Why Fad Diets Work!

A lesson in food modification.

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Finally, someone agreeing that diets work other than their creators. Now it’s true, I said they work but not for how long or why. Sometime in your life you’ve probably tried a diet, a fast or a miracle pill. It promised you an extraordinary change and it probably delivered on that promise for some period of time.

  1. You were required to focus on your food. Most people take food as it comes. They throw whatever is around into the tank as fuel. Some of those items set us up for failure on a physiological level. For example, the more sugar you eat the more sugar you’ll want. Anyone who plans and prepares food will find some level success because you are now being proactive in your food choices and awareness, and making better choices.
  2. You ate significantly fewer calories. For many people that alone was a benefit because it stopped them from over indulging. However, it likely caused more loss of water and lean body mass than fat mass.
  3. You ate more often and did not eat as much as night. If you eat more often and balanced by day you are helping your body control its night cravings, and helping to stimulate your metabolic rate. You are less likely to overeat at dinner and won’t be searching for food at night from hunger or feeling dissatisfied.
  4. It probably restricted carbohydrates. Most people eat way too many carbohydrates and nearly every diet calls for a carbohydrate reduction, especially among starches and sugars. So while you may think Atkins changed your life, what it most likely did was stop you from eating starch/grain like you used to – which is, after all, what we use to fatten our livestock.

Regardless of what diet you’ve followed, its restrictive nature became unmanageable and you went back to what you previously did. This of course is the foundation for advocating balanced eating and regular exercise. It is about lifestyle. Not completing a plan, or reaching a numerical goal and reverting to your old ways.

It takes time to gain weight, but even more time and work to lose it. Just like when we reach other unhappy places in our lives our desperation for a solution drives us to the quick and easy, not necessarily a good or sustainable solution. We look for a miracle. We let rock bottom propel us upward.

I have spent so much of my career talking about mindset. Eat like the fit and healthy person you want to be and you will become that person over time. The most healthy and well-balanced people are not overly restrictive. They eat primarily from the outside loop of the grocery store, they eat often, and they eat in balance with most carbohydrates coming from vegetables and some complex carbohydrates like beans and squashes over grain. These people even have ice cream occasionally and a slice of pizza. Less healthy food is not viewed as a reward but an occasional addition when the situation arises, and it is a small portion. And the reason they don’t feel like they are missing out is because their bodies have told them they prefer clean eating and they are getting the nutrients they need. They realize that although they may love some foods, those same foods are not loving them back.

Over the nearly 20 years I have worked with clients, everyone has agreed that the more healthy they eat the more their body wants to, and have expressed how much easier it is to control the craving beast when they eat more frequently in correct portions. If you are someone who fears calories and eating and is super restrictive you are setting yourself up to fail. Give balanced, frequent eating a try (in the correct portions of course) for at least six weeks so your body can adapt. You’ll be amazed at the positive changes you’ll see in your energy level, sleep and physical well-being.

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