You’re at your annual physical and your nurse leads you to that dreaded scale. After removing your shoes and all the contents from your pockets, you step on and the number comes up. After a year of quarantine and a year of trying to feel like you’re back to normal living, the number is a bit higher than you’d prefer to see.
Your doctor suggests that you focus on a healthy diet and on implementing more exercise into your routine – but your mind goes right to the latest “lose weight quick” scheme. We’ve all been there; we want results quick. But what if trying to lose weight with a fad diet caused more harm than good? We got to the bottom of why most fad diets lead to even bigger problems than the number on the scale.
A Quick Fix Isn’t Always the Best Fix
We spoke with StarMed’s Olivia Shurter (Master of Science in Nutrition) about why most diets end up causing people to potentially gain even more weight in the long run, even if they were successful in seeing a smaller number on their scale. Olivia explained that most people think the first step to losing weight is eating less. While that isn’t entirely incorrect, it needs to be done in conjunction with light to moderate exercise.
“When you put yourself into an extreme caloric deficiency, you’ll lose weight quickly, but you’re actually losing lean muscle mass and water weight versus fat,” Olivia explained. “You might like the short-term result but once you stop and go back to your previous eating habits, your body will begin to store the calories as fat instead of converting them to energy.”
Olivia mentioned that this can also alter your metabolism which, long term, takes much longer to fix than implementing a healthy weight loss plan.
Fad diets leave you tired, hungry, weak, and often lead to binge eating. Furthermore, you likely are creating nutritional deficiencies that lead to a host of additional health problems such as hormonal changes, mental health problems like stress, anxiety, and guilt over your food choices. So, what’s the right way to lose weight? Start small.
The Right Way to Lose Weight
Unfortunately, big changes don’t happen overnight. If your goal is to lose weight, you’ll need to focus on creating small, attainable diet and exercise changes that will lead to better habits long-term.
Olivia views weight loss as a lifestyle change.
“When you’re focusing on weight loss, you need to look at the big picture,” she said. “This should be something that sets you up for long-term success rather than a short-sighted fix.”
Olivia suggests counting your macros instead of calories, exercising at least three times per week for 30-45 minutes per session, and most importantly, listening to your body. “Listen to your body queues on this journey,” she said. “Are you hungry or are you bored? Are you hungry or are you thirsty?”
Tracking your water intake is one small step that you can implement to make sure you’re hydrating your body correctly. Olivia recommends that people need to drink 50% of their body weight in water. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be consuming 100 ounces of water daily to be adequately hydrated.
Even though you’re making healthy lifestyle choices, don’t deprive yourself of treats. The key is keeping moderation in mind when you’re indulging in not-so-healthy choices. If you’re craving pizza, have a slice! Did your kids make cookies? Eat one with them! Adding moderation to your mindset on top of physical activity will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long run — no “quick fix” needed.
Most importantly, the number on the scale does not equal your self-worth. Fad diets typically target women who may feel insecure about the way they look based on what they’re told they should look like. Our bodies come in all different shapes and sizes and it’s a gift to be able to say that you’re doing your part in keeping it healthy. You got this!