South Beach Diet. Weight Watchers. Atkins Diet. Jenny Craig. Biggest Loser Diet.
Name a fad diet that tells you that you’ll see weight loss results quickly, and you can trust me when I say that you’ll end up gaining it all back eventually and maybe even more.
I personally have watched my dad ‘yo-yo’ diet through a major part of my teenage and adult years. He struggles with diabetes and occasionally high cholesterol levels; therefore, whenever his annual blood test results return and they don’t look up to par, he decides to go on a diet.
The deceiving part of diet plans are that people see results quickly, and they get excited about their weight loss. My dad would lose 10 pounds in a matter of two weeks! After a month or two, he’d have lost nearly 20 pounds. He’d look great! Yet the moment he felt as if his health was where it needed to be, he would revert back to his regular diet of rice, meat, and veggies. Within a few months of being back in his regular diet, most of his results would disappear and he’d regress back to his old weight. This vicious cycle of losing weight and then gaining it back would occur nearly every year or so. I’m here to tell you (and hopefully my dad if he’ll ever listen to me) that I know for a fact that most diet plans do not help people succeed.
Perhaps you’re like my dad and you’re trying to better your life by trying to lose that excess weight to lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, or even cancer. It may seem as if the only things that are out there to guide you on how to do it are these deceiving fad diets.
Diet fads such as those listed above are geared towards profiting companies, not the people. If you can, avoid them at all costs.
Why do these fad diets not work?
Diet plans such as the South Beach Diet make such drastic changes in your life that you can’t maintain those changes in the long run. These diet plans generally tell you to cut certain foods out of your diet all together, which may cause a problem. If you love a certain type of food, to cut it out of your life suddenly and all at once will only make you crave it more.
Diet plans also generally have rigid guidelines. For example, Jenny Craig basically sends you all of your meals for a set amount of time. That diet isn’t sustainable unless you’re willing to pay the company to send you all of our meals for the rest of your life.
Another big reason why these diet plans don’t usually work is because our bodies have a set point weight. This means that there’s a weight that our bodies are used to being at, and they’ll do their best to adjust our metabolism to maintain that stable weight with a 1 to 2 pound fluctuation. This explains why we don’t gain 20 pounds from a week of consistent binge eating during the holidays. What a relief, right?
Although this set point is a blessing in the sense that it helps your body fight drastic weight gain, it also makes losing weight and keeping the lost weight off extremely difficult. Good news is that maintaining your ‘new weight’ and losing weight is not impossible if you do it correctly.
Diet plans often make you lose weight too quickly.
Since your body has a set point weight, losing weight too quickly will not allow your body to adjust to the new weight and accept it as your ‘normal’ weight. If you lose say 5 pounds in one week, and then 10 pounds, and so on, then your body will rebel and lower your metabolism in an attempt to defend that weight.
Lose weight like how you’d gained it.
Resetting your set point weight often takes months of adjustment, and it’s often easier to maintain the weight the slower you lose it because it ‘fools’ your body into thinking that it is your actual weight. Losing weight is very similar to how one gains weight: slowly. Weight gain often creeps up on a person with age or changes in lifestyle.
Perhaps you’ve been consistently eating well over your daily recommended amount of calories per day and have been living a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Over the years your metabolism can’t keep up with that similar intake of food. It starts thinking that the added weight that you’d gained, maybe ‘5 pounds’ every 6 months, as your new normal weight. Losing weight will work in a similar manner. Lose 1-2 pounds every month or two months.
The rule of thumb is that if you can keep a similar and consistent weight for about 6 months, you will be able to reset your set point. If you lose weight too quickly, your body will start resisting your attempt to lose weight.
Diets should be lifestyle changes.
As I’d mentioned earlier before, diet plans fail because in the end, they are not lifestyle changes. Resetting your set point weight doesn’t require starving yourself or documenting every single calorie consumed. You merely need to think about changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. If your new diet is a maintainable one, you will easily lose and keep off the weight. This comes with patience, dedication, and education.
How do you change your diet and lifestyle to a healthier one that you can maintain?
First off, making any drastic changes to your lifestyle won’t be manageable. These changes must be gradual and reasonable.
