Diets are out, Lifestyle is IN for 2022
Kitty Finklea, RD, AFAA-CPT
The new year is a time for goal setting, and losing weight is one of the typical post-holiday goals, especially after holiday eating. Diet culture is ablaze this time of year with ads and talk about quick weight-loss schemes.
It’s easy to get sucked into a plan advertised with instant gratification such as ‘lose 10 pounds in 5 days!’ These types of plans are usually very restrictive and difficult to follow. Before buying into a program, consider the following about restrictive diets:
1. Many restrictive diets are very low in calories or leave out a food group which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, and depending on the diet, could lead to other medical problems.
2. The chances of long-term success are very small. Research indicates only 5% of people keep the weight off while the other 95% gain weight back (and often more) when returning to old habits.
3. Yoyo dieting, going on and off restrictive diets, can lead to a lower metabolism, higher body fat, and hormonal changes, making it more and more difficult to lose weight over time.
4. Many restrictive diets do not have a physical activity component and research shows regular movement is key for overall health and keeping weight off.
5. Restrictive diets may give a sense of control at first but use the scale as the primary measure of success. These types of diets are also linked with lower self-esteem and confidence when the diet fails, as well as an increased risk of eating disorders.
Sounds terrible, right? I had one client tell me she knew she needed to lose weight and get back on a diet but wasn’t ready for the suffering and deprivation! Who wants to stick with that kind of diet? Dietitians, nutritionists, and counselors have been moving away from diets and toward sustainable and personalized lifestyle change. And while this weight-loss strategy may not be as fast, this strategy is a long-term approach to losing and keeping weight off, as well as improving overall health.
The main focus of a sustainable lifestyle is finding what works for YOUR mind and body. Consider the fact that every single body is unique. And if two people eat the same exact thing and do the same physical activity, their bodies will still look different. We all have our own sense of taste, lifestyles, health challenges, and budget, and what works for someone else may not work for you.
Instead of making drastic changes, consider making smaller changes that are easier to maintain and build over time. Here are tips for sustainable lifestyle change strategies:
Focus on one thing at a time. What do you want to work on? Make your goal simple, such as using smaller plates, eating veggies at lunch or dinner, or exploring more healthier snacks. Once you achieve the goal and feel confident about it, move on to another.
Edit the goal as needed. If something isn’t working, either edit the goal or move on to another goal. The goal has to fit into your lifestyle, and if it isn’t working, kick it to the curb! Keeping a goal log can also help keep track of your progress and solidify the goal.
Beware of the “all or nothing” mentality. Sustainable change means being flexible and working toward progress, not perfection. Diet mentality is off/on thinking, while sustainable change means working with challenges and knowing that mistakes and failures are part of the process of learning what will work for the long run.
Observe and modify without judgment. This means when there is a mishap figuring out what happened and plan accordingly, instead of feeling guilty and shameful and giving up. . For example, let’s say the goal was to eat healthier snacks, but you went to the store after work ravenous, bought chips, and ate them on the way home. Instead of beating yourself up, analyze what happened, and next time tune into hunger cues and plan for a power snack before grocery shopping.
Use other measures of success besides the scale. Weight is not the only indicator of your health status. Our weight can fluctuate depending on time of day, food in the colon, hydration status, and hormonal changes. Other measures include how clothes fit, energy levels, sleep, stress, and blood levels (cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammatory markers, etc.). This means looking at the whole picture to help determine success and not one measure.
Enlist support from your support team. It’s important to have a support team, like friends, family members, your provider, or other healthcare professionals, who can listen and give helpful feedback. We all need support in this life journey!
Be grateful for all your body can do. The body works hard to keep you alive and healthy Instead of body bashing, aim to be the best you can be with whatever challenges you face. All bodies are good bodies for the life we experience on planet earth.
Managing weight is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating habits along with physical activity, managing stress, and getting adequate rest are all important. By making personal and sustainable lifestyle changes, you can manage weight, improve health, and feel more positive and confident in 2022!