Now is the time we get BOMBARDED with “New Year, New You” diet talk. What if I told you that going on a weight loss diet is one of the worst New Year’s Resolutions you could make?
Yep! Here’s why you should not have “dieting” or “losing weight” as your New Year’s resolution.
Although the 60 billion-a-year weight loss industry will try to tell you differently, research shows that restrictive diets simply don’t work in the long-term.
Take the Biggest Loser TV show, for example. A 2016 study of the candidates’ dramatic weight loss showed that 93% of contestants regained, on average, 66% of the weight they had lost (1). The participants’ metabolic rate (how many calories they burn at rest) was also decreased. Essentially, compared to a person of similar age and body type, the participants’ metabolism was about 500 calories LESS after their large weight loss.
It boils down to this: when we cut calories too much, our body fights back. In response, our body will slow down our metabolism and rev up our appetite hormones. #HowRude! Don’t blame it too much though, this probably stems from an evolutionary survival technique from the days when food was scarce.
Researchers are now establishing that the best “diet” for you may not be the best option for your neighbor. Whether vegetarian, paleo, or ketogenic, the individual responses to different diets vary enormously. One study compared participants’ response to one of four randomly assigned diets, in attempt to answer which diet yielded the best results (2).
The only problem: no diet stood out from the others. Inside the four different groups; however, were important outliers. Every group had a few “super-responders” who dropped large amounts of weight on that diet, while others, did not lose any.
Basically, any diet that promotes real foods (like fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds etc.), less processed foods, and fewer sweets is going to help you improve your health.
Strict diets, detoxes, and “21-day fixes” consider WHAT we’re eating, but they do not consider WHY we are eating. This why goes far beyond “because we’re hungry”. Our daily food choices are influenced by a variety of factors including stress levels, hormone imbalances, blood sugar levels, time constraints, emotional trauma, sleep schedules, budgets, family influence, and more.
Ever notice that you tend to crave certain foods MORE when you’re on a diet? Yep, if we deny ourselves food for too long via a restrictive diet, it can often backfire.
A sole focus on weight loss may hurt your success rates. Pushing towards positive health behaviors, rather than the number on the scale, can help us produce more long-term results.
Well, the goal to lose 50 pounds, for example, seems out of reach, unattainable, and hard to visualize for most people. When we aren’t seeing consistent results, it becomes much harder to stick with this hefty goal, and most of us will give up. However, a goal to take the stairs at work each day, or to add a cup of vegetables to your dinner seems MUCH more realistic.
Well first, let’s look at the success stories: The National Weight Control Registry. This is a record of over 10,000 people who successfully lost weight and kept it off. These people, on average, lost 66 pounds and kept it off for at least 5 years and counting. The one common trend among all?
Almost 94% of them also report increasing their physical activity, with the most common exercise being WALKING. Most report these simple, everyday behaviors as well:
The small, specific behaviors we do every day make a lasting change. But, it’s important to structure these small goals in a way that will lead to success. I use a particular acronym when helping clients establish these health behavior goals:
You may have heard of this acronym at work, or in school. Let’s talk about how this can be used for your health goals or New Year’s Resolution:
Include the details! The more detailed, the easier it is to plan your moves. Your goal should be very specific and should answer the who-what-where-when-why. A goal to “eat healthier” is way too general. HOW can you eat healthier?
Example: Maybe it means including more vegetables. Ok, so WHEN will you eat more vegetables? Let’s say you make a goal to eat more vegetables at dinnertime. WHAT kind of vegetables will you eat (psst, I would recommend the non-starchy, colorful kind ?).
How can you measure your success? A measurable goal can help you stay on track, and experience the thrill of continued, frequent success to motivate you further! This part of the goal will answer the “how much” or “how many” portion.
Example: saying that you want to eat “more” vegetables at dinner is not measurable. We want to quantify our goal. Let’s say you decide that you want to eat at least 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables at dinner time. This allows you to measure (quite literally) your success every day.
Here’s the kicker. The best type of goal considers your individual knowledge, ability, and discipline. Without discounting the “reach for the stars” motto, a successful goal setter thinks about whether their goal is attainable. Make each goal a challenge, but still achievable.
Example: If you absolutely despise any vegetable besides corn or potatoes, setting a goal to have 3 cups of vegetables every day is probably not achievable (or sustainable) right now. Perhaps incorporating a green vegetable at least four times per week would be more appropriate as a place to start.
Does your goal line up with your other priorities in life? For example, after the documentary titled “What the Health” aired, many people set a goal to eat a completely vegan diet.
Is this theoretically achievable? Yes. But, for the other 99% (less than 1% of Americans are long-term vegans) this was a HUGE and drastic change. Most Americans only eat 1 serving of vegetables PER DAY.
The notion of increasing plants in your diet is great! But most people did not stick to this drastic goal, because it was not in line with what was realistic in their life.
Example: A more realistic goal for most people, is to slowly increase their vegetable intake using smaller goals.
When it comes to S.M.A.R.T goals, defining a time frame with completion dates helps to focus our efforts. At the end of that timeframe, we look back at our goal and choose our next steps. Do we push this goal out another 3 months to truly get a handle on it? Can we ADD to this goal to step it to the next level? Long-term lifestyle change comes from consecutively building up smaller goals.
Example: Say you decide to eat 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables at dinner time at least four days per week, for three months. If you have been successful with this goal after three months, perhaps you would set a new goal, increasing the frequency or quantity of your vegetable intake.
If you’re like me, then there are some days where you just can…17 December, 2017