The Truth About Fad Diets No One Tells You
Ever wonder how so many people can find success in vastly different ways of eating? Vegans rave over their chosen lifestyle and the massive health improvements they’ve had after cutting out animal products. And I bet that either you, or someone you know is on the Keto diet. People cannot stop talking about how it’s helped them to shed off weight super quickly! From the outside, the Vegan and Keto diets are polar opposites. So how is it that people on both sides are seeing such great results?
It’s because most diets are more similar, than they are different. Here’s how.
They make you eat real food.
I define real food as food that is as close to it’s natural state as possible. If a food has more than 3 ingredients or you can’t make it at home, it’s probably processed. Even when some diets remove entire food groups (Keto almost completely omits carbs) the food groups you are allowed to eat are fresh, whole foods, and have minimal processing. If a diet requires a meal plan, you’re usually cooking at home. And when you cook food at home, you eat healthier without even trying to. (Even if you took the most unhealthy Cheesesteak Factory menu item and recreated it at home, your dish would have way less calories and fat.) Basically, when you eat real, nutrient-dense food and cut out processed foods and excess sugar, you’re gonna lose weight.
They emphasize food quality.
This is huge nowadays. I’m sure we all remember our first food documentary. (Mine was the classic: Food, Inc.) The one that opened our eyes to where our food comes from, how it’s manufactured, and all the steps it takes before it finally hits the supermarkets and finds its way onto our plates and into our bellies. Modern diets remind us that the quality of our food is just as important as the type of food. As a nutritionist, I get excited when people want to talk about this. (Though I don’t love the conspiracy theories that can come with it.) Good nutrition emphasizes quality. Whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, just eating whole, quality food will impact your health beyond what you could imagine.
They eliminate nutrition deficiencies.
Imagine you switch from eating a Big Mac and fries for dinner everyday, to eating lentil soup and baked chicken. When you eat whole, minimally processed foods, you’re eating way more nutrients than you were before, without even trying. That’s why we hear all these awesome success stories about people who have lowered their blood pressure on the vegan diet, or stopped medications after going Keto. When you make the switch from a diet that is starving your body of vital nutrients, to one that is serving up quinoa salads and acai bowls, your body is gonna thank you.
Maybe they added veggies to dinner where there was none before. They started picking their foods more consciously when they went out to dinner with their friends. They got more variety, and more nutrients. No diet miracle here, they’ve just started eating better. Inflammation, hormone imbalances, digestive problems… all these things that contribute to illness, are now being addressed. The body is being fed well enough to defend itself, and correct any imbalances. Our bodies are pretty spectacular, and when fed the appropriate nutrients, it will perform at it’s finest, keeping us healthy and thriving.
Diets control food intake and energy balance.
Obviously. In order to lose weight you need to take in less energy (via food) than you expend (through metabolism & exercise). Think of those programs where they have little portion containers for the rice, and the protein, and the veggies. Or if you count macros (carbs, fat, protein); you have a certain amount of grams of each per day and you will do whatever it takes to not go over. (I used to avoid fruits during the day so I could have carbs leftover for pecan sandies for dessert… but that’s for another post.) You get it, diets tell you how much food to consume. (And it’s less than you were before.)
They encourage physical activity.
Movement is integral to the health of our bodies and our minds. It keeps us sharp, focused, and alive. Nutrition tends to compliment exercise, and exercise compliments nutrition. Most diets, while it may not be a requirement, encourage their followers to be active. And when you find an activity you love, you may start to wonder if certain foods can help you get better at that activity. And when you eat better, a natural afterthought is; should I be working out?
So…these seem to be good things, Laila.
They are! Doing the typical dieting thing can definitely help you lose weight. No doubt, if you stick to the plan, you will lose weight eventually (because energy balance). And there are definitely people who’ve found success in them. Otherwise they wouldn’t still be around. And the truth is, for people with medical conditions, a more restrictive diet may be non-negotiable if you want to see major improvements or regression of the disease.
So yeah, fad diets work, but they’re also missing one super important piece of the healthy lifestyle pie.
For most of us, they’re just not sustainable.
There’s just no way I’m never eating samosas or pizza again. NOPE.
You know, I learned something last year; there is no magical ‘there’ that you arrive at when you're finished dieting and you’re finally free. I used to think there was, but after I lost those 5 or 10 pounds, my midnight junking habit found me, and I was back where I started. Womp womp.
Remember when I said that good nutrition emphasizes quality? Quality also refers to the process. For lasting success, the quality of the process is going to predict the quality of your results. If the process is built on deprivation, angst, hunger, and feelings of guilt and inadequacy, you can expect results built on that sketchy foundation. For results that last, addressing the lifestyle changes & habits that will lead you to your goal, will get you way farther, and with less stress.
When I meet new people and tell them I’m a nutritionist, this question almost always comes up:
What’s the best diet?
What do you think about (insert diet here)?
The best diet is one that keeps you healthy, and that you can actually stick to long term.
I know, groundbreaking.
From here, you can take the good about fad diets and leave the bad. Decide what kind of healthy lifestyle you want to lead, and choose sustainable habits that will get you there. That way, when you finally reach your goals, it doesn’t even feel like a destination anymore. So you don’t feel the need to stop.
I’m working on another freebie for you that will give you a clear overview of how to choose habits that will get you to your goals, and tips on how to infuse them seamlessly into your current lifestyle. In the meantime, you can start my 7 day challenge. It’s designed to be the first step to a diet-free life. If you’re interested, fill out the form below and I’ll get you started right away. You’ll also receive emails from me so you don’t miss my next blog post. No worries, you can unsubscribe any time!