We’ve all had the “so what do you do?” question. As innocent as that question is, we cringe a little whenever we get it. What often ensues after someone discovers you’re a dietitian is hearing about the diet they’re on, a diet they heard of, a diet their neighbor went on, etc. etc.. It’s murky water since, as most dietitians will tell you, we don’t promote diets. We promote lifestyles.
Why not DIETS?
Diets are short-term. Short-term changes can promote good health but only during, and for a short time after, their duration. Go on a 30-day diet and your health will improve if highly processed/nutrient-lacking foods are replaced with whole, nutrient-dense foods. But when you cross the finish line and your diet is over, are you going to continue eating that way? Usually not. Therein lies the problem.
Detrimental Dieting Effects
Often the purpose of a diet is to lose weight, and most people do after making major changes to normal habits. For someone who is overweight, weight loss is a healthy achievement. However, a short-term diet makes it easy to regain the weight that’s lost, and sometimes more. This pattern is known as “weight cycling”, which is when an individual loses weight, regains the weight, goes on another diet, and the cycle continues.
Many short-term diets are extremely restrictive, therefore when the diet stops, bad habits often return. This on-again, off-again yo-yoing effect is actually more unhealthy than maintaining a static unhealthy weight and is also psychologically defeating.
On the Bright Side
A positive outcome of dieting: long-term changes in mindset and preferences. It only takes about 3 weeks of cutting out processed foods and animal products to experience a change in taste and preference. After staying away from fatty foods (fried foods, fatty meats, cheese) the desire to consume fatty foods diminishes and the preference for low-fat foods increases.
If a short-term diet is a way of fueling motivation to get back on track, use that to your advantage. While you’re at it, do yourself a favor and also think long-term. For the best results, rather than jumping on the latest and greatest diet fad, choose a sustainable diet that will promote awesome health both now and in the future. I.e. – eating only whole, unprocessed foods for 30 days, avoid eating-out for 30 days, following the Daily Dozen for 30 days, etc.
To break the yo-yo dieting cycle, stop thinking in terms of short-term diets, and start thinking in terms of long-term lifestyle changes. Making small, maintainable, permanent lifestyle changes not only results in losing/maintaining weight, but also improves overall health without the stress and continued defeat from yo-yo dieting.
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