Technically, we’re all on a diet. Some consist of salads and salmon, while others revolve around cheeseburgers and pizza. When most of us hear the word, though, our minds automatically turn to thoughts of drinks the color of pond scum and nutrition bars with all the flavor of an empty take-out container. Everyone from alternative medicine practitioners to TV celebrities has touted meal plans promising to burn fat, lose weight and increase energy.
Do any of these diet plans actually work? Yes and no. Any eating plan that restricts caloric intake has the opportunity to result in weight loss in the short-term. But severely limiting what we eat often results in more weight gain in the long-run. To break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, adopt a goal of eating healthy for a lifetime.
1. Determine Your Goals
Before sitting down to write up a shopping list, analyze what you want your diet to achieve. Many people cite weight loss as a goal, while others hope to remedy various health ailments with healing foods. Some plan their meals around sustainability or opposition to animal cruelty.
Knowing what you hope to accomplish helps in selecting foods to aid in reaching your goal. The best plans allow for flexibility — everyone has days when they’re sick or they feel too tired to cook. Planning for the long-term enables you to enjoy the occasional indulgence without guilt.
Over 90 percent of all dieters who lose weight on highly restrictive diets regain it within 3 to 5 years. So planning meals around long-term health goals can prevent the negative side effects that come with yo-yo dieting.
Often, one slip-up — giving in to a craving for french fries, for example — leads dieters to toss their goals out altogether. Treating eating well as a lifelong endeavor prevents the urge to turn one “bad” meal into an excuse to abandon all your efforts.
2. Keep It Real
Unless you possess far more self-discipline than the average person, the thought of living the remainder of your days without touching a slice of pizza or doughnut may seem depressing! Humans are biologically designed to crave calories for a reason. Even though our modern lifestyle no longer demands fattening up to survive a harsh winter, our genes haven’t evolved quite as quickly.
When creating a meal plan, set realistic goals. Some commercial diets still boast impossible claims like losing over 10 pounds in one week. But such rapid weight loss — even if possible — proves dangerous.
Most nutritionists recommend shedding around 2 pounds per week if you hope to keep the weight off. While extremely low-calorie meal plans exist, eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day slows metabolism. In turn, it makes future attempts to shed excess weight more difficult.
3. Consume All Food Groups
The USDA food groups have changed slightly over the years, with the current chart consisting of protein, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Consuming foods from all five groups daily helps prevent malnutrition and keeps your metabolism running strong.
If you have dietary restrictions due to health issues, you may need to work harder to ensure you adequately nourish your body. Those with sensitivities to gluten sometimes benefit from ancient grains like quinoa to get adequate carbohydrate intake for keeping energy high. Vegetarians can eat nuts, seeds, and legumes to get ample amounts of protein.
Nowadays, low-carbohydrate diets have become the rage, but make sure to exercise caution with such restrictive plans. Not only can self-deprivation lead to binges, but such plans can also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and decrease overall energy levels. The body actually needs healthy carbs!
Supplements can assist those with diets lacking in certain nutrients. Whenever possible, though, try to get the majority of nutrition through eating a balanced diet.
While most diet plans result in weight loss, some do so at the risk of developing health issues. Restricting certain foods too much can just lead to binging, and also slows down metabolism. Eating a healthy diet containing ample amounts of fresh veggies, lean protein, and whole grains has the best chance of keeping you looking and feeling your best for life!
Image credit by Muhammad Ruqiiyaddin