It's a New Year. A New You. If you're like most people, your plan is to get healthier this year. Eat better, exercise more, get fit and lose weight. The diet industry knows this and their plan is to make millions of dollars off of you and everyone else who wants to lose weight this year. They will take your money and you will happily give it to them because of all the promises they are giving you. Do not fall for their lies. Here are red flags you need to look for before you decide to start a diet:
1. Extreme restrictions - be wary of any diet that tells you to cut out a food group or certain foods. This is not sustainable and you will miss out on key nutrients and calories.
2. Before & after photos - this is a favorite in the diet industry. These photos are almost always misleading and are highly edited.
3. It sounds too good to be true - "lose 13 pounds in 2 weeks!" "Eat anything you want and watch the pounds melt off!" "Lose weight fast and keep it off!" These are all presented to get your attention because they know that dieters are looking for a quick, easy fix.
4. Testimonials - people who talk about how this particular diet has changed their life, how they lost the weight fast, how they never felt hungry, blah blah blah. These are paid actors who will say anything for a paycheck.
5. "Free" trial offer - if they're trying to sell you a product, chances are it's a scam. Especially if they're offering a money-back guarantee.
Bottom line. Diets DO NOT work. They erode self-esteem, cause food preoccupation, disrupt normal eating, decrease your metabolism, increase binges & cravings, and in the end will cause you to gain weight. You go on the diet, lose weight, go off the diet, gain the weight back. And typically we blame ourselves and not the diet. We look at all of those successful people (actors) making testimonials and look at ourselves as failures. But most of the diets out there are not based on scientific, research-based information, although they will claim that they are. Our natural biology will win every time and we will be unable to fight our true hunger. If diets really worked, then we would not be in the middle of an obesity epidemic.
So what is the answer? There's no simple answer, but there are many changes you can make, one step at a time. Make healthy food choices. Stop eating highly processed foods. Cook meals at home and don't eat out as much. Eat more veggies. Don't cut out food groups. Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. Cut down on sugar. Read the nutrition label and the ingredient list and make smart food choices. Don't fall for diet gimmicks or deceptive food advertising. Eat mindfully. Develop an active lifestyle by taking more steps. Set one small goal at a time and build on your successes. Make healthy changes that you will be able to sustain for a lifetime. Seek out a registered dietitian (not a "nutritionist") that will be able to help you with your goals. And don't focus on the numbers on the scale; instead, focus on how much better you feel. Respect your body and everything it does for you and give it what it needs: healthy, nutrient-rich food.