As a personal trainer and health coach, I never advise my clients to start dieting. Let’s be clear, when I speak about dieting, I’m referring to the "commercial diet." You know the ones I’m talking about, plans that allow you to eat whatever you want as long as you stay below 1,200 calories a day. Or the one that promises you’ll lose ten pounds in ten days without exercise.
I’ve heard about them all, and I don’t advocate any of them. I’m sure you've either personally tried or know someone who has tried at least one of these fads at some point. This may ruffle a few feathers, but let's be honest: dieting sucks and I'm here to tell you why.
They're too restrictive.
Diets often have a maximum daily caloric value, usually between 800 and 1,000 calories per day. The idea that you can eat whatever you want and lose weight as long as you stay below 800 calories is wrong, especially when you consider that most dieters are consuming empty calories.
Breakfast cereal, coffee, sports drinks, pastries, frozen yogurt, condiments, and all processed foods are filled with empty calories from added sweeteners, fats and oils. They add to your daily caloric intake, but have no nutritional value. (Yes, even those three strips of turkey bacon with reduced fat are packed with empty calories.)
It's true that the key to weight loss is to create a caloric deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. But the problem is that many dieters don’t know what types of calories they should get and many diet programs don’t make this a priority.
Whole foods like oats, grains, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables have no additives or preservatives. When fresh, whole foods become a staple in your diet, as well as a regular exercise routine, staying below 1,200 calories per day becomes unnecessary. (I’ve never heard of a person gaining 20 pounds from eating too much kale, I’m just saying.)
They prioritize the short-term instead of the long-term.
I understand that losing ten pounds in ten days sounds very appealing, especially if you’re trying to lose weight quickly for a wedding or your high school reunion. Does gaining 20 pounds in 30 days sound just as appealing? I didn't think so! That’s exactly what's going to happen as soon as you return to your regular eating habits.
Not only will you gain the weight back that you lost, but you'll also gain a few additional pounds. Why? It’s simple: when the body is depleted of something, once you incorporate it back into your diet, your body stores it instead of using it.
For example, if you go on the "No Carb Diet," once you begin eating carbs again, instead of your body using it for sustainable energy, your body will store it. It's an attempt to protect itself incase you go without it again. (Keep in mind, your body isn’t storing it as energy, it’s storing it as fat.)
This can also create long term weight loss struggles or mental health issues like eating disorders or body dysmorphia.
The only way to protect yourself from this pitfall is to change your lifestyle entirely.
Diets are like medication, they don’t help the underlying problem, they temporarily mask the symptom, while leaving the true issue free to roam.
Due to the immediate shock that your body experiences, feelings of fatigue and/or sickness are common among dieters. This is primarily due to the inhibition of the nutrients your body relies on to carry out your daily activities.
The average person should expect to lose 3 to 4 pounds per month, not 30 pounds in 45 days. When you do that, you’re not burning fat, you are mainly burning muscle. Your body will begin to cannibalize itself in order to compensate for what it is lacking. Fat has no nutritional value and most of your foods nutrition is stored within your muscles.
For those of you thinking, Well, burning a little muscle never hurt anyone, let's remember our muscles' primary function—to provide movement. Now let’s also think about which diseases are directly associated with your muscles: myositis, muscular dystrophy, hypotonia, etc. Can you fathom being confined to a hospital bed because of a diet gone wrong? Sounds a bit extreme but it has happened
There are more negatives than positives when it comes to a fad diet. If you're truly looking to improve your health, seek professional help from a registered dietician or nutritionist, a personal trainer or other health care professional. The most important thing you can do is to change your lifestyle. Implement things that will keep you healthy long term, not something that seems appealing for the next two weeks. Make better choices, enjoy the journey and most importantly—love yourself!