Every year there is a new fad going around for diets. Right now that fad is Keto and people are diehard fans of doing Keto and recommending it to everyone who is looking to lose weight.
All diets ever invented have one thing in common: they restrict calories and do it in different ways.
Each diet restricts different types of calories. For example,
- Whole30 – no processed foods and sugar
- Atkins – no carbs
- Paleo – eat only whole foods that our ancestors ate
- Keto – a modern version of the Atkins diet
- South Beach – keep it low carbs
- Why Most People Stop Dieting and Keep Starting Over
Even with the help of diets and the variety of diets to choose from only 1 in 6 Americans actually keep off the weight that they lost after dieting according to Penn State College of Medicine.
There are many reasons why diets don’t work long-term but these are my personal reasons why I think diets are not the answer for many people,
- People like eating a variety of foods. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to eating so when you restrict yourself to eating only certain types of foods you get bored.
- Your body goes through changes at different stages in life and so will your diet and eating habits. This is especially true for women who are pre/post menopause and find themselves gaining weight even if they didn’t alter what they eat.
- Starting a diet can create an OCD relationship with food that is not flexible. What happens if you’re out with friends and you stress out over the menu because you cannot count calories or find something that fits with your current diet? Eventually you stop dieting because it becomes difficult to stick with your diet when you're out.
- People like choices. Again, back to reason #1 we like to have a choice in what we eat and how we eat. Often times a diet is great for short term but we naturally revert back to our eating habits over time.
But doing a diet is easy we like being told what to eat especially when we’re completely lost when it comes to knowing what to eat to reach our weight loss goals.
Everyday we constantly receive mixed messages about food and health.
We’re told that eggs are great for us one week and bad for our cholesterol the next.
We see endless clickbait lists of Top 10 foods to eat to drop 5lbs fast and lists of foods to stay away from.
It’s no surprise that we don’t know what to think about food and what to eat to get us to our health goals.
All we know for certain is that we love food, we love to eat, and eating is pleasurable.
And sometimes it really takes getting on a diet to help us get back to baseline healthy eating again.
A Personal Trainer’s Take On Dieting
Instead of giving strict rules I prefer giving guiding principles that outline the big picture of how one should be eating for optimal health and optimal results.
You may think I’m completely against diets of all kinds but it’s not true.
In fact, if you’re on a diet when you’re training with me and you’re happy with the way you’re eating then I’m all for it. So let’s tweak it so that you can start getting results you want.
But if your current diet and eating habits hasn’t gotten the results you want or you don’t know where to start with healthy eating then starting a diet has many benefits.
In this article I talk about the 3 main benefits of starting a diet besides the obvious appearance benefits.
You Learn About Yourself and Your Eating Habits
I’m betting that you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating everyday.
You eat out of habit.
You choose foods based on what you grew up with or what marketers tell you that you should be eating because of X, Y, Z benefit.
Do you remember what you had for dinner two nights ago? Exactly!
Marketers know this so they are constantly shaping your food choices for you subconsciously.
Remember those cereal jingles?
I remember that cereal commercials ended with the narrator saying that this cereal is ‘part of a complete breakfast’.
Now I understand why everyone’s default breakfast is cereal, oatmeal, or a bagel because it’s considered by the marketers a ‘breakfast’ food and advertised that way.
Rarely do people consider eating other non-breakfast foods for dinner like chicken, vegetables or beans because of market influences.
Dieting makes you hyper aware of how food affects your energy levels.
Those being on a Keto diet know how much it sucks because you cut carbs out.
Going carb free is fine for the first few days until you realize that you don’t have the energy for that afternoon Orange Theory class because you feel like death when you’re not eating carbs.
You find out how dependent you are on certain foods like sugar, salt, and carbs when you cut them out.
Food addictions are real and marketers rely on additives to get you hooked on their products. That’s why for most people they experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings if processed foods was part of their regular diet.
