As quoted in the article, here is my advice for finding a successful weight loss plan:
Is it sustainable?
“When I work with clients, I always try to get them to make gradual changes,” says Christy Brissette, a registered dietitian. “If a diet is having you cut out entire food groups, is having you severely limit the types of foods that you’re having, then I really worry (that it’s) not sustainable.” Such diets, she suggests, are a virtual recipe for a later rebound.
Affordability is important, too. Diets that shun certain foods and necessitate a large amount of alternatives and supplements can be expensive to maintain, as can any diet that focuses on organic foods or meat protein (or organic meat).
Brissette argues for less of a fixation on weekly weight loss tallies, instead putting more effort into understanding our emotional connections to food and how that affects weight gain. “I try to work with clients to disrupt that cycle of feeling an unpleasant emotion, trying to soothe with food and then feeling guilty and ashamed about it,” she says.
“By stopping that cycle and finding another way to be good to yourself that doesn’t involve food, people can focus more on the behaviour versus always jumping on the scale.”
Being savvy – and skeptical
All diets should be considered with a critical eye. Where’s the evidence that they’re effective? Who is advocating for a particular regimen, and what makes them qualified to do so? Just what, exactly, are they claiming – and can they back it up?
Who is promoting it?
“When you see a new diet book that’s hitting the shelves, try to figure out what the author’s nutritional background is,” says Brissette. “Do they understand nutritional science? Most of the time, you’ll see it’s written by a doctor, but sometimes they’ll be a doctor of French Studies. Even if they’re an MD, most of the time, nutrition doesn’t factor into it. It’s outside the scope of their training.”
Are they hawking products?
“Any program that has you buy special products is always a bit of a red flag,” says Brissette. “If there’s a diet, and then along with it you need protein shakes or bars or you have to buy pre-packaged food or supplements, then obviously they don’t have your best interests at heart.”
Are they making unrealistic claims?
Brissette warns against plans that make bombastic claims. Anything that’s advertised as a “miracle diet,” a “magic bullet,” or a “cure,” should arouse suspicion. Similarly, any diet that promises weight loss faster than two pounds per week is unhealthy and unlikely to be sustainable in the long term.
Is the science questionable?
Many diets are based around some kernel of truth, but fall apart upon closer inspection. Detox diets, for instance, tap into our concerns about how environmental pollutants in our food affect our health. But there’s little evidence to back up the belief that certain foods can boost the body’s natural ability to expel dangerous substances.
Does the diet rely on gimmicks?
Any diet that has a central, attention-grabbing “hook” demands closer inspection. The Paleo Diet’s key conceit, that we should eat like our Stone Age ancestors did, suggests evolution itself necessitates a certain diet – an attractive assertion, albeit historically questionable (not all Paleolithic humans ate the same diet, and either way, we certainly don’t live the way they did). Similarly, any plan that fixates on a single kind of food or, say, prescribes an indefinite, all-juice regimen, should inspire skepticism.
Is it potentially dangerous?
Diets that call for unsustainably-low daily calorie limits (500 in some cases!) are essentially starvation diets and should be avoided. Anything that calls for injections, laxatives or enemas can wind up doing far more harm than good. Brissette warns these can often have unintended side-effects, such as nutrition and electrolyte deficiencies, and are therefore rarely recommended.
More on dieting:
Basically all diets find a way to make you eat less. Whether it’s making you eat out of measuring cups or pre-packaged food, or cutting out entire food groups or staples of your diet. Eat fewer calories and chances are, you’re going to lose weight.
They all emphasize vegetables. Some fat. Some protein. Drink water. Avoid processed foods and added sugars. This is all good advice, but certainly not ground-breaking.
Research shows the most effective diet is the one that works for you. It isn’t a one-size fits all.
My 80 twenty rule gives people the freedom to make healthy choices most of the time and choose less healthy treats 20% of the time. This is a healthy pattern people can stick with for life. Crash diets are temporary, healthy eating is forever. And it includes cake, ice cream, and whatever else a crash diet has you deny yourself.
One often ignored area in people’s attempts to lose weight is the emotional aspect. We all grew up being comforted by food when we were sad, scraped our knee or needed a reward for being good. Our parents didn’t know any better. Now our brains are hardwired to associate certain types of food with comfort.
The good news is, the adult brain can learn about this and interrupt the pattern. I work with clients to help them disrupt the cycle of feeling lonely, upset or stressed, trying to self-soothe with food, and then feeling guilt, shame and wanting to soothe with food all over again. People can stop this cycle by realizing they are in charge, not the cravings.
Have you ever tried a diet that worked long-term? If you’re ready to part ways with dieting and discover a healthier way of eating, contact me for a consultation.