3 REASONS WHY DIETS ARE UNSUSTAINABLE
Now I know I am going to be a Dietitian but that does NOT mean I am pro-diet, I am actually quite the opposite! I do not believe that we need to follow strict diets in order to achieve optimal health. Now if you have a very short-term goal and are willing to fully commit to a diet you can most likely see some results. However, can you sustain this long term? Likely not. Let's start with the basics.
What is a diet?
A diet is simply put, what you eat and drink regularly. In today’s day and age a diet is a much more restrictive, usually short term, change that can involve anything from changing the times you eat, to reducing portion sizes, cutting out an entire nutrient or food group, or even tracking everything that you eat in an app. Have you fallen victim to any of these diets that make unrealistic claims like giving you a "6 pack in 60 days" or helping you "loose 20 pounds in 2 months" by making you drink their magic shakes? Don't fall for these marketing schemes and lets talk about why they are unsustainable.
Check out my article here that dives into popular diets like Keto, Paleo, Whole 30, and more.
Why do people start diets in the first place?
The most common answer is to fix something. No one would choose to be on a diet without reason. Whether someone wants to lose weight, build more muscle, get toned, or simply “be healthier” people have many reasons for manipulating their food. The key question is… do they work? Well keep on reading!
3 REASONS WHY DIETING IS UNSUSTAINABLE
1. Impossible to Maintain
Following a strict diet to achieve a new weight or muscle goal in a short period of time (6 months or less) will be incredibly difficult to maintain. Whether you need to constantly be tracking your calories or preparing your own food yourself there will be sometimes that you are unable to do this. Diets are short term solutions to long term issues. If you want to correct the problem at hand- let’s say you are overweight. If you want to lose weight right away and gain it back later then a strict diet might be for you. But if you want to maintain said weight loss you will need to take things slow and make more lifestyle changes. Gradually building habits will be 10x easier than adding 10 new habits in one day and expecting to maintain them. Diets are simply impossible to maintain.
2. No room for moderation
“Everything in moderation” right? Well actually, yes! It would be so easy for me to say there is no room in your diet for junk food ever since it has zero nutritional value. However, when you are so restrictive you miss out on the quality/ joys of life. Diets that call for you to count calories and track your macros or avoid food groups like carbohydrates can be incredibly difficult to sustain when your sister has a wedding, or your distant friend comes into town and wants to grab dinner. Having to follow a consistent diet for months on end can make you struggle both mentally and physically with maintaining said diet and your overall health. Now how do you know what moderation actually looks like? I like to use the ~80% (more balanced meals) x ~20% (less balanced meals) guidelines or weekends vs weekdays to provide some keys on what moderation truly is. This is by no mean a strict guideline but can help someone see what the majority of their diet truly consists of. After all your diet is truly just what “food and drink you consume the majority of the time.” Life has plenty of room for moderation, diets do not.
3. Constant sense of failure
Short term diets have a great way of making just about anyone feel like a failure. Thinking about chocolate? Bad! Thinking about going out to eat? Bad! Following a restrictive diet to achieve an unrealistic goal in an unrealistic time frame is a sure way to get discouraged. For example if you are trying to lose weight instead of being miserable, tracking your calories, eating 1000 calories a day, and working out daily try making sustainable habits like addressing your portion sizes and eating more nutrient rich foods while making physical activity a regular part of your week. Remember sustainable AND healthy weight loss is actually 1-2 pounds/week, anything more than that would not be sustainable. To avoid constantly feeling like a failure leave the rules behind and aim for some long term lifestyle changes.
So what does a sustainable diet look like?
Following a diet that you are able to maintain over the long term is the only way that you will be able to both enjoy your life and make lasting changes to your health. Different habit changes will work better for different individuals, test out a few and see what works best for you! Follow these basic tips to ensure proper nutrition and promote health instead of jumping on the next diet that comes along.
1. Adequate amounts of the 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat)
2. Eating a variety of foods to achieve your micronutrients
3. Moderate portions- enough to keep you full without being stuffed
4. Eating a balance of foods to promote health (~80%) and foods for enjoyment (~20%)
5. Adequate hydration
6. Something that you can maintain long term
When choosing a more sustainable way of eating your short term results may not appear as quickly but your long term health will thank you. Let's collectively move away from diet culture and move towards more lifestyle changes for lasting health benefits.