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September 22, 2023

Why you should ditch diet fads in favour of holistic health

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: — admin @ 9:09 pm

It feels like every second day there’s a new wellness trend that social media users are encouraging us to follow – juice cleanses, baby food diets, chlorophyll water, the miltary diet, cabbage soup… the list goes on and on.

While TikTok users may swear these fads help them drop a few kilos quickly, none of them are actually going to do you any good in the long run.

In fact, they can actually cause you irreversible harm, says Neil Morgan, Australian Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist and Health Consultant.

In order to live a truly healthy lifestyle, you need to take a step back and come in with a far wider approach, he says.

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Nigel Morgan body clinic sydney
Nigel Morgan is all about holistic health. (Instagram)

Neil Morgan is the founder of Body Clinic Sydney, Sydney’s premier health coaching and physiotherapy clinic, and worked with the cast of Marvel’s Thor in the lead-up to filming.

He swears by a holistic approach to health and fitness when working with clients.

“Most online fitness coaches, as well as the industry in general, are so focused on a short-term ‘before and after’ that they are messing with clients’ hormones and metabolism in the long term,” he tells 9Honey.

A classic example of this is cutting calories excessively low, doing hours of cardio or making every workout a crazy high-intensity session, while avoiding carbohydrates completely. Sure, you lose weight. But the weight is mostly muscle with some fat. 

“You will also lose your energy, libido, motivation, increase binge eating episodes and likelihood of weight yo-yoing, and increase anxiety and depression,” Morgan reveals.

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Tessa Thompson trained with Neil when she was filming in Australia. (Penske Media via Getty Images)

Enter: the holistic approach.

What does the holistic lifestyle look like?

A holistic approach doesn’t sacrifice health for aesthetics, but links them together as they should be.

Holistic health takes everything into account: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of health.

“A lot of people get caught up in an all-or-nothing approach,” says Neil.

“They get highly motivated for short periods and do a fad diet or try a new form of exercise. Eventually, they can’t sustain it, and give up. We want to avoid this approach, the key is building momentum with small successes from the outset.”

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Just 20 minutes of sunshine is enough to set your internal clock. (Getty)

Neil says to just focus on consistency. Have a healthy breakfast. Incorporate weight training into your routine, and aim to do it three times a week. 

Make sure to spend a little bit of each day outside, in the sun. Getting sunlight on your body in the morning will get your hormones, sleep and metabolism into the correct 24-hour pattern.

“Most people barely see sunlight and look at bright screens all night which dysregulates their sleep and cortisol levels,” Neil says.

What are the pillars/elements of holistic health?

Holistic is just understanding that all the systems in our body are interconnected. If you want to improve your health, wellness and how you look, you can’t just focus on working out while eating terribly and not sleeping. It won’t work.

Morgan says that the four pillars of health that he focuses on with his clients are:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Nervous System Function

“By nervous system,” he explains. “I mean what percent of the day is the person in a fight or flight state, an immobilised state, or a relaxed, calm and engaged state.”

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High intensity workouts will just burn you out if you’re already in fight or flight mode. (Getty)

Exercises like HIIT are not ideal for someone whose body is already in that fight or flight mode – which comes from not sleeping and undereating.

“It will just burn them out and their body will shut down fat loss. They will see far better results if they add protocols to calm their nervous system, focus on sleep hygiene, eat a nutrient-dense diet high in protein and follow a structured weights program with less high-intensity cardio. That is a holistic approach.”

How do you practice a holistic lifestyle?

Everyone is different, and everyone has different goals they’re working toward.

However, Neil shared some non-negotiables that he works on with every one of his clients.

“We are a product of our routines, so, I focus on routines,” he said.

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Creating and sticking to a routine is the most important step. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“Small things done repeatedly add up: Step targets. Several short workouts are better than one huge one per week. Eating most days in a similar structure. Going to bed and waking up at the same time.

“Routines entrain our circadian rhythms, they reduce anxiety and allow us to have a more guided plan toward our goal. This increases motivation and drive by leveraging dopamine. 

What is a clean holistic diet?

The main thing is to ensure you’re eating foods that are going to keep you full for a long time.

“Most people are overfed and undernourished, eating too much processed junk,” Neil shares. “This leads to dysregulated appetite, cravings and excessive body fat gain.”

Be sure to eat enough to fill you up and power your days. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Neil says that a good holistic diet “should consist primarily of high-quality protein sources like beef, fish, chicken, eggs, soy & whey with an abundance of fruits and vegetables.”

“This is how we get adequate protein to maintain muscle while losing fat, stay full using foods that are low in calories, high in fibre and ensure we aren’t micronutrient deficient.”

Yes, establishing a routine and approaching your health from a holistic point of view might take longer for you to see results than you would with a TikTok fad diet.

But the holistic approach is what will last.

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