Authors: Registered Dietitians
(HealthCastle.com). It’s that time of year again! We finally made it to the end of June and as kids eagerly await the end of school, I eagerly await the 3 B’s season – barbeque, beer and backyard socializing! Finally, our schedule of running to swimming lessons, soccer, and music lessons will grind to a halt, allowing more time to reconnect with friends, and sharing great food.
Every year, around this time, magazines covers are plastered with toned models, and the promise that you too can look like that (in as little as 3 weeks!), if you *just* follow this [fad] diet. It sounds so easy: just eat this super food, or stop eating these foods, or buy these special products. But the fact is, is that most of these diets will only provide temporary, weight loss that is not sustained. As well, many of the images of women are not real, as a result of digital editing and air-brushing.
What is the craziest diet you have ever tried? When I was in my teens, I once tried a “cookie” diet – you just had to buy these meal replacement cookies, drink lots of water and have a sensible meal. Blek! Among the many other diets that people have tried over the years are the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet and more recently, the gluten free diet, which is gaining popularity. The problem with all of these weight loss programs is that they do not promote healthful and sustainable weight loss. If you followed these diets, you probably would be able to drop some weight [note: drop weight, not necessarily fat], but you are just as likely to gain them back in just as quickly. Who wants that?
What many of these fad diets have in common are:
1. Excluding certain foods and food groups which limits your access to a large variety of nutrient-dense foods (especially if it’s a whole food group that’s being eliminated). For example, a high protein diet such as Atkins limits fruit, some kinds of vegetable and fibre. This severely decreases daily nutrient intake and may not necessarily be compensated for with supplements. As well, this particular diet is high in protein and tends to be high in heart damaging saturated fats, the long-term effects of which are unknown.
2. Not teaching portion control – diets that say you can eat all you want of X food usually means that you are restricting something else. It is important to learn about healthful portions – this will allow you to enjoy a broader variety of foods, including the foods you love. Without paying attention to portions, and ultimately your hunger and satiety cues, you are more likely to revert to previous eating habits once you are off the program. Here is a portion size visual reference guide to help you.
3. Requiring specific products – sustainable diets should allow you to maintain your weight loss and health goals without having to rely on exclusive nutrition bars or fancy shakes. These products provide portioned servings, which are convenient, but what happens when you stop taking these bars? Have you learned to enjoy balanced, nutritious eating that also allows you to eat the foods you love?
4. Failing to mention the importance of physical activity as an integral part to your weight management. Maintaining your health is not just about what you eat! Regular physical activity benefits long term weight loss and weight maintenance.
Summer is a time for enjoyment!
Summer is a time for enjoyment. The fresh produce is spectacular - eliminating foods is the last thing I want to do. Forget about fad diets, ignore their empty promises. If you would like to stop yo-yo dieting, focus on making permanent changes to your eating and living habits.
Here are 6 tips to get you started for preparing for the season of the 3 B's without fad diets:
1. Include a variety of nourishing foods in your diet
- It’s the combination of foods that will maximize your health benefits, not single food items. Diets such as the gluten free diet eliminate entire food groups; in this case, grains. While there are many gluten-free grains, many people are not familiar with which they are, let alone how to prepare them. By eliminating gluten-containing grains, you will be losing all the B-vitamins and fiber, not to mention great taste!
- Learn to enjoy barley, wheat berries, faro and other gluten-containing ancient grains as part of your overall healthful approach to eating.
2. Choose a meal pattern that works for you
- Some sources recommend several smaller meals throughout the day, while others recommend sticking with 3 square meals per day and 1-3 small snacks, depending on your total calorie requirements.
- If smaller meals per day helps you manage and satisfy your hunger, then that’s the way to go for you. But, if you find that the smaller meals turn into mindless munching, then having 3 meals per day may be just as good. Pay attention and learn what works for you.
3. Indulge mindfully
- Allow yourself to indulge! Instead of feeling guilty about eating other foods, shift away from black and white, all-or-nothing thinking, and enjoy your treat-food by choosing a smaller portion of the food. One often quoted guidelines is 80-20 – have 80% of your choices be focused on nutrient-dense foods, while 20% of your choices can be your treat or, as my colleague Sarah Remmer calls it, bliss foods.
- When you indulge, do so mindfully! How does your bliss food taste? What does it feel like in your mouth?
4. Be realistic
- Don’t expect to reach your health goals in a short period of time. While quick and easy weight loss sounds very tempting, keep the bigger picture in mind. I have written about beginning with the end in mind for kids. The same is applicable to adults. What is your health-end that you are working toward? How do you want to feel? What benefits of a healthier lifestyle do you want to experience? More energy?
- Strict caloric intakes and food group elimination tend to lead to overindulgence later on. Remember that the faster you lose the weight, the faster you are likely to gain it back.
- Here are an additional top 10 tips for losing weight safely.
5. Get fit! Get moving!
- Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Summer in Calgary is awesome – take advantage of the Calgary pathways, go for a hike or bike. Enjoy a trip to the mountains. Sign up for a race. Do something that helps you work toward a positive, health-supporting goal.
- I recently met a mother of 3 boys at the local swimming pool. She had just completed her first 5 km and is now signed up for various races throughout the summer. She is racing against herself, and being a positive role model to her family in the mean time.
- Plan social events around activity. We have several families who like to cycle. We all get together, and get the moms to go out for their road ride, while the dads stay home to hang out with the kids, and then, we switch. We finish off our activity with a pot-luck meal together. How fun is that? The physical activity is just a convenient side-effect.
6. Redefine “diet”
- Currently, diet refers to a painful process of weight loss involving calorie counting and food restriction. Shift your thinking away from restriction, and move toward thinking of diets as the foods you eat and your eating habits instead.
- Incorporate your holistic view of diet and nutrition into a holistic view of health, that includes physical activity, healthy sleep habits, healthy relationships, work-life balance and stress-management.
Be encouraged that long term change takes time! It is a learning process of trial-and-error, and mindful noticing of what works for YOU.
Written by Calgary Dietitian Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Dietitian and Director, HealthCastle Calgary, and Rebecca Lai, 3rd year nutrition student at the University of Alberta.