Written by: Hope Davis
If you’ve ever found yourself trying out a fad diet, you’re in good company, but have you ever really gotten what you want out of one? Did you lose the weight you were after? If you did, were you able to keep it off? More than likely, you found yourself back to square one after meal planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking the designated allotted food sources. Sometimes, you’ve even ended up worse than before you started.
Fad diets are traps that even the best of us have fallen for. They’re designed to be desirable and they’re great at it. Who wouldn’t want to lose 20 pounds in 10 days with minimal effort and exercise? The issue with this frame of thought is that it doesn’t lead to lasting results or overall well-being. Not only will fad diets fail you every time (not the other way around), but they can actually be dangerous for your health. Below are the 3 biggest reasons to forgo fad diets and what to replace them with instead.
- Water loss
Fad diets boast their ability to help you drop weight quickly, but what exactly are you losing? A lot of people step on the scale throughout their fad diet, and revel in the fact that every morning they’re waking up a little bit lighter than the night before. However, a scale is actually one of the worst ways to track real progress. All a scale does is measure how much you weigh. It does not however tell you your body’s composition. So while most people assume that the drop in weight is due to lost fat, it’s actually mostly water and muscle. This is bad for many reasons, but the main being that it can cause dehydration. When your body is dehydrated it can’t work at full capacity. This doesn’t just mean that the things you notice aren’t working, like your memory or attention span, it means that your organs are having to work overtime to continue to function. Instead of seeing the “water weight” drop as a good thing, think of water as your friend. It works to keep you hydrated, thereby keeping your organs functioning, and also aids in things like digestion, muscle repair, and reduced fatigue. Remember – hydrated organs are happy organs.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Water not only helps to keep you hydrated and your organs functioning properly, but it can also keep you from overeating. A lot of people commonly mistake thirst for hunger, when in reality their body is really craving the wet stuff. To make sure you are truly hungry, you should drink 1, 8-oz glass of water 30 minutes before every meal. Keep in mind there is something called too much of a good thing, as your kidneys can only process about 27-33 ounces of water per hour, so try and stay under those limits.
- Feeling abnormally tired and irritable
Fad diets are all about what you can’t eat or do which makes them very restricting and not a realistic long-term solution. Not only is this taxing on your body, but it’s taxing on your mind, so now you’re emotionally sabotaging your health goals in addition to your physical ones. Have you ever noticed that you get irritable by the first or second day of a fad diet? This is where listening to your body comes into play. If you notice that you’re more exhausted than usual, it might be your body trying to talk to you. It’s telling you that whatever you’re doing to it is not a good thing. Don’t ignore these warning signs for a number on a scale that will go right back up as soon as you release those restrictions.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Listen to what your body wants and is craving. Fad diets don’t work because they encourage you to deny yourself the things you truly want, and restrict healthy foods like plant-based carbs. Try asking yourself what you’re really craving and find out why. For example, if you crave chocolate, you may be in need of magnesium, chromium, essential fatty acids, or even B-vitamins. Your body is a highly intelligent creation and will find those sources in anything it can. It just so happens that chocolate is high in magnesium, but you can get that from pure cocoa powder without all the added sugars. Below is a link where you can discover what your cravings mean, and how to give your body what it truly needs. (https://gethealthyu.com/food-cravings-and-what-they-mean/)
- Nutrient deficiency
Since many fad diets are extremely restrictive, they tend to leave out certain essential amino acids and can lead to malnutrition. If you’re on a plan that has you eating nothing but meat and cheese, then all the nutrients that come from fruits and vegetables will be lacking in your diet. The key to optimal health is variety. You should be eating the rainbow every day, and changing things up once in a while. The two biggest things that fad diets tend to restrict are carbs and fat, but those are vital macro-nutrients that your body needs in order to thrive. If you completely cut them off or even heavily restrict them, you can become malnourished. Taking supplements won’t completely make up for them either, because they’re not as bioavailable as the real deal – meaning your body won’t absorb it properly and you’re just creating really expensive urine.
TRY THIS INSTEAD: Give your body REAL sustenance. We’re all guilty of it, and as a free country we have cause to celebrate, but it shouldn’t be an everyday thing. Save the treats for only truly special occasions and give your body whole foods on a daily basis instead. Instead of restricting yourself constantly from the bad stuff, add new healthy habits into your diet. When you go to fill your dinner plate, start with the veggies and fill at least half the plate with them. Then add a little bit of everything else. Eating healthy doesn’t need to be some crazy calculated plan, you just have to have your priorities in line.
We live in a society that judges you based on your appearance, so the desire to make drastic life changes is understandable. However, the goal should be to do it in a healthy and sustainable manner. Otherwise, the results won’t last and the detriments to your health could be huge. So, what can you do instead of fad dieting? The biggest thing to realize is that change takes time. You didn’t become unhealthy overnight, and you won’t become healthy eating salad for a day. It takes real change to make real change.
One way that you can set yourself up for success is by planning ahead of time. This will mean cutting up fruits and veggies to snack on and making sure you have a few dinners planned for the week ahead. This will stave off mindless junk food eating and encourage healthier habits. If you’re like me, you may not have a lot of time to make dinner every night, which is where prepared meal services come in. Prepared meals are a great way to save time while staying on track with your goals. They’re perfect for portion-control and do all the hard work for you, like listing out your macro-nutrients. Regardless of where you get your meals, you should continue to read all labels to make sure it’s the best meal for you. Lastly, make sure you’re eating when you’re hungry. Fad diets are all about restrictions, while healthy eating is about listening to your body. It may take some time, but you will find that if you give your body what it needs, it will give you what you want.