According to statistics from the CDC, over one-third of American adults are obese. A diet is often the first line of defense, but how do you pick the right one? And can choosing the wrong diet end up being detrimental to your health?
Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, Mediterranean, Macrobiotic: can you catch the common theme? America’s love affair with the latest fad has led to a booming diet and weight loss industry, bringing in around $60 billion in revenue per year. And the tremendous growth of this niche market indicates not just that our country struggles with nutrition, but that there isn’t a perfect diet that fits all of us.
Some diets can be easily flagged as ineffective, while others seem logical enough to leave you disheartened when the scale hasn’t budged. Worse, picking the wrong diet can have adverse health effects, which can be dangerous or just plain discouraging: all that dieting for nothing!?
Clearly, picking the right diet is just as important as sticking to it, but how do you know what to look for?
Fad Diets are Out
Diets come and go so often that they’ve become synonymous with fleeting trends. Promising huge results (“Lose 10 pounds in 10 days,” or “Drop 3 Dress Sizes before your Reunion!”), fad diets tend to rely on restrictions, or plans that can only be followed when you purchase your meals, supplements, shakes, or snacks from whomever is touting the miracle results.
Such is the case with the Cookie Diet, which recommends substituting special cookies for each of your meals (though you are allowed a sensible dinner). While the idea of eating cookies all day, every day sounds great, the whole point of dieting is to recognize that one can have too much of a good thing. Christopher Ochner, Ph.D, director of research development at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, says that these kinds of one-track diets can lead to bingeing during your “sensible dinner.”
What to Look for When Picking a Diet
Just as finding the right diet can totally transform your eating habits for the better, finding the wrong one can prevent you from achieving your weight loss goals. Reader’s Digest lists eight tell-tale signs that a diet is bad news, and one of them is the elimination of entire food groups. There’s a food pyramid for a reason, and your body can’t perform its best when it’s missing any of the essential nutrients that the pyramid recommends.
Diets that require a complete departure from how you’re used to eating should also be avoided. While the shock of doing something totally different may help psychologically jump-start your plan, immediately adopting a new set of habits can be hard to maintain.
But knowing what diet not to pick doesn’t necessarily make your choice any more obvious. There are all kinds of quizzes available, like this one from the Today show or this one from Time, that are meant to help you identify your eating and lifestyle habits, which in theory will make it easier to choose a diet that’s right for you.
Not a fan of quizzes? Not a problem: the bigger takeaway here is that objectively considering your lifestyle, your habits, and your desired outcome is essential before deciding to make a big adjustment to your diet.
And unless you’ve developed your plan with a doctor or nutritionist, the rules aren’t hard and fast. Making small adjustments so that you stick to the plan or being forgiving with yourself when you make a minor misstep will do more to keep you on a healthy track than harsh restrictions and self-punishing tactics.
More Healthy Decisions
While diets and healthy lifestyle products are still thriving, a new outlook that values overall lifestyle changes rather than quick, diet-led fixes is gaining steam. WebMD notes that the number of Americans who “diet” is declining, and that the prevailing emphasis has become less on avoiding certain foods and more about enjoying healthy foods or indulging in healthy food swaps (like two-ingredient banana ice cream).
While you can start making small changes right away, it’s always important to speak with a medical professional before initiating a weight loss plan, as your doctor can help tailor your regimen to what’s best for you and your body. SingleCare makes it easy and affordable to find a doctor, which means you can start getting healthy without breaking the bank. If going to see a doctor is not convenient, you can see a nutritionist through SingleCare’s partnership with AmWell via a video call! So step away from the maple syrup-cayenne pepper concoction, and step into a healthier, happier you.
Main image credit: Jupiter Images/Thinkstock