It seems you can’t open a magazine these days without being reminded that there is a [GREAT!] [NEW!] [AMAZING!] [EFFECTIVE!] diet available to help you get [THAT PERFECT BODY YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED!].
Heck, you don’t even have to open the magazine; they shout at you right from the cover!
Today it wasn’t even a magazine, but my daily newspaper, The Toronto Star. Fortunately, this article, written by Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health, Law and Policy at the University of Alberta and author of The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness, was focused on refuting the claims, and reminding the reader that fad diets do not work.
So, I figured it was time for a post-script to my previous
rant blog post on crash diets.
Let’s recap shall we? Here’s a list of just some of the crazy diets that people spend time and money on:
- Cabbage Soup diet
- Apple Cider Vinegar diet
- Gluten-free (Is everyone gluten-intolerant or Celiac all of a sudden??)
- Paleo diet
- Baby Food diet
- Blood-Type diet
- Alkaline diet
- Juice cleanses (3,5, 7 days or more)
- and the list goes on…
I plead the 5th in terms of confessing to which of these I’ve tried. Suffice to say, I know of which I speak [type].
The science is clear: short-term diets do not work. The vast majority of dieters put on every pound they lost on the diet, plus more, once they go back to regular eating habits.
So what does work then?
Simple: a lifestyle change.
Nothing you do for a short time will have long-standing results. Nothing.
Let’s look at a common scenario we’ve all heard of (and probably lived ourselves):
You have a big event coming up in 2 weeks, or a month, and you want to lose 8 lbs to look great in that new dress (or bikini). What’s the quickest way to make that happen? Well, how about limiting our food intake, juicing, skipping meals or all of the above, as long as we keep our daily calorie intake to less than 1,000.
Chances are, you will lose the weight, but let’s break that weight loss down. You will have lost water weight [and I’m sure we can all agree that water weight will come right back]; and you may have also lost some “real” pounds. But, what makes up those real pounds?
Science tells us that you’ve succeeded in losing much-needed lean muscle mass, not the fat you were hoping to shed. Muscle is what helps our body burn fat. So by losing muscle, you are losing vital bits of your fat-burning machine. Science also tells us that your body will store fat whenever it feels it is in crisis mode or threatened by starvation. This is not up for debate, last time I checked.
So, today’s the big event, and look at you, looking great in that dress, 8 lbs lighter. Bravo!
Do you care though that several days after the event, you’ll be back to your pre-starvation weight, and possibly have added 1-2 lbs more? Does that matter?
What about the longer term effects on your metabolism from all this yo-yo dieting and weight loss/gain? Does that matter?
Look, I hate the idea that this post may come off preachy, because God knows I’ve tried almost every fad diet under the sun, but I’m at the point where I have to face the reality of the situation. Accept the science.
The only thing that will help you sustain your goals for body weight/size, is adopting a lifestyle you can embrace and live happily within.
As Timothy Caulfied wrote in his article today:
“Here are my rules for assessing any new approach to weight loss:
1) Assume that all diet fads and trends are wrong and, over the long haul, will not work. This may sound cynical, but history and the best available evidence tells us that this point of view will be correct almost all the time.
2) Remember that testimonials, even a lot of testimonials, should always be viewed with suspicion. In fact, ignore them. Gwyneth looks great. Ditto gluten-free Zooey Deschanel. But that ain’t scientific data.
3) There has never been a miracle-diet-breakthrough that will make sustained weight loss easy. (And I bet there won’t be one in my lifetime).”
Here are the “rules” I’m trying to live by these days:
- Practice portion control. North American serving sizes have exploded over the past 2 decades. And most of us will eat what is served to us. Don’t hesitate to share meals at a restaurant (you’ll still get more than enough!)
- Drink tons of water. This one is self-explanatory, I think. If you have any questions, fire away.
- Make the healthier choice when you can. Brown rice over white. Salad over fries. You get the drill. Doesn’t mean you can’t cheat. It’s only human.
- Cut out as many processed foods as possible. My take on ‘eating clean’. Again, doesn’t mean I never have a Snickers bar or a bag of Miss Vickie’s chips. I do. Just not every day.
- GET MOVING!!! If I’ve tried to make one point with this entire blog, it is that I wholeheartedly believe that you can eat what you want (within reason) as long as you move your body and burn those calories. If you want to lose weight quickly, then move more and eat less/better — but the point is, calorie consumption is only one part of the equation. You have to also consider calorie burn.
I believe everyone needs to make their own choices when it comes health and wellness, but I also have a fervent wish that everyone make those choices armed with knowledge and facts.
Any diet that has an ‘end-date’ is doomed to fail. How can it not?
Instead of looking at short-term fixes, how about trying to adopt a lifestyle that fits, makes sense, and feels good for you?
You might just get that “perfect beach body” in the process.