It has almost become cliche for someone to say, “I need to go on a diet,” or “I need to work out more.” Those who say that are always getting ready to say it again. Most times, they diet or hit the gym for a week, and are always looking for the next trend or fad to jump on. Even if they get their desired results, they always seem to rebound like a superball, right back to where they started. It is estimated that at any given time, 30 to 54% of Americans are on some sort of diet with a plan to lose 30+ pounds. We know that if diets and exercise alone worked, we would be a society of lean and trim individuals, but we are not. We are getting wider and more unhealthy with each passing year. There is a better way than dieting, which we will cover at the end.
First, let’s look at five big reasons that you should never again put yourself on a diet.
1. You have better odds of winning at the casino - It is estimated that 95% of all diets fail. Wow, it’s amazing how popular something can be, that rarely works. Well that is not true. Many people do have positive results initially; they lose the weight they wanted to. This “success,” fuels the belief that diets can work. The problem is most people gain the weight back, and then some. So it is counted as a failed diet. Is the game rigged? Is the diet at fault or the dieter? Much like a casino game, you can beat the odds, but the cards are stacked against you when you choose to bet on a diet.
2. You plan your failure or fail to plan - Few people, if any, plan to remain on their diet for the rest of their lives. They are willing to do the suffering of restricting their diet to reach their goals, without the consideration of what to do when they succeed. Everyone has either heard of, or said themselves, “I lost a bunch of weight when I…” but here they are back where they started. Most of the time all their old habits creep back in and so do the pounds. They regain the weight and now it is onto another diet, one that works! Sadly, no diet that is started and stopped can ever work. This is a pervasive delusion ultimately caused by not planning or even applying common sense. If I repeat my previous steps that I used to gain the weight, of course I will be right back where I started. If you are going to diet, you need a plan of how you will eat afterwards, but it cannot be like before or you will just get the same results.
3. Diets ruin your metabolism - Most diets focus on some form of calorie restriction. It sounds good, right? “Of course my body will use all this fat for energy and I will get skinny,” you assume. It is not quite that simple. By drastically cutting calories, you are telling your body it is starving and it is. So it responds the only way it knows how, with self preservation. It will use stored fat as energy, but will also want to preserve fat storage. It starts by down shifting your metabolism to become more efficient and preserve the energy coming in. It does its best to lower your energy output, making you feel tired and less likely to exercise. Next, in order to preserve fat it starts to consume muscle for energy, known as muscle wasting. Having less muscle mass and a slower metabolism allows the body to slow down starvation. We don’t need excessive muscles consuming energy, the body thinks. Having less muscle in the future means slower burning metabolism long term.
4. This low-fat is messing with my head - Many dieters start by cutting fat with the idea that eating fat, makes you fat. You are what you eat, right? Again this is an oversimplification. Some fats are good. They regulate your blood sugar level, feelings of hunger, and are essential for the heart and brain function. A great book to read is Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD. The typical Western low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are linked to many health concerns that span from mild to life-threatening. Low fat diets are linked to poor cognitive performance, but also dementia, ADHD, chronic headaches, and Alzheimer’s, over a lifetime of consumption.
5. This diet is literally killing me - A quote from Andrea Pennington, MD, author of The Pennington Plan for Weight Success sums up the health risks, "Repeated crash dieting increases metabolic hormones, such as insulin, and elevates levels of sex hormones, including estrogen," "These changes cause you to start putting on weight around your middle, which research has linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease."
“So what do I do”?
It isn’t sexy, it isn't new, but it is effective. Are you ready? Start by choosing food and activity alternatives and replace unhealthy habits. You are going to build a new healthy lifestyle. That is it! It is better than any diet, because it is sustainable.
1. Start with baby steps, but start today - Make healthy choices you can live with for today. Easy wins that build on each other. A walk around the block instead of stress eating, black coffee instead of a 400-calorie latte, and tea instead of soda. Simple steps such as these, build your new lifestyle.
2. Do what you know - You already know how to get healthier, or at least where you can start. You don’t need a new book, you don’t need an ancient civilization diet plan, and you don’t need a guru, not yet! Worry about the advanced stuff when you cross that bridge.
3. Get interested in your health - You can get started today, with what you know, but make your health and lifestyle a lifelong study. If you take an interest in it, you will gravitate toward the information you need to continue down a healthier path.
Good luck on building your new lifestyle and ditching the diets! Quit your diet before you start, but build a healthy lifestyle and modify it until it fits you and your clothes perfectly!