There is no shortage of diet plans on the market. New ones pop up all the time, leaving people more confused on what the best plan is to maintain good health, lose weight and keep it off for the long term. Most of the popular diet trends vary in some shape or form, the basics of all the good plans are really very simple: eat real food in it’s most natural form, cut out as much junk and processed food as you can, limit sugar and white flour and exercise some type of portion control.
Most of these diets will have good results because the participants are forced to focus intently on what they are putting into their body.
The problem with diets then is not the diet itself, but the mindset of what happens when you go “off” the diet and resume your “normal” eating patterns. Of course it you lose weight on the diet, then resume your old habits the weight you lost will return. Typically, you will also mess up your metabolism in the process and end up gaining even more weight back. This is why it is important to change your mindset about how you fuel your body instead of looking for quick, short-term fixes. Long-term health benefits, including a healthy weight, will result from diets that incorporate the following:
- Eating enough food to fill you up and fuel your body.
- Eating more whole plant foods such as veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains.
- Cutting out as much junk and processed foods as possible. This includes food and drinks with artificial sweeteners even though they are zero calorie or low calorie.
- Don’t focus on weight, focus on health. Eat high quality foods that will fuel your body.
Common sense will go a long way in helping you realize your goal. Jumping on the bandwagon of the latest diet or fitness craze will assuredly leave you at the same weight eventually and usually tired, cranky and frustrated in the meantime. Diets that restrict entire food groups, diet pills, powders and shakes are short term fixes. Realize early on that there is no shortcut to a healthy body. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are the only way that yield long-term, sustainable results.
Adapting a healthy, maintainable lifestyle will prove to be a much more successful approach to long term weight loss than any highly restrictive eating plan. There will always be diets that come and go from popularity. Many promise quick weight loss and may even deliver short term benefits, but most are usually too restrictive to maintain for the long term. Following the diet du jour will typically put you through the roller coaster of initial weight loss followed by a plateau, leaving you feeling deprived and irritable, then frustrated for having failed to continue with the diet. This will also wreak havoc on your metabolism and may backfire and leave you in a worse condition than when you started.
Your body requires a multitude of nutrients that are found in a great variety of foods. Any diet that cuts out or greatly restricts an entire food group or groups is generally going to be too restrictive to adhere to for a lifetime. You may be able to compensate for a short period of time, but eventually your body will notice that it’s needs aren’t being met and you will undoubtedly see the consequences in the form of irritability, sluggishness, constipation and a variety of other unpleasantness.
The most popular diet fad recently has been the high protein, low carb combo (Atkins, the Zone, Sugar Busters). The idea is the carbohydrate intake makes the body produce insulin and the increased insulin levels can lead to weight gain. High protein diets will cause initial weight loss because of restricted calorie intake, water loss during the first few weeks and an increase in basal metabolic rate because the body must burn more calories to break down protein than it does to digest other foods.
However, high protein, low carbohydrate diets causes concern because:
- Increases in low-fat protein can reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol) and reduce good cholesterol putting you at an increased risk for heart disease.
- Protein digestion leaches calcium from the bones increasing your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
- Digesting large amounts of protein works the kidneys harder and may cause long-term kidney disease.
- By emphasizing protein and de-emphasizing other macronutrients, you may not obtain enough fiber and nutrients leading to a host of other health dangers.
There are several other common trends that promise weight loss in an easy, packaged form. Again, the focus should always be on the long-term plan that is sustainable for a lifetime, not a quick fix in a bottle.
Bottom Line: Long-term weight loss come about by reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity to create and calorie deficit. Eat clean, whole, unprocessed foods and your metabolism will do it’s job, your insides will be clean and functioning properly and you will get all the nutrients you need. Be wary of any diet promising weight loss from any other method.
Take Away: Use the knowledge you have gained so far to make informed decisions on the amount of food you eat and exercise you do. Don’t be lured into programs offering quick results with minimal effort.