Most of the time when you start a diet, you do it to get healthier, right? Maybe you’re looking to lose excess body fat or you’re looking to eat more nutritious foods and get yourself in better shape. The problem with the majority of diet plans is that they are not sustainable because they are extremely restrictive. They don’t allow wiggle room for the foods you love and most of them are very extreme. A recent study from Columbia University showed that yo-yo dieters were 82% less likely to be at an optimal body weight.
Did you know going on and off of these diets can actually be worse for you than never dieting at all? Yes, you read that right. Gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight, then losing weight does damage to your body and your metabolism.
When you lose weight quickly, you lose both muscle and fat. This decreases your metabolism because your body doesn’t have as much mass and muscle mass needs about 2.5 times the calories to maintain itself compared to fat mass. When you stop your diet plan, you typically regain the weight that you lost and body fat is the first area to be restored, not burning nearly the calories that your old muscle mass did.
There are hormonal changes that happen when you drop weight quickly. These changes can make you hungrier causing you to overeat when you’re burning even fewer calories. There’s a hormone called leptin that tells your brain if you have enough energy stored for normal activity or if you’re in starvation mode. When you drop fat quickly, your leptin let’s your brain know that you need to eat more which increases your appetite causing you to eat more and then regain weight quickly.
Regaining lost weight after stopping the diet can cause inflammation in your body, increase your risk of insulin resistance, and increase your risk of developing heart disease. A study from NYU School of Medicine showed that frequent weight cycling was linked to a 117% greater risk of heart attack, and 136% increase in stroke risk, and a 78% greater risk of developing diabetes.
Diet’s don’t teach you life-long nutrition. They put you at risk for several nutritional deficiencies. When you cut out entire food groups, you may likely be missing out on important nutrients. For example, if you cut out dairy, you need to be strategic to make sure you are consuming enough calcium from other food sources. Diets also encourage disordered eating habits. I see this happen all the time with people who follow different diet plans throughout their lives. They become confused on which foods are “healthy” or not and don’t know how to eat a balanced diet.
Here are some red flags to look out for in the diet world:
- It’s only meant to last a short period of time. If there is an end date on the diet plan. Run away. Clearly the diet creator knows it’s not healthy to maintain that diet long-term. So why would you even start it?
- They cut out food groups. Unless you have an allergy or a medical condition requiring you to avoid certain food groups, there is no need to cut anything out.
- They promote “cheat days” or “cheat meals”. There’s no cheating in eating, y’all.
- You have to eat completely different from your family. Why on earth would you make two meals? For real, though. Why? This also tells your kids what they’re eating is “unhealthy”.
I know the diet world is messed up and it’s hard to know how to eat because there are conflicting recommendations everywhere. Here are a few healthy diet tips you can start right now!
- Use portion control.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Be active most days.
- Incorporate protein foods at all meals and snacks.
- Eat at home more! It’s easier to control what you eat when you’re making it.