I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’ve tried many diets before.
Yet, here you are, reading this article.
I believe all diets work. Any diet which restricts your calories to the point of a deficit is going to lead to weight loss.
But if it were this easy, everyone would be skinny.
There are some important questions dieters need to ask themselves.
- How do you feel while your on this diet?
- Is the food complicated to make?
grumpyhungry are you?
- Are the ingredient easy to find?
Brace yourself for a harsh reality: 70% of US adults are overweight or obese.
I would be willing to guess most of the 70% of overweight adults have been on a diet. But they are still overweight. So why aren’t we all lean and fit like the supposed wonder-diets have promised?
The bevy of food choices we are presented with is ever-increasing. Plus, there is someone out there who will tell you the food you are eating (no matter what the food is) is making you fat. It’s a confusing world.
When we are faced with too many choices, we often make poor choices (or no choice at all).
A 2008 study in Appetite looked at how the complexity of a diet affected adherence. They found “perceived rule complexity was the strongest factor associated with increased risk of quitting the cognitively demanding weight management program.”
Basically, more rules=less diet success.
Researchers have even made connection to folks with diabetes. If the management program is too complicated, diabetics are not likely to follow through. Up to 40% increase their risk for disease progression by forgetting or misunderstanding healthcare advice. High levels of complexity are the culprit.
Keep it simple
I was chatting with a friend and client the other night about her diet.
She was telling me about how she had been unable to portion out her meals into the appropriate containers while she was on vacation. So she caved and ate everything in site for a week. She gained 7 pounds and was feeling some massive guilt from her vacation binge.
The problem was that her diet was too complicated to follow on vacation. Since she felt she couldn’t follow it completely, she resolved to not follow it at all.
When a diet is too complex, people are destined to have a fall-off-the-wagon moment.
If you make it too complex, you wont stick to the diet long-term. Often, this results in going off the diet and often rebounding with overeating and gaining back all the weight you lost. It could be the diets complexity or it’s a total gimmick. Sometimes it’s both.
The paleo diet has been ultra popular as of late. I have some qualms with paleo, but I appreciate its simplicity and effectiveness for people who jump in and follow it.
In fact, there are a host of other diets which are very simple and work if followed closely. Some are healthy others are downright dangerous.
Here are 5 warning signs you should avoid when looking for a diet to follow:
1. Too rigid
If you have too many rules surrounding what you can and can’t eat, it overcomplicates life.
Many diets require rigid counting and a complex system. This makes our experience around food, which should be enjoyable, complicated and not fun.
A rigid diet doesn’t allow for normal life to take place. We humans are social. Food is one of the main ways we gather together with others and have community. That doesn’t mean we should eat ice cream every time it’s offered at a get together. But, I think it’s unrealistic to plan on never eating the same foods as the people you spend time with.
2. You’re deprived
We want results and we want them fast.
The fitness industry understand our impatience and they play off it. Diet programs promising results in weeks are too common.
In order to see major weight loss quickly, you have to deprive yourself of calories. When you put yourself in a large calorie deficit, the weight will fall off.
The problem is that the weight comes back on once you go off the diet. Sometimes the metabolism of a dieter can even run at a lower rate once they’ve stopped their diet. This means you have to eat less just to maintain your previous weight.
3. Disruption to life
Any diet or major habit change you make is going to be uncomfortable. However, a diet becomes unrealistic when it disrupts life long-term.
If you can’t eat the same meals are your spouse or kids, the diet will fail. I’ve seen too many people try to make different food for themselves than the rest of the family. It may work for a few weeks, but in the end, it leads to burnout and returning to old habits.
Your family either needs to be onboard with your dietary changes or it simply won’t work long-term.
4. Guilt and despair
We’ve done our 30 Day Village Fitness Challenge twice. Both times, Matt and I have tried to instill a no-guilt mentality. If you mess up and eat something not on the meal plan, think about what you can do better next time and move on. I encourage people not to dwell on past mistakes and failure as it doesn’t help create future change.
If you’re on a diet that makes you feel guilty constantly, don’t bother. It’s more hassle than it’s worth.
I have a friend who alway seems to be on a new diet.
Guess what? That friend is still overweight.
Her diets have caused weight loss. Sometimes as much as 30 pounds. Once she hits her goal, she heads straight to In and Out to celebrate. It’s usually a downward spiral from there.
When we severely restrict ourselves during a diet, it can create rebound overeating. Tell yourself you can’t have something and all you will think about is that something. Then once you allow yourself to have some, it’s game on.
No ice cream during your diet? Fine. The second the diet is over, you’ll be eating the whole thing of Talenti.
Lose the rigid and complex mentality for diet success
These diets just don’t work long-term. If they did, you wouldn’t still be reading our article.
These diets make people miserable, they make the people around them miserable, and they don’t work long-term.
The best diet is one that builds long-term habits as opposed to short-term restriction. It’s a diet that doesn’t demonize certain food groups. Unless a food group causes you to feel crappy, you’ll do more harm than good by trying to avoid it.
I’ve seen people have success with diets. We’ve had amazing success with our 30 Day Village Fitness Challenge.
Our client Paul was one such success story.
Paul lost 10 pounds during the 30 Day Challenge. But any diet could have helped him to lose 10 pounds.
What was much cooler was the fact that he developed the habit of working out consistently. He made changes to the way he ate to include more healthy food to his diet on a daily basis.
Now, Paul exercises consistently and thinks more often about the food he puts in his body.
Is he perfect? By no means. Recently, he sent Matt and I a picture of giant burrito he consumed.
But, he is progressing towards a healthier lifestyle.
I encourage you to do the same.
Throw out the mentality of short term fixes and cultivate a lifestyle of healthy change.
- Jutta Mata et al., “Keep it on: How complex diet rules prevent weight loss,” Appetite, 50, no. 2-3 (2008): 562;