Cutting out certain foods cold turkey like donuts and chocolate makes you notice that when you cut them out you don't experience those afternoon energy crashes.
You might also notice that eating a high protein breakfast helps to keep you full till lunch time.
Dieting teaches you how your body operates on certain foods and how your food choices impact your energy level and sleep. Awareness and understanding your relationship with food is important if you’re going to create a lasting permanent change in your body composition and health.
You Learn About Basic Nutrition
When I first started my new job right out of college I was living frugally so I could pay off my $30,000 student loans ASAP. And part of that frugality was living off of free company food as much as possible.
Over the next several years I ended up making multiple trips a day to the vending machine in the break room because I was always hungry and the food was free. Of course I blamed getting hungry on an hourly basis because of my super fast metabolism thinking I’m so lucky I’m eating all the time and not gaining weight.
Stupidly though I didn’t realize that I was getting skinny fat.
It took hiring a trainer for me to face the reality that though I was still the same size I was in college my bodyfat level was considered obese.
My trainer had me log in my calories every week in My Fitness Pal. It showed me how most of my calories came from processed foods eventhough it didn’t look like much.
Instant ramen has always been one of my favorite indulgences and one of the first things I had to cut out of my diet because a measly packet of ramen contained 3 servings and a crap load of carbs. What really caught my eye was the list of 30+ ingredients in a dinky packet of noodles and my hunger returning an hour later.
There is something nostalgic about 3-minute noodles that really takes me back to childhood when I learned how to cook for myself and ramen was just so easy.
The biggest change in my daily eating routine was noticing how many calories are in different types of food and what macronutrients they contained.
When I ate healthier I noticed that I could eat more throughout the day versus eating packaged foods.
By logging in my food I created a pattern of eating the same portion sizes for each meal just so that I could meet my macro nutrient requirements at the end of the day.
Paying attention to my food choices helped me understand that what I thought was loaded with protein was actually a mix of protein and carbs.
Sometimes the best part of being on a diet is that it’ll force you to plan for your meals and meal prep because it makes it easier to track. Meal prepping teaches you basic cooking skills to feed yourself so that you’ll reap the benefits of a slimmer waistline and improved health.
Plus, you’ll realize how quickly you’ll overeat your daily calories when eating out.
You Learn About Your Relationship With Food
Losing weight is eating on a caloric deficit. This means eating fewer calories than your body is burning.
Instead of eating what you want and whatever you want a diet forces you to be more mindful of your choices. Logging in your calories helps you to keep track of how much you ate so far and helps you pace your meals and snacks so that you’re not starving by the end of the day.
Nothing sucks more than splurging your calories on a slice of cheesecake to only realize that you got about 100 calories left for dinner. Going to bed hungry is no fun!
When you’re restricting yourself to a certain amount of calories you distinguish the difference between true hunger and boredom hunger.
We are all guilty of eating because we’re stressed, sad, bored, or just want a distraction. Eating when you’re not truly hungry adds up unnecessary calories.
Dieting forces you to pay attention and to be present when you’re eating. When you’ve only got a limited amount of food to eat you can bet you’ll be savoring every bite and really paying attention to your chewing.
Not only does paying attention when you’re eating slows you down so that you don’t finish your meals as quickly but you also give your stomach time to communicate with your brain on your fullness level.
Your stomach has a bunch of receptors that are constantly monitoring the type of food you’re eating and the volume in your stomach. It takes your stomach about 15 to 20 minutes in order to relay the information about the contents of your stomach to your brain to indicate fullness.
Slowing down your eating gives you a chance to stop eating when you’re full as opposed to when you’re stuffed. This is how you can lose weight without having to count every calorie. Having this awareness will automatically cut down on the total calories you eat leading to weight loss.
Starting a diet is a great step towards creating awareness around food and eating. It will help steer you back to eating healthy and listening to your body while helping you make healthier changes in your lifestyle that lead to sustainable long term changes.
Not all diets are good for you but dieting in general can teach you a lot about yourself.