As a health coach, I often get asked “what diet would you recommend?”
It’s an understandable question. There are so many diets out there: gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, vegan, raw, keto, etc. – there’s got to be one that’s the silver bullet for weight loss, right?
Unless you have a specific health issue (e.g. Celiac disease), I don’t recommend dieting.
Why is that?
Because dieting often involves significant restriction of certain foods or calories, making it shocking to your body and also very difficult and unrealistic to sustain long term.
95% of people that lose weight through dieting end up regaining that weight (and sometimes more) eventually. That’s because dieting is super stressful and doesn’t address any underlying emotional issues with weight management. It also doesn’t address the cycle of deprivation, indulgence, guilt and falling “off the wagon” that’s common when we’re trying to change habits about food.
So, if you want to lose weight, what should you do?
Here are my guidelines for how to lose weight in a healthy way and keep it off.
Eat naturally. Try to avoid processed food, fast food and foods with added sugar. Read labels and don’t eat the food if: 1) there are ingredients on there that you can’t pronounce and 2) there is more than 4-6g added sugar per serving.
Cook at home. Restaurants add a ton of extra fat and salt to their meals to keep you wanting more. They also serve excessively large portions. Cooking at home allows you to control the portions and ingredients in your meals.
Eat more plants. If you do eat meat, stick to fish/seafood or chicken. And in general, make meat more of the “garnish” portion of your meals and fill your plate with fresh produce, whole grains and plant-protein (beans, lentils, etc.)
Change your diet slowly. If you’re the type of person that eats no veggies and all fast food, cutting out all fast food on Day 1 is probably not the best idea. It’s about progress, not perfection. Make small incremental changes that don’t feel overwhelming – you’ll be more likely to stick with them in the long run.
Exercise daily. This helps boost metabolism, helps you to feel more energized and happy, and helps balance out any minor indulgences that happen occasionally. For example, if you ate a cookie at lunch – just workout a little more and you’ll be right back on track!
Don’t judge yourself! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see clients making. If you end up going a little overboard at a meal, don’t berate yourself for it. What’s the point in eating dessert if you don’t even enjoy it and feel horrible after? If you’re going to do it, might as well enjoy it, and just get back on track in the next meal.
Think long term. Weight loss is a long-term process. You didn’t gain all the weight in a month so how could you possibly lose it all in a month? Be realistic with your expectations on when the weight will come off, and also think long term about the changes you’re making (this isn’t a diet that you’ll start and stop, this is a permanent lifestyle change).
Be consistent. It’s the daily practice of eating clean, avoiding fast food, and reducing sugary treats over the course of months and years that will make the biggest impact on your weight and health. There isn’t one quick fix or magic bullet, it’s hard work that makes lasting results happen over time.
Drink water. Other than coffee (with milk/cream but no sugar) or tea (with milk/cream but no sugar), water should be your drink of choice every day. Avoid soda and juice – they are the biggest hidden source of added sugar and calories!
Indulge occasionally! I do not believe in deprivation. We’re all human, and we like treats from time to time. The key is to make those treats an occasional occurrence and not a daily practice. When you do indulge, enjoy it! One meal doesn’t make you healthy, and similarly one meal doesn’t make you fat. Treats (in moderation, once in a while) are ok.
Anjali Shah is a food writer at http://pickyeaterblog.com, a best-selling author, a board certified health coach, mom of two, and an advocate for healthy, clean eating for individuals and families. Get her Free 7-day plan for clean eating here. For more information visit www.pickyeaterblog.com.