Why Diets Don't Work

Why Diets Don't Work...and what does work for maintaining a healthy weight. Find this and more at www.fernsandpeonies.com

Notice how everyone you know has suddenly become a "coach" for some weight loss or nutrition supplement program recently? These programs are centered around shakes and bars and appetite suppressants—oh and most of them also sell vitamins and supplements to help you locate the fountain of youth. Community and networking are essential and you go to meetings, rallies and conventions to learn from others who have had success at building their own business. Trust me, I know all about these types of organizations. I was raised by parents that tried to "build" businesses with Melaleuca and Amway. You might be surprised to hear me say that I actually don't think there's nothing wrong with direct sales nutrition programs. Often, these plans are a good way to jump start your weight loss and can help you reach your goal when you have hit a plateau. But you can't "eat" like that the rest of your life. And, from my experience, they spend more time trying to get you to grow your (their) business than they do educating you on what you are putting into your body and how you need to transition to a real food regimen to maintain your weight loss. Because let's be honest, they don't make money if someone reaches their weight loss goal and learns the right real food to eat to maintain it—thereby not needing the weight loss product any longer. Be mindful that as soon as you stop the program, you will gain your weight back.

How about those high protein centers where you pay gobs of money and are taught which foods have the most protein. I certainly agree with some of their principles (like cutting out sugar, alcohol, processed carbs, etc), but our society actually eats too much protein and doing so for any length of time is dangerous. The true ideal amount of protein is a whole hell of a lot less than almost all of us consume. Studies have shown that too much protein can lead to kidney disease, diabetes, and has been shown to fuel cancer cell growth.  This is also the scary element of the Adkins and Paleo diets. And a soon as you stop your high protein diet plan, your kidneys will feel better, but you will gain your weight back.

And then there is the starve yourself to death diet. I have a friend who I recently saw for the first time in over half a year. She looks amazing, having lost about 20 pounds since we last met. When I asked her what plan she was on (because yes, I assume most people use one of the plans mentioned above to lose their weight), she told me she wasn't on a plan but that she was "barely eating anything and running her ass off". I get that. I've tried that plan before—numerous times. She said she was eating about 1000 calories a day and running 3-5 miles a day. And based on how much weight she has lost, it really is working. So what's the problem? An active woman should be eating approximately 2000 calories a day and anything less than 1800 can result in negative energy loss and malnutrition. Keep in mind that 2000 calories a day is for an active woman who just wants to maintain her weight. If you are trying to lose weight, a popular rule of thumb is to decrease this by 500 calories a day to loose a pound a week—which is a healthy and realistic weight loss goal. When you go below that you are losing muscle as well as fat and you are starving your body of the nutrients it needs to fuel you on not only those daily runs, but also living your normal life. And by starving herself, once she reaches that goal weight and starts eating normal again, statistics say she will only gain that weight back again.

So what's the secret to losing weight and keeping it off? It's really quiet simple—by creating a healthy lifestyle.

First, move your body. Our bodies were meant to be in motion. Get your ass off the couch, turn the computer off and go outside (she says to herself). I know we were not all meant to be ultramarathoners—hell, most of the time I don't think I am cut out for it. However, even if you start by walking around the block each morning or evening, it will get your body used to moving again. Ease into it, but create a schedule and stick to it. Push yourself a little further each time you feel complacent. Set goals and do what it takes to reach them. Your body wants to be exhausted and well used.

Second, start incorporating more fresh food into your diet. Try to shop only the perimeter of your grocery store or primarily from your local farmers market.  Doing this cuts out processed foods from your diet, which is probably the number one reason for our national obesity and diabetes epidemics. Of course I am going to encourage you to adopt a plant-based diet, but even if you can't go all the way then just make sure somewhere close to 60% of your plate is fresh vegetables and the rest is locally sourced meat or eggs and whole grains. I will absolutely recommend you cut dairy out of your life—remember, the nutritional make up of dairy is meant to double the size of a calf in its first few months of life. It will do the same for you. Trust me, I know cheese is delicious. I don't not eat cheese because it taste like crap. Also be cognizant that all those low fat versions of milk and cheese are simply processed foods. Become an ingredient reader.

And lastly, you need to lose the weight smartly. One to two pounds a week is what you should be shooting for. Don't starve yourself, but also don't over-estimate how many calories you are burning with exercise—most people who train for their first marathon actually end up putting on 10 pounds and I don't mean in muscle mass. By setting realistic weekly weight loss goals, you will be better able to find a balance of eating healthy foods, but still allowing yourself treats and cheat meals.

The reason diets and lose-weight-quick plans don't work is that they are rarely sustainable. So what does work? Making a lifestyle change. This isn't hard stuff. You already know what you should be doing—exercising daily, eating plant-based, lean protein, minimal processed foods and only occasional alcohol and sugar consumption. Treats should be treats and not everyday food. When you change your mindset, it will all fall into place. And only then can you reach your own healthy weight.

Check out some of my other blogs for cleanse jump start programs and sugar detoxes, as well as a host of recipe blogs on gluten-free and vegan recipes.