The Age of Fad Dieting
By: Brittyn Howard, RDN, LD
We naturally want to be fit, thin, and toned… and we want it right now! The media and fad diet pushers feast (no pun intended) on the desperate purchases of some bogus (but convincing) “lose 10 pounds in 1 week” pill or some impractical juice cleanse. Meanwhile, the nutrition and health that we want so badly is quickly diminishing. Nutrition and health takes time… weight loss takes time… seeing a change in physical fitness takes time. It’s important for us to realize that making a lifestyle change is hard! If it were easy, we would see the rates of overweight and obesity (which is 66% in the U.S. by the way) fall very quickly. It’s too common to use a fad diet and lose weight in a few days, but then rapidly gain it back .. plus some. “Yo-yo dieting” is not only frustrating but also very harmful to our bodies! As a matter of fact, it increases risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol (among many others). Is easier to see now that fad dieting is not only unsuccessful, but actually harmful to our bodies.
If you are looking for a way to healthfully lose weight and keep it off, take these steps to determining a diet** that is right for you:
*Diet- in this article, means a lifestyle change. See step 3 for further explanation!
Step 1: Determine why you want to make a change
Before you begin to consider food choices, ask yourself why you are making this change. Is it because you want to lose weight? Decrease your cholesterol and/or blood pressure? Sleep better? Feel more energized? Increase your physical strength? Run a half marathon? Better skin health? Or is it a combination of all of these plus some? Once you have determined why you are wanting to make this change, write it down on a piece of paper and move on to step two.
Step 2: Set goals
Now that you have established your long-term goal (determined in step 1), make some shorter-term goals for yourself. You can’t get to your long-term goal without establishing your stepping stones to get there. Maybe these include decreasing added sugars, stop drinking sodas, drink more water, avoiding processed foods, trying a new fruit or vegetable at least once a week, starting to eat breakfast, transitioning from processed grains to whole grains or from dairy milk to non-dairy milk. Write down your short-term goals on the piece of paper underneath your long-term goal. Post your list somewhere you will see it every day. Begin making changes to meet them!
Step 3: Decide on a sustainable lifestyle diet change (& stop dieting once and for all!)
Notice this step says lifestyle diet change. It’s important to establish a diet that you can stick with! If you are starting with a diet you know will not be sustainable… why do it in the first place? A majority of diets claim that you only have to stick to them for a week or month and you see lasting results. Unfortunately, with these diets, you don’t learn how to make long-lasting changes for your health. Give somebody a pre-made, packaged “nutrition shake” and they’ll have a breakfast for a day, but teach someone how to make a smoothie and they’ll have breakfast for a lifetime …. that’s how it goes, right?
Now let’s begin to put things in perspective… is a juice cleanse sustainable? Is low-carb for the rest of your life practical? Think about the diets you had been considering and decide if these are sustainable for you. If not, it’s time to move onto a new diet, that isn’t even a diet at all!
Step 4: Choose a healthy, balanced, whole-food “diet”
Here are some questions to determine if your diet is the real deal:
Does it contain whole foods?
A whole food is defined as “food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances”.Center your diet around fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and if meat is a must for you, keep it in as small quantities as possible.
Is it balanced? Aka: does it avoid any macronutrients? (carbohydrate, protein, fat)
A sustainable diet is one that allows you to eat all of the macro nutrient groups, and doesn’t restrict any completely! A general guideline is to have 50-65% calories from carbohydrate, 10-20% calories from protein, and <25% calories from fats daily! These percentage ranges give you the flexibility to decide which mix of foods works the best for you. While restricting carbohydrates sounds convincing and many claim it work, a majority (if not all) is lost water weight. Water follows carbohydrates. So whenever you start eating carbs again, that water weight will creep back on!
Does it claim you must purchase their product to see results?
If so, then it seems that your nutrition is not their primary goal. Nutrition supplements have never been something that have been crucial for nutrition. Think back to 100 years ago… nobody had nutrition supplements and they weren’t needed! By eating whole foods, we can obtain our nutrients from the food that we eat without having to drink a marketed protein shake!
Does it contain a wide variety of foods?
Diet variety is not only important for nutrient variety, but also for your tastebuds. Food should be something that is enjoyable, not predictable and dreaded. Plus, by eating only certain foods, you can burn out easily. It’s important to keep a diet full of various fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Does it contain high-quality foods?
Are the foods processed? Are they organic or non-GMO? Does it have added sugars? Does it have added oils (or even worse- partially hydrogenated oils - aka trans fats)? What about added preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce?
When grocery shopping, always check the ingredients and nutrient fact label. Those dried cranberries that you think are healthy may be loaded with extra added sugar and preservatives! Always read the ingredients list for whole foods. If you read an ingredient that you can’t even pronounce, odds are that it’s not good to consume.
Does it have enough plants?
Plant-based diets, compared to animal-based diets, have been shown to naturally decrease weight, lower cholesterol, decrease risk and even reverse heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, decrease high blood pressure, play a role in the treatment of depression, and so many others! Make sure your diet is getting enough of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts) and is limiting or eliminating animal-based foods (meat, poultry, milk, eggs, butter). If you’d like more info on a whole food, plant-based diet, check out: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/plant-based-diets
Lastly, are you drinking enough water??
Aim to drink 8, 8 oz glasses of water per day at a minimum. Just remember the 8x8 rule!
Step 5: Educate yourself
- Learn more about new whole foods you haven’t tried!
- Look up new ways to cook your favorite foods! If you’re not a cook, don’t worry! Everyone has to start somewhere
- Experiment with superfoods (see my past blog on superfoods: http://www.beloved-magazine.com/blog/2016/9/18/superfoods-101)
- If you’re unsure of nutrient facts in foods, download a fitness or food tracker from the App store and log your foods! It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable and also realize what nutrients are in your food.
- Learn new methods of physical activity that you enjoy doing! Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity/day.
- Learn more about yourself! How do you feel after eating a healthier meal? Are there certain foods that make you feel better than others? Find out which foods make you feel the best! Everybody is different, and every BODY is different! You will only ever have one body… treat it well!