Diets Don’t Work
Being an Exercise Physiologist has given me a lot of opportunities to talk with people at length about what they eat. I’ve heard them say they plan on making healthy lifestyle changes, but when they describe their plan, it sounds much more like a diet.
It makes me wonder whether people even know the difference anymore. It’s very important to know the difference because healthy lifestyle changes work and diets don’t.
Many people begin diet plans that may result in weight loss. The problem is that they usually end up gaining more weight back than they lost in the first place. My friends, that is classic yo-yo dieting and if this is happening to you, you definitely need a new plan.
Don’t Just Watch the Scale
Another very damaging outcome of dieting is looking to the scale to tell if your weight loss plan is successful. The problem with doing this is that while the number on the scale may be shrinking, you don’t know what kind of body tissue you’re losing.
You may think you’re losing fat, but if you’re fueling your body improperly, you may be losing a great deal of muscle mass. In effect, your body is eating itself.
It is very important to know if your plan is right, because losing muscle is not healthy and can slow down your metabolism.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Diet and Healthy Lifestyle Changes
In order to avoid many of the pitfalls associated with dieting, let’s examine some of its hallmarks.
1. Diets are Restrictive
Mentioning the word "diet" is like mentioning the word "budget". When you hear it, you immediately start to think of all the things you can’t do instead of examining all the great things you can enjoy. The truth of the matter is that a healthy diet plan should not exclude any one food or food group.
Yes, that’s right. Your body is designed to be fueled by something from each food group. The key is not what you eat but how much and how often. So, if your current eating plan involves avoiding one food or food type, you’re on a diet.
Another way diet plans are dangerously restrictive is if they don’t allow you to take in enough calories each day. Under no circumstances should women eat less than 1200 calories per day. Men should never fall below 1600 calories. Anything less than that is considered clinical starvation. This will actually work against your weight loss efforts and health in a disastrous way.
Diet vs Healthy LIfestyle Changes (cont)
2. Diets are Temporary
Now, before I can explain this point, let me just point out the fact that the word "diet" itself is used in two different ways. The word literally encompasses any and everything you eat.
In effect, we’re all on some sort of a diet, be it healthy or not. When I use the word "diet" here, I’m referring to those temporary, restrictive, sometimes off-the-wall eating plans we employ in an effort to lose weight. That being said, let’s get back to the point.
If the plan you’ve adopted to help you lose weight is something you cannot or should not realistically do for the rest of your life, you’re on a diet. You can stop eating solid food, skip meals, cut carbs, or eat only cabbage and grapefruit if you want to.
You may even see a change in your weight. But you know that you cannot realistically do that for the rest of your life without hurting yourself, making yourself miserable, quitting, or all of the above.
So, when you plan on making a change to your eating habits, make sure it’s something you can do for good. That way, you won’t have to be miserable in the process of losing weight. Neither will you have to lose the weight and gain back twice as much.
After all, what are you going to do when you run out of the meals you bought from XYZ Diet Company? You’re going to be on your own so you may as well start out learning how to manage your weight for life.
Several small changes adopted and practiced over a long period of time is the way to ensure lifelong success with weight management.
Keep Your Diet Balanced
3. Diets are Unbalanced
A healthy eating plan is one that includes foods from each food group and several different foods within those groups. In other words your diet should include a variety of foods eaten in moderation. Each food group serves its own unique and critical function in the human body.
Take a moment to survey your current eating habits to figure out whether you’re dieting or making healthy lifestyle changes.