Lets start by just forgetting the word “diet”. Just in case you haven’t already figured this out on your own I’m going to let you into a secret most dietitians have known forever: diets don’t work!
Let me explain, instead of dieting we need to change the way we think about food, eating and nutrition. The problem is that when we hear the word “diet” we think of something that is temporary, we think about what we are NOT going to eat rather than what we will eat. In other words when we hear the word diet we usually think about it in a negative way. All doom and gloom and you just can’t wait for it to be over. This is probably why we think of diets as being something we “need a day off from”or a “cheat” day. In other words, diets are generally something we can’t wait to stop doing.
How can anything that is temporary have long lasting results? It can’t! This means that most diets are illusions; if you are dropping 6 or 10 lbs in a week you are losing water weight not belly fat because our bodies are mostly made up of water; in fact the human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water. Which is why a human can survive for a month or more without eating food, but only a week or so without drinking water.
Think back to the last time you tried to diet, did someone hand you some instructions with a list of foods NOT to eat for one reason or another & then some vague reference about it being based on “scientific evidence”. (Show me the research and I don’t mean one study that had 10 participants, and was sponsored by the company that is selling the “miracle” diet). Show me the peer reviewed, evidence based, scientific journal articles and a multitude of studies.
So you bought it, don’t feel bad. You were mislead and so were millions of other people, that desperately wanted to believe it to be true. Which is what keeps the diet industrial complex going. Maybe you said ”hey yes I need this book, this diet, this plan, this list of foods never to eat again, I’ll do this, this is going to fix my problem”. But in the back of your mind you are thinking about how long do I have to do this? When can I have a cheat day? Then maybe a week or two into following the diet plan you start to miss some of your favorite foods, well that’s the first red flag, when a diet eliminates most of your favorite foods or is very restricting it’s not going to be sustainable, it may not be based on any scientific evidence, and there’s a very good chance, especially in the case of weight-loss for example, you will initially lose some weight (water) but you will not only gain that weight you also gain some additional emergency fat stores (weight) with each “diet”.
So what is healthy eating? There is no one-way to eat healthily. It really depends on the person and their goals. Do you want to gain weight? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to build muscle? Do you want more energy? Do you want to try being a vegetarian? Have you been diagnosed with a medical issue which means you must change the way eat and possibly even the way you live your life.
When thinking about food, know that variety is the spice of life. There are thousands of foods available to us and yet we have a tendency to focus on just a few of them. Did you know the average person eats only 30 foods on a regular basis? When was the last time you tried a new vegetable or a new fruit that you never before tasted? There are many. If it hasn’t been in the last couple of weeks then it’s time to explore. Variety is important to prevent nutrition deficiencies.
So while there is no one way of eating, that is good for everyone, there are general guidelines which can work for most people and there just needs to be a little fine tuning to make them work for you.Did you know that 35% of normal dieters become pathological dieters, which is a gateway to an eating disorder? It’s time to ditch the diets and if you’re not convinced yet here are a few things to look for when analyzing the quality of the diet or nutrition advice you are receiving.
Here are a few Big Red Flags:
· The diet is very low in any of the macronutrients (macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fat.)
· The diet requires you to purchase highly processed, usually expensive, foods, drinks or supplements that profit the company or person that is also providing the diet.
· You always feel hungry
· There is a long list of foods you must NOT eat, for no scientific reason, and I am not taking about the obvious things like fast food, but some of natures gifts, fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, mangos, pineapples avocados. All of these are their own powerhouses and bring something to the table that our bodies can use.
· There are no solid foods on the “diet”, instead the diet is something you must drink every day, every meal. If we were meant to drink all of our nutrition why would we have teeth & such complex digestive systems.
Some people find it helpful to use a food plan, especially initially when they’re changing the way they eat, though eventually you should eat in a way that supports your body and your nutritional needs without having to overthink it. Food plans, are roadmaps towards making healthy change. They should not be crutches and they should not be difficult to follow. They should make sense, be based on real science not pseudoscience & they should not leave you feeling hungry.
If you feel overwhelmed by food plans & the millions of diet books from all the so called diet gurus, & you still want to make permanent changes in your eating, then consider consulting with a registered dietitian (RD or RDN). This is a licensed and registered health care professional who has studies the science of diet & nutrition for many years and can help you separate the fact from the fiction. And there is lots of fiction! A registered dietitian can help guide you and help you create a food plan that works for you. Remember a food plan is not a diet, it’s just a road map to get you started until you learn your way, and discover what’s right for you.