Dieting is worse for you than being overweight. That’s right, the restrictive behavior of significantly reducing calories and eliminating entire categories of foods puts such a toll on a body, it’s better to simply be obese. But why? It’s all due to weight-cycling, the well-established phenomenon that large shifts in eating habits lead to weight loss followed by even more weight gain. Studies show that along with excess pounds, a complex mess of changes to gut flora, metabolism, fats, and, yes, mental health all work together to make you fatter, unhealthier, and more miserable. So why should you quit your well-intentioned but altogether unhealthy diet plan? And what can you replace it with? Let’s get into it.

Dieting Is Horrible for Mental Health. Here you are trying to do the right thing for your health, and all you’re managing is to make yourself feel worse. Yo-yo dieting has been linked with depression and low self-esteem as well as a decrease in the chemical production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter in your body responsible for the regulation of stuff like mood, sleep, and, the place the slippery slope begins, appetite. Depression causes its own negative feedback loop, as the worse you feel, the more food becomes a method for self-soothing, leading to weight gain, followed by more dieting, and greater depression. There’s also the less measurable but no less painful element of feeling like a failure: Regaining the weight you’ve worked so hard to lose makes you feel helpless and like you have no control.

How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy Without “Dieting”

So, screw “dieting.” When that term pertains to the restrictive behavior of significantly reducing calories and eliminating entire categories of foods in an effort to shed weight, one thing is clear: It doesn’t work. But that doesn’t mean you just throw in the towel. Instead — and this is just as hard as dieting, but better for your mental and physical health — you need to make small shifts in how you eat, exercise, and make healthy choices.

Practice Portion Control

So you know you don’t want to have a wildly different or restrictive diet. But just because Atkins isn’t going to work for you, doesn’t mean you could do with eating a little less at every meal. Portion control is probably the number one way to lose a few pounds without messing up your body. Drop your portions by 10% each meal. It will add up and your basal metabolic rate won’t know the different. So what does this look like?

Well, a serving of grilled chicken has 128 calories. A serving of steak has roughly 200. Hey, that’s not so bad, you’re thinking. That’s well within the 2000-calorie-a-day plan I’m trying to follow. But when is the last time you ate a single serving of protein for dinner? For the record, that’s 3 ounces of chicken or 3.5 ounces of red meat. What does that say there on your steakhouse menu? 16-ounce ribeye? Yeah. Take those 200 calories and multiply by 4.6, throw in a few hundred more for the sauce, and you’ll see the problem. You’ve very nearly cleared your daily allotment with just one dinner entrée (nevermind the sides).

You could, of course, order grilled fish instead. But we don’t think so. When your belly is craving bloody red meat, give it the steak — but give it a third as much as the menu offers. To make it easier on your judgment, ask your waiter to deliver said amount on your plate at the restaurant and doggy-bag the rest for later. If you’re grilling at home, purchase smaller cuts or split the giant T-bone with your wife and kids, then load up the rest of your plate with lean greens.

Swap Like for Like

So you’re a meat and potatoes person, aiming to become a gluten-free vegan in an effort to lose weight is like forcing yourself to do yoga when what you really love is football. It isn’t going to work. Instead, eat your meat. And your potatoes. The secret is in how you prep them. Instead of going for the cheeseburger and fries, throw a slab of 90-percent lean meat on the grill and roast a few whole potatoes. You’ll be delivering a ton more micronutrients to your body when you choose whole foods over processed while cutting your calorie consumption, ounce for ounce, in half.

Balance Your Plate

Growing up, you undoubtedly heard all about the food pyramid — that wacky triangle thing with treats at the top and lettuce at the bottom. That’s still more or less the best way to think about the breakdown of your meals and overall daily food consumption. In practical terms, that means when you build your dinner plate, picture a clock face. 12 to 3 o’clock should be your protein (chicken, fish, beans, or red meat); 3 to 6 o’clock is your starch (rice, potatoes, pasta), the other half—or 6 to 12 o’clock—should be veggies: Salad, steamed broccoli, green beans, roasted carrots, and so on. Laying out your meal this way saves you the trouble of counting every calorie, because it’s virtually impossible to overeat when the highest-cal foods are smallest servings on your plate.

Go for Strong

The numbers on the scale will tell you how much you weigh, but they will not tell you how big your biceps are, how strong your heart and lungs may be, or what percent of your body is made up of fat versus muscle. Quit fixating on some number you think it ideal for a guy your size, and start hitting the weights and pounding the pavement. On a vanity level, a fit body looks a hell of a lot better than a scrawny one. And on a life level, you’ll be buying yourself a few extra years you can use bonding with your family.

Source: Health Magazine