There seems to be a general consensus that the best thing about 2016 was… that it finally came to an end. Reasons for this are varied and plenty, ranging from a number of heart wrenching celebrity deaths (rest in peace, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher) to the tiresome election cycle we endured. But as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I’d like to take a moment to say farewell to the less savory diet trends from yesteryear…
For whatever reason, restrictive dieting was en vogue in 2016. For many of us who attempted to lose weight last year, this meant that juice, cleanse, and detox diets were EVERYWHERE! These diets tried to convince us that cutting major food groups voluntarily would be the answer to our prayers, and that adopting practices like juicing, intermittent fasting, and extreme “clean eating” would rid our bodies of harmful toxins. All the while having little to no scientific proof.
Now, I want to be clear about something. I am not saying that food restrictions are never necessary or beneficial. For those of us with true food sensitivities, intolerances, or addictions, they can be a real solution.
But let’s just admit it. Many of us made some pretty major sacrifices in the food department without actually needing to last year. Prompted by trends, promotions, and endorsements… we experimented with gluten-free, sugar-free, Paleolithic, ketogenic, low carb, and juice-only diets. And what did we get in return? Was the payoff really all that great?
I know some of you are probably thinking: after I juiced for three days, I felt incredible! Or, I watched my friend drop 10 pounds in the first two weeks of her clean eating plan. And you wouldn’t be wrong. When we drastically cut calories, carbohydrates, etc. we see short-term results pretty quickly. But what about in the long run? Did those results last? Were you (or your friend) able to keep up with the rules and restrictions of the diet? And furthermore, were you able to enjoy the ride?
Here’s why your dietitian wants you to ditch restrictive diets for the New Year:
- Restrictive diets breed temptation and the desire to “cheat.” When we fall off course, we tend to overeat and/or beat ourselves up for it. If you’ve been through this yourself, you know just how emotionally and physically taxing this can be.
- Diets usually do not lead to success. This may sound crazy, but it’s true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who lose weight rapidly (i.e. from fad diets) tend to be less successful at keeping that weight off than those who lose weight in a reasonable, gradual way. Some research even suggests the risk of gaining weight is greater for those of us who diet than it is for those who never do.
- Diets make it difficult to achieve optimal nutrition. Although diets can inspire increased fruit and veggie intake, often they eliminate or restrict other foods and food groups, making it challenging to meet your macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral needs. If you need to follow a restrictive diet, work with a dietitian who can help to prevent and correct any nutritional deficiencies. Otherwise, look to more flexible plans as a means to achieving your weight goals. Believe me, there are better ways!
So if dieting doesn’t work, what does?
If it were up to me to set the trends for 2017, I’d call for simple and realistic eating patterns to take center stage. Because in order to be truly successful, we need plans that will work for and with us. Plans that reflect our individual needs and desires, allow for breathing room, and don’t test our spirits or wear us out! Those are the types of “diets” we’re able to stick with in the long run. Therefore, those are the plans that work best!
4 Ways to be wise in 2017:
- Demand better. Trust me, there’s a way to achieve your weight goals without deprivation or unnecessary struggle. Next time you hear about a diet filled with rules and restrictions, remind yourself that sacrifice won’t likely bring lasting results, and resist the urge to buy in.
- Be mindful, stay present. We hear these mantras often and we know they work in other facets of our lives. Why not apply them to food? Practicing mindfulness can bring increased awareness, allowing us to better recognize our feelings of hunger and fullness. Taking cues from your body on when to eat and when to stop can be effective…especially when you’re well-rested and well-hydrated.
- Find what works. Although strict dieting may not yield any meaningful results, a little structure and guidance can be helpful. Look for a “diet” that’s really a lifestyle… and not just some quick fix. Sometimes I recommend the Mediterranean Diet, because it encourages eating fresh food, fruits, and vegetables while making room for things like olive oil, wine, and dessert. No food groups are left behind. Another option would be to work with a dietitian in creating a plan that’s tailored to your needs and preferences.
- Let go of guilt, shame, and other feelings that do not serve you. You should be able to enjoy a piece of cake or pizza once in a while and just move on with your life. No one food is going to make or break it for you. Don’t let yourself forget that.
Now with 2017 upon us, you have been given a clean slate from the diets that left you feeling tired, starved, anxious, or wanting in any way last year. This is your chance to restart.
What will you do with it?
Klein A.V. & Kiat H. (2015) Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 28, 675–686 doi: 10.1111/jhn.12286
Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 28, 2016, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314527.php