For decades, society has gone through numerous trends regarding health and fitness. It’s become indisputably clear that our diets directly impact our health. Obesity is a leading factor for disease risk when it comes to lifestyle. We can dispute all day the implications of WHAT your diet contains, but no one will debate that if a person is overweight, losing weight should be the primary goal. That being said, at some point, just about everyone tries a “diet”. Fad diets could work, but that doesn’t mean you should do them!
Diets are temporary
A “diet” implies a temporary solution to an underlying problem, and this is a concern when approaching a lifestyle change. Many diets will contain limited foods, heavy restrictions, and sometimes strange eating frequencies designed to help people lose weight FAST. The reality is, most people abandon diets because they are unsustainable, not because they are ineffective. Often times obesity is a symptom of an emotional issue such as depression. A crash diet or drastic change in lifestyle can just exacerbate the feeling of hopelessness. Health Research Funding shows us some pretty interesting statistics about fad diets.
Moderation is key
Unless directed by a doctor or nutritionist, most people don’t need some sudden change to what they consume in terms of eliminating certain foods completely. Moderation is key. Clean foods are foods that are simple and not overly processed. Grilled chicken with a salad would be a good example of a clean meal. Fried chicken and french fries would be pretty dirty! Fruits and nuts are a good clean snack as opposed to cookies and chips. If your eating habits have moderation, then you CAN eat that cookie or those chips occasionally! If your diet is primarily clean, and your portion sizes are reasonable then you will likely be within acceptable health standards! This article at Northwestern Medicine does a good job explaining the pros and cons of many popular fad diets. This list also references sources for many of these statistics, including:
“95% of diets fail and most will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years”
Portion sizes and calorie requirements
Portion size is sometimes difficult for people to understand. It’s hard to restructure this thought process when you’ve been habituated to eat a certain amount. If your meals contain the appropriate amount of calories you might not have to eliminate ANY foods. 3 cookies might contain the same amount of calories as a full healthy bowl of rice and beef. If you exercise and are somewhat active, this increases the number of calories you need to consume, and you’ll have an even greater margin for consumption. Check out this article to learn about the differences between cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise, and how burning calories works! Someone who bikes 3 times a week and who lifts weights at the gym frequently can most likely eat that cake whenever they want! There are many factors to diet, such as your particular goal, your current level of fitness, and genetics!
Genetics certainly play a huge role in your health and fitness levels. That being said, someone with less favorable genetics certainly might have to work harder to lose weight or maintain an appropriate weight. However, It’s very unlikely for ANYONE that exercising regularly and eating reasonably clean foods 80% of the time would be ineffective. Discipline, consistency, and self-accountability are necessary.
Calorie trackers and self accountability
It’s a really good idea if you have no experience tracking your consumption to use a tool. A free app like Myfitnesspal or any other calorie counting app generally contains a huge database of foods and restaurant menu items, and there is always a similar substitute to help you ballpark your caloric intake. You don’t have to use these tools forever. After a few days, your habits should reveal themselves and you can see that you’ve been binge eating or overeating. Many times people will realize one snack is adding a huge amount of calories to their day. A half a cup of nuts can contain around 500 calories! It can be surprising how dense some foods are! This doesn’t mean you can’t eat nuts, you just need to incorporate them reasonably.
Overall, your diet should be sustainable. You should be happy with the foods you eat and have reasonable portion sizes so you can afford to eat that treat every so often. Your diet shouldn’t be difficult, it should feel normal. If you’re eating the right portions and not overeating, your weight should stabilize or decrease. You can always compensate for eating a little more by exercising more! Crash diets have a bad track record and usually result in relapse. Most fad diets simply aren’t reasonable lifestyle changes. Unless instructed by your doctor, developing a plan for the long run will lead to success.