Paleo. Low carb. Ketogenic (basically no carbs). Atkins (fancy name for low carb). Low fat. Flexible Dieting. South Beach (high protein). The Wild Diet (high fat). Slim Fast. Nutrisystem. The no sugar diet. The 1200 calorie a day diet no matter what your weight is because you heard once when you were 18 that 1200 calories would make you lose weight, diet. The “I don’t care anymore, I give up diet” of cheeseburgers, fries, pizza and ice cream.
Those all look familiar? Most people have heard of all those; most people have tried all those! You are probably nodding your head. And why have you tried all those diets? Because they did not work for the long term and you “had” to turn to something else for a quick fix. They didn’t teach you any habits you could sustain for the rest of your life.They just taught you how to lose weight.
Soooooooo, what is the best diet out there? There isn’t one. Everything listed above is centered around one or a few strict food rules that do not allow the person “attempting” the diet to sustain success for ever. Many of these diets take out a whole food group such as “no bread,” “no fruit,” no “healthy fats,” no “red meat.” No one can sustain a no carb diet for the rest of their life, I do not care who you are. Eventually you will have a wedding, a party or some random day where you want or need to eat a lot of carbs. You know what happens when you haven’t eaten a complex carb in 6 months? You will put on 5-10lbs just like that. Or, for the people trying to stick to 1200 calories every day of the week, eventually (it could be this weekend, it could be this Thanksgiving) you will eat 4000 calories in one day. Maybe even one sitting. You know what happens? Your body is starved and sucks up all those calories (mostly fat and carbs). You will gain 5-10lbs in a matter of days. I won’t even go into the Slim Fast craze, that just didn’t make sense. And, I will save my thoughts on flexible dieting for my next post in this series.
I have said it time and time again. I won’t stop saying it. The best diet is a lifestyle change. More specifically a lifestyle change that works for YOU. This could mean going Paleo because you have Celiac Disease, or eating 1200 calories a day because you are tiny and weigh 100lbs. But, find what works best for your long term health. Yes, I know that you know that. But, do you really know that? Because if people knew that, they wouldn’t always go for the quick fix. Of course a quick fix is easier, but eventually you will want to see sustainable results and sustainable results only come with habit changes over time. Habits such as learning what the best protein options are, drinking 100+oz of water everyday, eating green veggies 2-3 times a day, MACRO TRACKING…at least at some point in your life, not feeling guilty over a bad weekend, letting yourself enjoy food and “fun” meals, planning your day of eating the night before, meal prepping etc. These habits are not inherently difficult, they are DIFFERENT. We need to stop having the thought that eating veggies is a chore, or that eating your veggies gets you dessert. Eating veggies has to be something you NEED to have in your daily routine or you are flustered and wondering how you will ever make it through the day. OK, not that extreme, but kind of close to that….
Everyone has habits, its human nature. How long did it take you to build the habit of having a Coke for lunch everyday? I would say it probably took longer than a couple weeks. To build habits takes time. We live in an impatient society and that is the biggest struggle for my weight loss clients. Thinking about the long term. Here is a quick example of why patience is key for someone on a weight loss journey if they don’t want to put weight back on after they lose a few lbs.
Say I have a client named Ricky. He weighs 280lbs. He wants to weigh 200lbs with more muscle mass. Based off calculations and watching him food log for a weeks I decide he needs to 2700 calories a day. Right now he is eating around 3200 calories on average. He tells me he can handle eating 1500 calories a day because he wants to get “cut” fast. I tell him, “Yes you will lose weight fast, but what happens when you stop losing weight at 1500 calories?” The answer to that most people would say is to cut the calories down again. Let’s look at this realistically though and based off my 1200 calorie diet example. Ricky will be starving at 1500 calories (psychologically he won’t be able to handle that long term). If he is starving at 1500 calories how will dropping calories again help? I tell Ricky he needs to be in the smallest calorie deficit possible so he can still enjoy life and see consistent progress. We put him at 2700 calories and slowly lower the calories as he loses weight. Of course this isn’t what he wants to hear. He agrees though and after 14 months he has dropped 80lbs. Over the course of those 14 months he has successfully learned and practiced countless habits that are now a part of his life so he can stay at 200lbs. The other option would have maybe gotten him 30lbs of weight loss, then a plateau that is hard to get off, frustration, anger, and the weight goes back on.
Patience is the key to habit building and habit building is the key to the “best diet”out there: the lifestyle change that works for YOU. To build those habits you have to want it. And when you “want it,” those habits won’t seem like chores.
Next post in the series is on Flexible Dieting. What is it? Why it is awesome sometimes and why people over do it.