If you were a visitor to the United States, you would notice all kinds of fitness facilities available, foods at the grocery store labeled “low carb”, “low fat”, and “light”, and you would see all kinds of information through the media promising to have the perfect solution for maintaining a healthy weight. You would also notice in the midst of all this…a staggering percentage of those around you struggling with their weight and the management of health conditions claiming they have “tried every diet out there without success”. Where did it all go wrong? The “Diet Mentality.”
What is the “Diet Mentality”? It is an extreme focus on losing weight as quickly as possible through rigid or extreme limitation of food groups, calories, or other nutrients. Below are 10 reasons why this way of thinking interferes with long term health and weight loss.
1. Unsustainable Diet
Severe restriction of calories, food groups, or macronutrients (carbs, proteins, or fats). While you may begin to lose weight at first, it is important to understand that the weight loss is coming from water and muscle as well as some fat. Because you are depriving your body of nutrients and calories that have a specific purpose in your body, you will often find that this kind of diet is not sustainable. When people return to their old habits, their muscle is gone and metabolism is slowed, making them more vulnerable to weight gain than ever before.
2. Nutrient Deficiency
Unless medically supervised, diets that are below 1200 calories rarely provide enough nutrients to support health. Often, the intense focus on weight loss throws the idea of actual “nutrition or nourishment” aside. This can result in turbulent blood sugars, nutrient deficiencies, bad breath, and bad moods.
3. Medical Conditions
Many people who seek weight loss have existing medical conditions and/or are taking medications. Unstable blood sugars, nutrient deficiencies, and poor balance of nutrients may worsen the status of the medical condition or affect the function of medication.
4. You cannot “reset” your metabolism with a liquid diet or a starvation diet
Your body is designed to survive and to offset any sign of environmental starvation. Your metabolism will slow down. The moment you return to eating healthy foods with more calories and nutrients, you risk putting that weight back on again.
5. Learning How to Eat instead of What to Eat
Often we hear the words, “Just tell me what to eat!.” Following a plan without understanding why is like copying your neighbor’s algebra homework and walking away with no knowledge whatsoever. Even if the plan was to work, most people would find it is not applicable to a variety of situations that may come up in their life. What about vacations, work lunches, dinners out, or simply not having access to the foods in the “plan”? Dieting deters you from learning and cheats you out of understanding the purpose of what you are eating.
6. Failed Attempts + Failure to Learn = Failure to Succeed Long-term
If you have heard yourself say “I have tried everything and nothing works for me!”. You are probably in this unfortunate cycle. It’s time to seek the help of a Registered Dietitian to get an understanding of how to balance yourself out nutritionally by understanding how calories and nutrients actually affect your body.
7. Are you ready for that change?
If you are making a change that you are unprepared for, you may assume eating well is not realistic for your life. In reality, you were not yet ready for that particular change. It is important to treat nutrition as a long-term process that is taken in steps that are realistic. This way, you will never look back!
8. What about exercise?
It is frightening to know that people embark on these diets while engaging in high intensity exercise. This is like withdrawing from a bank account without the right amount of money or the right currency. Can somebody say “Overdraft”?
9. Diet is not lifestyle
The changes that you make have to be those that you can incorporate into your life forever. Otherwise, the weight will return as soon as the bad habits return.
10. “Diet” and “Cheating” Do Not Exist in a Healthy Lifestyle
90% of the time you are eating healthy food that satisfies you enough and 10% of the time you indulge yourself without regard to portion size. Many of us say the word “lifestyle” but continue to regard healthy eating as “diet” and indulgences as “cheating”. These concepts do not exist in a healthy lifestyle because both healthy and non-healthy foods have their place.
The Conclusion: Long term weight loss is a reflection of what you do to improve health. By the time you have achieved your goal weight, you should find yourself naturally eating, exercising, feeling, and thinking like a person who would be that weight. Your new habits and how you feel prevent you from ever going back to your old ways. The process of learning, making one change at a time, and achieving one goal at a time, results in the complete transition that puts meaning into “Healthy Lifestyle” and ultimate long-term weight loss and vitality.