Many readers will undoubtedly have resolved to shape up and lose weight in the coming year. Perhaps they will wisely look at nutrition as part of the solution given that it’s so frequently part of the problem. But, be forewarned: 95 percent of people fail diets, eventually regaining whatever weight they lost (and frequently more). Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that diets fail people.
There are several reasons why diets fail people. For one, many diets are far too restrictive and rigid. If you enjoy savory foods but are suddenly relegated to eating gravel, bark, and weeds, it’s unlikely that you can stay with such a program for long before feelings of hunger and deprivation derail you.
Some diets demonize certain foods, categorizing them as “good” or “bad.” Actually, whether a food is appropriate depends upon the context of that person’s day. When eating from an inflexible food list, what happens when you desire a taste from the naughty list? Suddenly you’re off the plan, leading to a downward spiral for many. In addition, not every person (nor every day) is identical. Flexibility is the key to preventing frustration, and flexibility is achieved through educating yourself about what’s in your favorite foods so you can eat them in the appropriate amounts and combinations for your body.
The weight-loss industry and consumers need to reevaluate what defines a successful diet. It simply cannot be defined as weight loss without consideration of the permanence of the weight loss. The best diet you were ever on was not the best diet for you if you’re no longer on it. As has been said, a successful weight-loss program must be attainable and sustainable.
Moreover, be discriminating about what kind of weight you’re losing. Moderate, steady losses of 1-3 pounds per week will purge fat stores whereas starvation plans that promise losing 30 pounds in a month on 500 calories a day will cost you at least one pound of muscle for every two pounds of fat. Losing muscle, an energy-expending tissue, will slow your metabolism, thereby stopping weight loss and causing you to regain weight rapidly when you resume eating normally.
Consumers desiring to lose weight, look better, and feel better should avidly learn about their bodies, their favorite foods, and how to successfully integrate the two under the guidance of a professional. In addition to teaching you how to eat, a nutrition consultant can serve as an accountability partner while helping you navigate weight loss as your needs change.
Dr. Greg Bradley-Popovich is a nutrition professor and fitness author with 25 years of experience in improving the health of others.