How many of us have been here - You see one of the newest diets that swear this is "the one." So you give it a try, and maybe it works for a week or two, but you quickly learn it's not sustainable. You start to miss your favorite foods, and the diet becomes more of an inconvenience than a help. Or maybe you stuck to the diet and lost weight, but once you go back to post-diet life, you gain the weight back or even more weight. So are you just supposed to stay on this diet forever to maintain weight loss? Absolutely not. It's time to stop the madness and finally accept that diets do not work.
Diets have always been a controversial topic in the health world. Every few months, there seems to be a new article on the latest diet and why it is the "best" option for you. From cutting out carbs to eating more carbs, to no sugar, to all fat, to no fat, to less protein, and so on, and so on... Each one claims to be the best. I don't know about you, but I have fallen victim to more than one fad diet in my lifetime. Not only did the diets not work, but they also chipped away at my already poor relationship with food and my body. I became the healthiest and happiest version of myself when I realized the truth that diets do not work; the secret to weight loss and sustaining it is lifestyle.
Diet vs. Lifestyle
To understand why diets are ineffective in weight loss and maintaining weight loss, we first need to understand more about diet versus lifestyle. When we get down to it, diets are not sustainable. When we are only eating specific foods each day, not only are we missing out on the importance of having a variety in our diet that allows us to get several different nutrients, but it's also inconvenient. I do not know about you, but I have been that person at a wedding who didn't enjoy the cake because there was no room for it in my fad diet. Life doesn't have to be that way because restricting yourself does not work. Research has shown that 80% of individuals who diet not only have difficulty sustaining the diet but also have difficulty maintaining the weight loss; these individuals had gained back more than half of the weight they lost within two years post-diet. This is where changing your lifestyle instead of going on a diet comes in.
Lifestyle focuses on quality. Meaning that when you focus on your lifestyle, you do not focus on restricting food but instead eat more whole foods. Lifestyle means leaving room for processed food here and there but embracing balance and allowing ourselves the space to replace processed foods with whole foods when possible. This simple change alone can lead to weight loss. Lifestyle is about making the behavior changes needed to pick up healthier habits and allowing yourself to understand where your eating patterns come from and how to change them. Shifting your mindset to focusing on your lifestyle makes weight loss sustainable.
It's also important to know how much research there is out there to support lifestyle changes for sustainable weight loss. For example, Stanford Medicine has released a new study explaining how strict diets do not promote weight loss or maintenance of weight loss. This study looked at 609 participants who followed either a low-fat or low-carb diet for one year. Researchers found "the study showed that just cutting calories or exercising was not enough to sustain weight loss over a year." Researchers concluded that there might be biomarkers such as gut microbiome that can predict what type of foods will help an individual lose weight and maintain weight loss. This study suggests eating high-quality foods rather than following a specific diet or restricting them. Researchers added, "Your mindset should be on what you can include in your diet instead of what you should exclude...Figure out how to eat more fiber, whether it is from beans, whole grains, nuts or vegetables, instead of thinking you shouldn't eat ice cream." This is exactly what lifestyle is about, focusing on making healthy changes rather than restricting.
In conclusion, diets only focus on the food you eat, whereas lifestyle focuses on the whole self. Working with a health coach, doctor, or weight loss professional can help you make this shift from diet to lifestyle. Continue following our blog as our health coach dives into how she helps clients make the shift to focus on lifestyle!