Don’t Let Fad Diets Deter Long-Term Weight Loss Goals in the New Year

Nutrition Steward Health Care

By Julianne Pondelli, Steward Health Care Dietetic Intern

As the holidays come to an end and a new year is on the horizon, many people will begin the new year with a resolution to start fresh. After indulging in holiday festivities, most resolutions include losing weight at the stroke of midnight on December 31. Unfortunately, many people opt for the quickest way to take the holiday weight off, which means a fad diet.

Diets like the Ketogenic diet, Whole 30, Paleo ­­, and intermittent fasting all promise dramatic weight loss in a quick period, and frequently, if followed, these diets will provide the guaranteed results. However, these are a short term solution to dropping a lot of weight quickly. The problem arises when the weight loss can’t be sustained because the diets are often very restrictive.

Some of these diets have some positive features but overall are too restrictive and difficult to maintain.  Whole 30 stresses avoiding most foods, including dairy, legumes, grains, refined sugar, baked goods, and junk food. Ketogenic-like diets emphasize high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate intake. The Paleo Diet is a high protein, high fat diet with carbohydrates only coming from fruit and vegetables. Intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict what you should eat, but when you should eat and can restrict food for a whole 24- hour period. Intermittent fasting can cause hunger cues to be ignored.

Over time, these severe restrictions of foods you “can’t” eat will inevitably lead to cravings, a return to bad eating habits, and will contribute to gaining back the weight lost, plus some. Any diet promising a quick fix may be detrimental to your long-term weight loss goals.

Overall, no one food group is responsible for weight gain. Consuming excess calories while not expending enough energy through exercise and physical activity is one of the culprits of lifestyle-related weight gain. It may be a more difficult and slower process to lose weight through lifestyle behavior changes and exercise, but this will be the most successful way to lose weight and keep it off for the long term.

Fad diets often provide limited nutritional value because they omit entire food groups, while a nutritionally balanced diet includes carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  The key is to choose the healthiest options such as whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats while limiting saturated and trans fats, as well as excessive sugar and salt. Following this model will allow you to eat everything in moderation, curbing those cravings that will cause binging on “restricted” foods of fad diets and the ultimate regain of any weight that was lost on the fad diet plan.

5 Tips to Start the New Year in a Healthy Way

  • Add a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables to your day
    • Fill half the plate with red, dark green and orange vegetables
  • Make half of your grains whole
    • Choose 100 percent whole grains (whole wheat, brown rice, oats)
  • Choose lean proteins
    • Seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, and nut butters
  • Choose healthy fats
    • Avocados, olive oil (limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats)
  • Avoid empty calories
    • Limit sugary beverages and snacks that provide limited nutrition

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