1. Include More Fruit, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Beans, Legumes, and Nuts in your Diet.
If you haven’t incorporated these 6 foods into your daily meals, then you should start trying. Many of us are used to eating high calorie meals and snacking on ultra processed foods. Instead of reaching for a bag of chips in the middle of the day, first eat an orange and a handful of almonds, then reach for the bag of chips (hopefully you’ll be too full to eat too many of those chips). Slowly fade the processed junk food out of your life by eating something wholesome and natural beforehand.
For meals, ensure that there are at least two of these types of food groups. The 6 food groups listed above are either fibrous, filled with healthy fats, or protein packed. They’ll help make you feel fuller quicker, and in turn, they will help you eat less. You may get hungrier more quickly, but by eating natural wholesome foods more frequently, your metabolism will stay high. (Your metabolism can be equated to a campfire. The more you feed it, the more it’ll burn. If you feed it too much or too little, it won’t burn as efficiently.)
2. Drink Water
Staying hydrated is essential to leading a healthy life. Oftentimes our bodies feel like munching on snacks, when in actuality, we’re just a little dehydrated. So the next time you feel like snacking on something, drink a glass of water first. If you’re still hungry, then eat something small. If not, well you just saved yourself a few calories.
Also, consider drinking a glass of water in the morning when you wake up, before and during meals, and before bed to ensure that you’re getting enough liquids. You’ll also need to pay attention to sipping on water or some sort of non-sugary beverage all throughout the day. The amount of liquids you need in a day varies based on your level of activity.
3. Avoid Processed Foods
I know, I know, processed foods are probably the most convenient things ever created for mankind. We open a box or bag, reach in, and voila, there’s tasty food in our hands. These packages line the shelves of every single grocery store, convenience store, and are even sold to our children in their school cafeterias. But hey, I have some bad news for you.
These snacks can be deceivingly mislabeled as organic, healthy, low fat, or enriched with vitamins. I’m here to tell you to say NO to these foods. If what you’re holding is packaged and contains a long list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce, it is most likely filled with artificial ingredients and is not meant to be consumed in large amounts. They’re ladened with hidden sugars and other chemicals that make them addictive. There is also a large correlation between processed foods and the current obesity epidemic we face in our nation (visit Mercola to learn more). You can also read more about why you should avoid processed foods in one of my past posts here.
Try to limit yourself to 1 to 2 highly processed items a day. I understand that it’s difficult to rid them from your life for good, especially when there are days when you’re just on the go and you need to rely on them to prevent yourself from starving. Just try replacing them with some fruit, nuts, veggies, or even whole grains (0r find the processed items with the shortest ingredients list).
Along with improving your eating habits, exercising is also essential to maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Try doing at least 20 minutes of mildly strenuous to strenuous exercise two to three times a week. This exercise can be as simple as walking for 20 minutes after dinner or jogging after work. To make working out a little easier, exercise with a buddy, hike over the weekend, or ride your bike. As long as you’re moving and getting your heart rate up for a sustained amount of time, that’s all that matters. After a while, you can increase the amount of days or length of time that you exercise for.
5. Stress Less: Make Time for the Things You Love
No matter how hectic life gets, and believe me, I know that work, familial responsibilities, exercise, and many other responsibilities can interfere with your hobbies. Just try to leave a few minutes in your day to do something you love for yourself. It could be gardening, playing with your kids, reading, walking your dog, playing music, or writing on a blog. Whatever it is, find time to do what you love, relax, and enjoy life. Life’s too short to be constantly stressed. Relax.
Sleep is important for productivity, health, mood, etc. It is the time when your body rests and starts to “repair your tissue, improve cognitive function, and restore energy levels” (Livestrong). Make sure you’re getting enough hours, people! Read more about the importance of sleep in one of my earlier posts.
7. Cook for Yourself
Cooking for yourself allows you to make better choices about what you’re consuming and helps you be more aware of what you’re putting into your body. Also, if you want to eat something unhealthy and you only eat what you cook, then the likelihood of you eating foods that are absolutely terrible for you are slimmer. Who wants to fry chicken or donuts all day? Cooking food also means that you’re using fresher and more natural ingredients, not the processed junk. Yay!
Note: Stop eating when you feel full. Don’t try to force yourself to eat everything off your plate.
Whether you want to lose weight, better your lifestyle, or both, the key to it all is to change your lifestyle using some of the tips above. Do not fall into the traps of one of those fad diets. They may sound very convincing as they try to persuade you with their ‘statistics’ and ‘see results quickly’ slogan, but I know you know better than to believe them now, right?
Anyways, I hope this post was informative and helpful for you!