Nutrition Coach Tip: Ditch Diets

Ditch restrictive, temporary diets in favor of lifelong healthy eating. Photo credit: James Farmer

Any nutrition coach will warn you: programs that claim that they’ve finally figured out the quick and easy solution to your problems are very appealing. When it comes to weight loss, declarations like this are way too common. Diet crazes bank on these sorts of promises, offering the latest in how to drop weight fast and attain top health.

Unfortunately, here’s the harsh reality: Diets do not work.

Let’s discover why, and what to do instead.

What We Mean By “Diet” and Why We Say, “Ditch It!”

When we refer to diets or dieting here, we mean a temporary restrictive eating and drinking protocol intended to result in weight-loss. While you may lose weight in the short term, the very fact that this is a temporary plan means you’ll get temporary results. As Meg Selig writes in Psychology Today: “About 95% of people who lose weight by dieting will regain it in 1–5 years.”

This short, thoughtful video reiterates this fact, and proposes a healthier way of approaching the situation:

Not only do diets fail almost everyone, Selig also reminds us that depriving your body of the nutrients and energy it needs to survive will slow your metabolism—that is, when you’re dieting, it’s likely your body will rebel against your weight-loss plan by holding on to what it can.

As if that’s not all enough, Selig notes that dieting often leads to too much and too frequent attention to the numbers on the scale and this makes dieters eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

This last finding, that dieting and constantly monitoring how food is weighing on us, literally, fuels the creation of a bad relationship between you and what you eat. Even if you don’t develop a full-blown eating disorder, making food the enemy is exactly what you don’t want to do to maintain a healthy weight and healthy eating habits.

Redirect Your Focus

Maintaining a healthy weight is a byproduct of a healthy lifestyle, beginning with a healthful food regimen. Many nutritionists and dietitians are so on board with the concept of focusing on health and nutritious eating over weight-loss, their “approach to working with clients doesn’t include dieting or weight loss at all,” says a 2018 BuzzFeed article. “In fact, some of them outright reject it as a way to help their clients find satisfaction with their eating habits and their bodies. Some of these professionals call themselves weight-neutral, others anti-diet, still others practice from a Health at Every Size (HAES) or intuitive eating perspective, embracing principles of body acceptance and diversity and pushing back against cultural norms of thinness and diet culture.”

Focus on healthy living, and your body will find the size and shape it’s happiest with. Note, too, that weight isn’t just a factor of what you eat. How much and how vigorously you move your body is important, of course, but so are sleep and stress. Prescription drugs and hormones also play a role. That’s why it’s important to develop and maintain a healthy eating plan as well as healthy lifestyle choices when looking to improve your well-being, and land on a healthy weight.

How To Develop a Healthy Food Regimen

Working with a nutrition coach is an excellent way to help you home in on developing healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food. A few benefits about hiring nutrition help include:

  • They provide accountability
  • They provide structure and a strategy
  • They help with the important act of meal planning
  • They provide credible research and information, so you can educate yourself
  • They have experience you can learn from and be inspired by

You certainly can improve your nutritional journey on your own. But with either path, there’s one common thread: you are the only one who can determine what works best for you.

A great start to moving toward a healthier eating program is to pay attention to what foods your body likes and which ones it rejects. Are there certain foods that cause you digestive issues? Are there foods that make you feel tired and grumpy? Take note and reduce or eliminate those foods, while also keeping track of foods that do the opposite.

Keeping a close watch on your energy levels and emotional states along with what you’re eating and drinking will help you figure out what foods are your friends and what foods aren’t. That is, this is a great way to develop a better relationship with food: when you recognize and feel how certain foods contribute to your well-being, you’ll start to associate those foods with those positive feelings; the opposite also holds true.

And know these relationships can change over time, especially if your diet has been relatively poor for a while. For instance, if you’ve been eating a lot of processed foods, your body is probably going to have a tough time processing whole foods, especially whole raw foods.

This doesn’t mean that your body is one of those special bodies that thrives only on fast food and sugar, and hates broccoli. It means that it’s been a while since your body was asked to break down whole foods, and it’s just not quite there yet. Sometimes it takes a little time to completely purge yourself of reliance on unhealthy foods, like highly processed foods and foods with a lot of refined sugar.

Change Begets Change

Changing eating habits is challenging for many people, so start slow and start small. Focus on one meaningful change at a time, and take stock of how that works for you. Then use the momentum of that change to move on to the next change. You’ll gain confidence and motivation as you conquer each step and see improvements.

Cherie Turner

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