Starting a new diet and (more importantly) sticking to it is tough because your brain is working against you every step of the way.
Dieting usually fails us because it deprives us of certain foods, and sometimes entire food groups, which is not only unhealthy but also unrealistic long-term. Diets are also temporary and once we have reached our goal - usually shedding a few extra pounds - we go back to eating like we did before so, naturally, the weight comes back.
If you think about it, diets aren’t meant to fit your daily life either. Weighing food and measuring calories constantly may help you lose weight for a time and while it’s common practice for professionals in the fitness industry and athletes, for most people this isn’t practical and will only turn eating into a chore you’d rather not bother with. Eventually you’ll drop the diet rather than deal with the hassle of monitoring what you eat constantly.
Read more: Losing Weight Fast: is it good for you?
Another thing to consider is that diets, mainly low-carbs diets, can lower your metabolism. By drastically cutting back on your calorie intake, your metabolism will adjust and slow down so you burn less calories, thus defeating the purpose of seeing results by changing your eating habits.
And more importantly, dieting is not a one-shot solution, it’s part of a bigger strategy. Lifetime weight management is not only about what you eat but also about what you do outside of your meals. Physical activity and moderate exercise, at least 30 to 60 minutes a day, is just as important as changing your eating habits if you’re looking to safely and consistently lose weight and keep it off long-term.
So, where does this leave us? How can you diet effectively and be sure what you’re doing is helping you and not making things worse?
The answer might not surprise you. First, seek a health care specialist, a nutritionist ideally, and work together with them in creating a healthy meal plan that suits your current needs. As you progress you’ll have different needs and having a professional adjust your meals over time will help you stay on track.
Then you need a fitness professional to draw up a suitable exercise plan for you. Most gyms offer this as part of their services and you can also find personal trainers online who’d be glad to work with you (for affordable fees) in your own journey, be it weight loss, getting fitter, or just bettering your health through moderate exercise every day.
A good diet, paired with physical activity, while not the fastest way to lose weight, is the safest way to keep you trimmer and healthier long-term.
If seeking a nutritionist or joining a gym aren’t something you’re ready to commit to just yet, here are some tips to help you recognize a good diet plan online and distinguish it from diets that will do more harm than good:
- The diet should encourage you to check with a physician or health care provider before starting. It should be offered by a registered dietitian, an exercise specialist or a qualified expert in behavioral changes.
- It should provide a way to help you determine if you are ready to make the long-term changes that are needed to sustain permanent weight loss. A good diet will take into account food and activities that fit into your lifestyle.
- Good diets will easily fit into your life long-term and offer suggestions to maintain it and adjust it with time and as your needs change.
- A safe diet won’t promise more than a loss of 1-2 pounds a week. It will encourage you to set realistic and achievable goals.
- A well-balanced diet will not exclude one or more food groups.
- And finally, a good diet will always have a three tier approach that focuses on healthy eating, physical activity and behavior modification. Diets that promise results simply by changing what you eat or how you eat it will not give you the results you’re looking for most of the time.
At the end of the day dieting and sticking to any plan that fundamentally changes your habits comes down to your personal resolve and willingness to stick to it, but external factors also weigh in, such as stress, your job, where you live, and much more.
If a new diet or changing the way you exercise aren’t really something you see yourself doing anytime soon for those reasons or others, here are some more helpful tips that you can easily follow without feeling overwhelmed:
- Watch portion sizes and limit second helpings, especially when it comes to high-calorie or high-fat foods.
- Learn simple healthy cooking techniques. Try baking, poaching or grilling instead of deep frying or sauteing.
- Limit how many alcoholic beverages, fruit juice drinks and soft drinks you have.
- Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor instead of using fatty sauces, gravies, dressings, or butter.
- Have fruit, banana bread, or angel food cake for dessert instead of a pastry or cake.
- Take your lunch to work to help avoid fast food dining or ordering take out.
- Keep healthy snacks at hand so you’re more likely to go for them.