You can lose weight on most plans, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy
EVER TRY A NEW DIET AND actually lose weight? It’s certainly possible to lose five, 10 or even 20 pounds by following the latest fad diet, but if you take a step back and ask yourself why, you’ll understand why you probably also regained that weight (and then some) – and why registered dietitian nutritionists don’t advocate for the diets in the first place.
You see, if your goal is to lose weight, most diets will work. Many cut out numerous food groups and overly processed, high-calorie junk foods, which slashes calories and results in weight loss. Most diets make you pay attention to every morsel that goes into your mouth, which means less food during your inactive, couch potato time of the evening. Again, that results in eating fewer calories throughout the day.
[See: The 10 Best Diets for Fast Weight Loss.]
Whether it’s intermittent fasting, Whole30, paleo, ketogenic, the macro diet or any other fad today, you will initially lose weight. So why am I and so many of my colleagues adamantly speaking out against these diet plans? Glad you asked.
1. They’re tough to maintain.
Once they lose the weight, most folks go right back to their unhealthy eating plans and regain it all – if not more. Many plans don’t discuss how to transition to maintenance, which can leave you confused once you try to get off the plan.
2. They don’t provide the body the nourishment it needs.
Your body needs specific macronutrients (carbs, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in order to live and keep healthy. A well-balanced diet provides foods from the following food groups: whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. If you cut out one or more of these groups, chances are you’re severely limiting important nutrients your body needs.
3. They aren’t sustainable.
These plans are often tough to follow for a long period of time. They are also challenging to stick to when you’re traveling, when you’re at a social event and when you dine out. A sustainable diet is not only about the foods you choose to eat, but also how easily you can follow the plan. If you feel you regularly have “nothing to eat” every time you leave your house, then you should be thinking twice about following the diet.
4. They don’t change your long-term behavior.
When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, it’s really about making lifelong changes to eat more healthfully. Creating new habits takes work – and a lot of it. Once you change a behavior – say, eating more vegetables at each snack – it takes six months of continuously doing that in order to create a habit. Just because you started to eat differently on a new diet, you won’t necessarily be creating healthy new habits that can be maintained for a lifetime.
[See: How to Make Healthful Dietary Changes Last a Lifetime.]
5. They can be unsafe.
Fad diets tend to promote any or several of the following: supplements, herbs, laxatives or enemas. Supplements and herbs can become costly and can also interact with medications. If you have a medical condition, always consult your doctor before trying a diet plan that has you popping pills. Laxatives and enemas can also leach nutrients from the gut and don’t allow nutrients to get into your body. What’s more, many diets advocate against carbs, but if you have a medical condition like diabetes, you have to make sure that you’re eating enough of them (from dairy, fruits and whole grains) or it can be deadly.
[See: 8 Food Trends Nutrition Experts Pray Will Never Return.]
The good news is that if you are trying to get healthier (which in and of itself deserves a pat on the back) and lose weight, you can do it safely and healthfully. Take a look at U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the best weight-loss diets. In 2018, Weight Watchers and Volumetrics came in at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Each diet profiled on the site includes an in-depth explanation and a list of pros and cons if you choose to follow it.
If you’re still confused on what plan is right for you, a registered dietitian nutritionist can provide you with the personalized attention you deserve. RDNs look at your labs, food history, medical history, likes and dislikes, and other personal information in order to create an individual meal plan. They can also advise you on how to change your diet to create healthier habits, and work with you in order to do so.