The Skinny on Diets

With all the contradictory information out there these days, it’s no wonder that losing weight through dieting can be confusing.

There are so many diets out there – and, if you’re looking to start a new diet, it’s often hard to determine which is the best one for you. All claim to help you lose weight, because they’re set up to help you consume fewer calories than you’re burning – a fairly basic weight loss formula (calories in < calories out).

In my experience working with people hoping to shed a few pounds, their motivation is more than aesthetic: ultimately, they want to improve their long-term health and wellness. If this is true for you, my advice is to carefully consider the options – because no two diets are equal. Sure, most of them help reduce your cholesterol and other unhealthy fats – as well as your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure.  However, weight loss is not always permanent; and not all diets provide you with adequate nutrition and/or are not always practical to implement given your individual lifestyle.

Something else to consider: It’s fairly unrealistic to think you can, or will want to, follow a diet for the rest of your life. Who wants to adhere to extreme dietary restrictions, or completely cut entire types of food out of your life? Certainly not me! Can you imagine the unbearable craving for chocolate (or your other favorite foods)? But, because of the way most diets work, you would have to do this in order to maintain your weight loss over the long term. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long to regain your weight and then some – as well as higher cholesterol and triglyceride readings, and other risk factors for disease – shortly after you stop dieting.

Don’t panic, though! If you’re hoping to lose weight over the long-term, you can do it! The key is to start small. How about starting to make healthy food choices and develop healthier eating habits? That sounds doable, right? Of course, in making these changes, you’ll want to progress slowly – making only one or two changes from the list below every one to two weeks:

  • Choosing lean proteins (baked chicken instead of filet mignon)
  • Substituting low-fat dairy products for high-fat ones (skim milk instead of whole)
  • Eating whole-grain products instead of their refined counterparts
  • Using healthy fats (such as olive oil) in moderation
  • Enjoying copious amounts of fruits and vegetables – which contain high amounts of fiber and tend to fill you up more than other foods might
  • Replacing processed foods with fresh, whole foods – which will help improve your energy level and promote weight loss

As far as healthier eating habits go, try a few of the following suggestions:

  • Slow down your eating. This can be as simple as putting down your fork in between each bite.
  • Eat smaller portions, or replace high-calorie foods with lower-calorie options like vegetables or lean proteins.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Also, water fills up your stomach with a calorie free substance, leaving you with a feeling of fullness.
  • Eat breakfast! Consuming healthy food in the morning will jump start your metabolism and give you energy throughout the day.
  • Have a designated eating place, so you don’t mindlessly eat in front of the TV or the computer. These distractions can inhibit your mind from determining whether or not your body is actually hungry.
  • Eat when you are truly hungry, not because you feel happy or sad.  Emotional eating is one of the biggest contributors to weight gain.

Remember, these are habits you can and should continue practicing for a lifetime.  Using them with result in weight loss and help you discover a healthier you!

Alexandra Jasinowski – Greater Burlington Y Wellness Educator

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