Low carb, high protein, no artificial sweeteners, don’t eat after 7 p.m., eat 6 small meals a day, no eating in between meals, no alcohol. Ah!
The regulations we place on what we eat have gotten intense. Patients I see daily are coming in with unrealistic, unhealthy, and sometimes dangerous eating plans to lose weight. Too many “rules” may set you up for failure, especially if it requires you to avoid entire food groups or totally disrupts your schedule. Here are two examples of why placing strict diet rules on yourself just don’t work long term:
- Your best friend tells you all white foods make you gain weight, so you decide to avoid them. However, foods like cauliflower, turnips, tofu and beans are all nutritional power houses that could easily be included in a meal plan for weight loss. You’d be missing out! (Cauliflower mash, anyone?)
- You read a story about someone who lost 50 lbs after they started eating every 2 hours, so you decide to give it a try. But, you work in the front office where food isn’t allowed. And, since you can’t be in the break room and the front desk at the same time, this probably won’t work for you.
Let’s make things simple. There’s only one thing you actually need to do to keep off the weight. (Hint: it’s not dieting.)
Forget everything you heard about dieting. No, really. Diets (along with all their rules) are hard to keep track of and maintain for the long term. This means most diets end up with people losing weight only to put that weight back on–and then some–when they’re done with the diet. So here’s the one thing you need to do: look at “diet” as a noun (aka part of your life), not a verb (aka something you’re doing for a short period of time). This means changing your lifestyle. No rules, no regulations. Start today by incorporating these five tips into your life:
- Keep a food log: Always start by tracking your intake. You can see what is missing and make adjustments from there. Start by highlighting fruits and vegetables on your food log for a great visual. Most Americans are not eating enough of these vitamin-rich plants, aim for half your plate to be filled with these.
- Measure your food or at least be aware of portions: All foods should be allowed within proper portion. Yes, even ice cream has a place – think kiddie dish. Be sure to keep the occasional high calorie treat to a small amount and eat mindfully. Really enjoy what you are eating! Often patients report when they restrict foods like ice cream or cake completely, then tend to overeat it, such as eating a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting.
- Less isn’t always better: Drastically cutting carbohydrates or entire food groups can lead to nutrition deficiencies. Not to mention, extremely low calorie diets may impact your ability to lose weight. Think balance and moderation.
- Food is medicine: Remember that food can do wonderful things for us. Antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, protein – all work wonders in our bodies. Choosing foods closer to their natural state will increase these properties. Give it a try – choose fresh fruit instead of juice or make your own stir-fry instead of hitting the drive through.
- Get back to basics: I love to encourage patients to reflect on how they “used to eat.” Think about what was served at school, small portions of a variety of foods. If counting and measuring gives you a headache, start with 9 inch plate. Fill half with fruits and vegetables, balance with protein and a bit of starch on the other half. It’s a plate with built-in portion control! Emphasis on fruits and vegetables fills you up on fiber and the protein helps to keep you full.
Rules tend to feel negative, and can make us feel trapped. Free yourself and your diet by living and eating simply.*
*If you have a serious medical condition or take a lot of medications, always consult your doctor and dietitian before starting a new diet plan. Food is powerful, and can have a serious effect on medication metabolism and certain diseases.