Weight Loss: it’s Not a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle
Written by Angel Fonseca RD CDE
Cleanses, detox, alkaline diet, cabbage soup diet, raw food diet and negative-calorie foods. What do these have in common? They provide you with short term weight loss, can be dangerous to your health, difficult to follow and have arbitrary rules. In our society, we tend to focus on appearance, weight being at the top of the list. It’s no surprise millions of people fork out thousands of dollars to diets and weight-loss products. Everyday a new “quick fix-miracle” diet is ready to provide weight loss with minimum effort. My question to you is: if these worked, why does the weight loss industry keep coming out with more? If it’s a “miracle” diet or product, why is there more than one on the shelf? The truth is because there is NO magic solution. There are no pills or foods that magically burn fat while you sit on the couch eating chips. Sorry!
Fad diets are often too good to be true and don’t follow healthy eating guidelines. Look for these red flags when choosing a weight loss program:
- Promises weight loss greater than 2 pounds (1 kg) per week. Rapid weight loss causes you to lose water, muscle and bone and you are more likely to regain quickly. Gradual weight loss is more likely to last long term. Isn’t that what we actually want anyways?
- Eliminates major food groups such as dairy or carbohydrates and stops you from eating your favourite foods. Imagine being told you can’t have any ice cream or potatoes. Excuse me? No. And even if you take a multivitamin, you’ll miss key nutrients.
- Requires you to follow rigid menu plans. Life is hard enough let’s not add to this. Ask yourself if you can eat that way for the rest of your life. If not, it’s not the plan for you.
- Promotes eating one type of food for its “fat-burning effects”, avoiding all X-type foods (i.e. cooked foods) or eating foods in a particular combination. There is absolutely no evidence that any of these actually work. Side note - There is a diet where you eat cotton wool. What are people even doing when they come up with these?
- Forces you to buy the company’s foods or supplements. Not only can these be very expensive but do you really want to spend more money after you’ve already registered to quarterly monthly payments to join said program? Stop it.
- Provides nutritional advice that is based on testimonials rather than scientific evidence. One anecdotal study does not apply to the masses. One size DOES NOT fit all.
- Does not encourage physical activity. This is making my head spin. I just can’t. Regular physical activity is essential for good health and weight management.
To start a healthy weight loss plan talk to a Registered Dietitian. Many people claim to be experts in nutrition yet have limited knowledge or expertise. Be wary of unqualified practitioners who may be offering unproven techniques to diagnose and treat nutritional problems. You wouldn’t take financial advice from your hair dresser, so why would you when it comes to your health? Dietitians are qualified, regulated professionals that guide you using safe, evidence-based nutritional advice.
Now that we have that cleared up, what does a healthy weight loss plan look like? The most successful plans combine dietary changes, physical activity and behavioural therapy. Start by identifying your problem areas. Are you doing something that is making weight gain more likely? Too large of portions, skipping meals, consuming high calorie foods and distracted eating are only a few of these behaviours. Studies show that people who keep track of their meals are aware of their habits and tend to be more successful in their weight loss journey. Have regular meals, starting with a balanced breakfast. Fill up on veggies and fruit at meals and snacks and watch those portions. Get active by aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intesnsity activity most days of the week. Pick one habit to change and go from there. Don’t expect results overnight. It took more than one day to put it on; it will take more than one day to take it off.
Fad diets are tempting as they offer quick fixes to a long term problem. However, they can be harmful especially if they are too low in calories, cut out major food groups and don’t provide ongoing support. Don’t follow diets that leave you deprived, bored and put you at risk for other health problems. Concentrate on establishing healthy, risk-free lifestyle-based, flexible and sustainable habits for lifetime success.
Angel Fonseca is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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