If A Diet Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

Tis the season for fad diets! Holiday indulgences up the wazoo (technical term) coupled with the desire for a fresh start at the beginning of the New Year equal high susceptibility to every crash diet under the sun.

Did the internet tell you that if you gave up dairy and gluten you’d drop pounds fast? Did some book you read sell you on eating at exact intervals, or eating only red foods, or eating extra spicy peppers in order to melt away fat? Did a friend or family member have some success (at least at first) with a high protein or keto diet? My advice: Ignore it all, because if it sounds to good to be true, it is.

As a health educator, when it comes to diets, my mantra is: Don’t do it unless you can do it for life. Sure, we all have ups and downs where we eat more junk and fewer veggies, but in general, your eating habits should be something stable that you can stick with over time. And a crash diet sure as heck ain’t that—and it will not last.

Here are my top tips for ignoring the latest craze and doing something sustainable, instead:

    Beware of anything and everything that offers super-fast results.

    Anything you lose right away is likely water weight, not fat, and you’re likely to lose muscle, something you definitely don’t want to do, when you crash diet.

    Beware of diets that cut out entire food groups.

    Remember that you’ll crave foods that are totally off limits and be more likely to binge on them later, so beware of diets that ask you to cut out entire food groups or give up foods forever. You’re asking for rebound weight gain, my friend!

    Don’t be fooled by extreme before and after photos.

    Have you ever seen someone online demonstrate how they can look completely different in before and after photos taken just minutes apart? Between the lighting, their posture, and the flexing of muscles, they can go from mushy to muscly in just a moment. Remember—real change takes time and you do not have to look like a fitness model to improve your health.

    Even losing 5 or 10% of your body weight can improve your health.

    Don’t get stuck in the mindset of “I have to lose 75 pounds or I’ve failed.” If you weigh 200 lbs and lose 20—bam! You’ve already lowered your risk factors for a number of conditions and may very well have improved your blood sugar. Again, a fad diet is not needed or helpful here, just do something sustainable.

    Crash diets will make you miss out on life.

    When you can’t go to a restaurant with friends because you know there won’t be any red foods (or it hasn’t been 3.24 hours since your last meal and you’re not allowed to eat yet), you’re gonna be bummed. The longer you keep it up, the more isolated and unhappy you’re likely to feel.

    Make incremental changes that you can do for life.

    Start by shutting down the kitchen after dinner, and make it a habit. Give up soda and other sugary drinks next. Eat dessert only once a week. Eat vegetables with at least two meals. Start snacking on nuts instead of chips. Just make tiny changes, do them for a few weeks, then add something new. Do not make yourself crazy.

    It’s so easy to get sucked into a product that’s flashy and makes big promises, but opt for the slow road, instead.

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