With so many options for dieting, and so much disappointment, how do you know if the diet you’re considering is finally the answer you’ve been looking for? Before you try another quick-fix program and face a miserable 10 days or perhaps a month, read on to find out why diets may work in the short term, but tend to fail spectacularly in the long run.
- Diets are not sustainable. In fact, they’re designed to have an end date. So while you might be able to eat only vegetables for (say) 30 days and drop some pounds, what happens on day 31? Most people finish the diet and begin to eat like they always used to (what a relief, right?) Then they gain back all the weight they lost, and, often additional pounds to boot. If one plays this game more than once the body goes into a state that makes it harder and harder to even initially lose the weight on the exact same diet.
- Diets are not individualized. Your metabolism isn’t some “average metabolism”; it’s your own unique set of genes, gut biome, environment, eating habits, lifestyle, age, and other factors, too. Eating the wrong foods for your body and skipping the important ones, may in itself make you gain weight or at least be unable to lose weight. A food diary is one way to discover what works and doesn’t work for your body.
- Almost all weight loss diets focus on the quantity and type of food, but not the quality. In order to sustain health you need foods that provide optimum nutrients and make you feel good about eating and taking care of your body, both of which help maintain a healthy weight. Overly restrictive diets and “diet foods”? Not so much!
- Diets ignore our culture of mindless eating. We are not even aware of what we’re putting into our bodies and how these foods (and whatever else) are affecting us. We’re so used to hoovering down our pre-made foods at our desks or on the run that we stop paying attention to what we’re eating and we don’t even know when we’re full. We don’t slow down and enjoy our food and so we continually feel unsatisfied after eating. (And so, we eat more!)
- We live in a culture of overabundance and scientifically engineered foods, but our bodies evolved in a time of scarcity and whole foods. We reach for packaged snacks that are developed in a lab focused on making the food as addictively tasty as possible. Scientists play on our desire for salty, high calorie, sweet foods when we’re hungry, or even just because we’re low on energy, bored, lonely, or sad. And these foods are everywhere and cheap. Advertisers remind us at every commercial break that we could be eating some of these treats, and like Pavlov’s dogs, we begin to (literally!) salivate in anticipation. In our culture, snacking all afternoon and evening has become a norm, and we are taking in too many calories, food additives, as well as having too few healthy foods. Familiar? Who could blame us for overeating in such an environment?
- It’s hard to go it alone when you make positive changes to your diet. Well meaning family members or co-workers may not appreciate your dietary goals: “Oh just have one donut!” “You’ve been good all day, why not treat yourself?” Or your pantry and fridge are packed full of temptations the rest of your family is eating and you may be trying to avoid. nlisting support as you move towards a healthier eating lifestyle is important. Friends, partners, family members can become your motivators instead of making change harder. A health coach can also help you stay on track in the face of challenges. (Contact me via message if you are interested in finding out more about health coaching–my website is coming soon).
- We are pursuing the wrong goal. So many of us want to diet and lose a certain number of pounds or look a certain way because we think our whole lives will improve and then we can finally be happy. Instead, we should aim to eat for enjoyment, wellness and vibrancy to reach our ideally healthy weight. In that way we avoid unnecessary restriction, starvation, guilt and ill-effects on health as well as the rebound effects of regaining weight. What if we could collectively let go of the idea that a particular weight or size will bring happiness, and instead focus on what truly will bring health, fulfillment and joy?
- To maintain a healthy weight long term, we need to develop an individualized, happy, healthy eating lifestyle. We need to stop going on and off diets that make us miserable. Healthy eating style takes a whole different approach to food and our bodies. Avoid quick-fixing and start finding what is right and sustainable for each individual. From my health coaching training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and my outside reading, I am learning about many possible avenues to bring our eating and bodies back on track. Stay tuned for further posts for things to try!
Readers: Have you had success or failures on diets in the past? What worked? What made diets fail? What does a healthy eating lifestyle suggest to you? Respond in the comments!