I subscribe to numerous diet and fitness magazines, and they all seem to have a regular feature in every issue laying out diets that work to get you ready for ________ (the beach, the holidays, spring break, etc.). Every time I see one of these articles, I inwardly groan. I know my friends and family are going to ask me if the latest diet really is the answer to their prayers, and I know they aren't going to like my answer.
In the past few years, I've been asked about a number of diets. The Atkins Diet and Dukan Diet, which promise dramatic weight loss by limiting the consumption of carbohydrates. The Alkaline Diet, which promises dramatic weight loss by eating foods the maintain healthy blood pH. The Jenny Craig Diet, which promises dramatic weight loss if you eat only prepackaged foods. I've even had friends ask me if plans that restrict dieters to 800 calories a day were the key to their success.
We've been bombarded by so much health and wellness information in the past few decades that has turned out to be completely bogus that it's difficult to know what to believe. "Are low-calorie diets the way to go? Or will I have better luck restricting carbs?"
Here's what most researchers agree on: what diet you choose - low-fat, low-cal, low-carb - doesn't matter as much as whether or not you stick to your diet. Most studies that measure the success rates of the Atkins diet or low-fat options measure weight loss only for a few months, not years. When researchers have conducted studies on dieters, they found that dieters who stuck with the plans lost similar amounts of weight.
And that's why so many dieters aren't successful in achieving their weight loss goals long-term. Any diet that tells you that you cannot eat an entire category of food (especially a category as essential as carbs) is almost begging the dieter to slip up.
The key to long term, sustained weight management and, more importantly, a healthy body and lifestyle, is creating a meal plan that provides the essential vitamins and nutrients you require while also giving you the opportunity to enjoy the foods you love. Living a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate goal, weight loss is the gravy (except not gravy, because it's pretty terrible for you).
Here are a few tips to help you create a healthy diet and lifestyle plan:
- Learn your metabolism type: I know I've said this before, but it's essential. If you're a carb type and you try out the Atkins diet, you'll end up doing more harm than good. No two people are exactly the same, why do we expect one diet to work for everyone?
- Go natural: It's incredible to consider how much lighter Americans would be if we all cut out processed foods. Processed, pre-packaged fare is loaded up with preservatives and other chemicals designed to extend shelf life. The added bonus is that they gum up the functioning of your organs, screw with digestion, and may end up causing you to gain weight.
- Know YOUR daily values: Nutritional labels are a great tool, but not everyone is on a 2000 calorie diet. The Beyond Diet website is a great resource for figuring out the daily value percentages that are ideal for YOU.
- Exercise: While researchers go back and forth on whether exercise is essential to weight loss, doctors are almost unanimous that exercise is essential to the proper functioning of our bodies.
There's no one diet that works for everyone, and there's no magic pill that will make you ten pounds lighter while you sleep. Crafting a wellness plan, for life, that provides the vitamins, nutrients and fun that you need is the surest way to ensure success. Because really, do you want to be on a diet for the rest of your life?