nobody needs it and in the end it just does harm. Don't be impressed by something like that.
What you need is not always what you want
When you have implemented the suggestions in the first part, it will already be easy for you to clearly see what food your body really needs and what is good for you. After a lot of food you will have fewer cravings, but more often after others that are much more valuable for your body. This is quite naturally so and simply a progress on the way to a more body-oriented and significantly healthier food.
However, we still like to "stumble" over some foods - we can hardly stop eating, regularly consume far too large quantities and simply can't get enough. For most people, this includes chips and chocolate, but also other foods.
The diabolical 50 : 35 trap
A few years ago, science put forward the theory that there are certain groups of foods that specifically make us lose control over the amounts we consume. According to the theory, these are foods in which carbohydrates and fat are in a ratio of around 50 % :35 %.
Science refers to the phenomenon that sets in after that with the threatening sounding word "hyperphagia" - but in German this simply means "to overeat". This is what mice did in the laboratory, by the way, just like us humans. Not only did they consume about half of the total daily calorie requirement within a very short time with these foods alone, but they also ate a third more than usual with the rest of their food. This is very similar to what happens to humans with nibbles.
Apart from potato chips, most sweets and chocolate also belong to these "50:35 foods", and this also applies to nut nougat cream or peanut blips, for example. The consequence of consuming such foods is always the same - loss of control. Very often these foods are also very tempting and we often have a strong desire to eat them.
If we look at the individual composition of our meals, it is quite possible that we might come across this fatal 50:35 recipe in other cases as well. In any case, it is advisable to take a closer look - and avoid these foods as far as possible. The ratio of carbohydrates to fats can usually be seen quickly anyway on the nutritional value label.
After the loss of control comes the hangover mood and deep regret for not having stood firm. We can spare ourselves that.
How much you eat is one thing - what you eat is another
Well - now we know what we better not eat. But this does not answer the question what we should eat.
Our decade is hardly characterized by anything else as much as by very different nutrition theories: From Vegan to "Palaeo" everything has its followers, everything that does not fit into the system is "devil stuff" and will probably kill you directly next week. Interestingly enough, however, both the meat-eating Palaeo-followers still live just like the Vegans who suffer from allegedly massive protein deficiency, and even the Frutarians (who eat almost only fruit) jump around amazingly lively and fit in between. Which is a clear proof that all nutrition theories are exactly that, namely theories. Or better: world views.
There are always arguments that speak for one or the other, but the ultimate "nutritional truth" is certainly not a world view. You can be fit and relatively healthy with any of these theories - or not. There are certainly overweight vegans who have diabetes or frutarians with cardiovascular problems - although significantly less than in the general population. However, this is because they simply deal with their diet more intensely and consciously and do not simply stuff everything they come across thoughtlessly (there are exceptions even there).
So what helps is conscious choice and moderation. If you manage to listen to what is good for your body, what it wants and keep the amount within reasonable limits, you will almost always stay slim and fit all by yourself - whether you eat vegetables or game.
We don't need to talk about the quality of food here - it goes without saying that cheaply produced "fillers" are simply worse than natural food in the least processed form possible. And no, the deep-frozen pizza is not picked from trees and the cheese on it is usually not made of milk either. But that was clear anyway, wasn't it?
So: eat what you like, what you feel like and rely less on preconceived world views and more on what your body wants to have. This is the safest way to supply your body with what it really needs.
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