So many of us look for a “miracle” when it comes to shedding those extra pounds, but most dietitians will tell you that “diet” is a word to steer clear of. But the fact remains, most people will start diet this year. So here are some basic questions to help you choose the diet that is right for you.
1. Does it promise quick or surprising results?
The more shocking the results, the shorter the shelf-life of true weight loss. Any time a diet or weight-loss product promises results that sound too good to be true, they usually are. So, although it may be tempting to buy the magic pill that allows you to lose weight without changing what you eat, or without exercise, you’ll only be losing weight your wallet. Also, some of these products pose potential health risks, so if it sounds fast or amazing, just say no.
2. Does it exclude or focus on major food groups?
Long-term healthy eating allows all foods in varying amounts and balance. When carbs, or fats, or other food groups are eliminated, you are essentially throwing the baby out with the bath-water when it comes to sustainable weight loss. A lot of popular diets fall into this category – for example, the paleolithic or paleo diet. While it does encourage large amounts of vegetables, it excludes dairy, grains and legumes. Red flags should be going off when you those kinds of restrictions.
3. Does it label certain foods as “good”, “free” or “bad”?
Most of us realize that labeling foods as “good” or “bad” isn’t the best idea. Food choice does not carry a moral or ethical consequence. A client of mine had previously been on a diet where cheese was labeled as a bad food. Cheese happened to be one of her favorite foods. Not only did that make her feel guilty, but depressed at the thought of never being able to eat cheese again. Even labeling foods such as cucumbers or celery as “free” implies that other foods cost too much in your daily calorie allotment and should be off limits. . . Calling foods good or bad leads to deprivation, guilt, and often binge eating.
4. Does it require special supplements, formulations or meal substitutes?
Replacing meals with shakes or smoothies is not sustainable and can be pricey as well. This should lead to you question the source of the diet – is it designed by a company to promote and sell their product? Your body actually feels full after chewing, so if you consumed equal amounts of calories in a chewable meal versus a drink, you would feel full longer with the simple act of mechanically chewing your food. Also, if a diet requires you to take extra amounts of certain vitamins or minerals, that should raise a red flag — you should be meeting your nutrient needs with a balanced eating plan.
5. Would you be comfortable if your 9 year-old daughter followed it?
This question I think is probably the most important one of all. Don’t underestimate the power of your example. Even if you don’t have children, this still applies to you. If you have any contact or interaction with kids under the age of 18, you should think seriously about the effect your diet will have on them. A friend of mine had been faithfully counting calories with an app on her phone in order to lose weight. She didn’t realize the effect this was having on her children until she was at the store and picked up a paint can. As she read the label, her kindergarten-aged son asked, “how many calories does it have?” It was wake up call for her to be more aware of the signals she was sending her children about healthy body image and a healthy relationship with food. The steps from dieting parents to dieting children, to eating disorders are fairly small steps, so choose your habits wisely.
Obviously, the overarching question is this: Can I sustain these healthy changes happily for the rest of my life?
If you answer no to any of these questions, then that diet isn’t for you.
Weight management programs should focus as much on maintenance as weight loss. Americans can lose weight following almost any diet, but keeping it off is what separates the diet-failures from the long-term health habits.
The most sensible, sustainable, and life-long weight-management diets are:
-DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)
-American Heart Association diet
The most reliable sources of long-term weight management information comes from meeting with a registered dietitian that can tailor an eating plan specific to your needs, tastes, and lifestyle. I offer individual nutrition counseling and more information can be found on my website www.nutritiousintent.com. To find a registered dietitian near you – go to http://www.eatrightutah.org/ and follow the instructions under “find a dietitian”.