As the weather gets warmer, we all begin to look forward to beach trips, swimming pools and days in the sunshine. This also may spark a desire to lose a little extra winter weight we may be carrying. So this time of year is also a catalyst for diets.
While it is true that you should not diet, but live a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition choices, a diet is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a diet can provide needed guidance for proper nutrition, and other times a diet is a good starting point for changing your eating habits to make better choices.
But not all diets are created equal. Most people who go on many of the popular diets we read about in the media or hear about on tv end up gaining the weight right back once they completed their diet cycle. So it is important to look closely at a diet plan before jumping on board. Here are a few questions you can ask of a diet plan to evaluate whether it healthy or not.
1. How does the diet cut calories?
In order to lose weight, we must create a calorie deficit. In other words, we need to burn more calories than we take in via food. So all weight loss diets will need to have a strategy for cutting calories. But not all weight loss diets do this in a healthy manner.
If the diet is extremely low in calories, then it is not healthy. Anything recommending lower than 1200 calories a day is considered a starvation diet and should be avoided. You will lose weight while on it, but once you go back to eating regular sized meals, you will gain the weight right back.
If the diet recommends drastically limiting or eliminating certain food groups, then it is not healthy. The body’s main source of energy is carbohydrates. And carbohydrate limiting diets can cause a person to feel fatigued, have brain fog, and overall just feel bad. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products should all be included in a healthy diet.
2. Does the diet advocate exercise?
Exercise is important for overall health and wellbeing, and any diet that does not include a recommendation to exercise should be questioned. Usually diets ask that you do not exercise when the caloric intake is too low to sustain activity. If this is the case, then the diet is unhealthy.
3. Does the diet make unbelievable claims?
If the diet claims you can lose 10 pounds in your first week, it is not healthy. If the diet claims you can lose weight and not change your diet, it is unhealthy. If the diet promises something that seems too good to be true, it is unhealthy.
4. Does the diet meet your individual needs?
If the diet is one size fits all, then it is unhealthy. We all have different needs when it comes to nutrition. A person who is 150 pounds and trying to lose the last 5 extra pounds will have very different caloric needs than a person weighing 300 pounds who wants to lose over 100 pounds. If this diet gives you only one option for calorie intake, food choices, etc., then it is not a healthy diet.
5. Is social support part of the plan?
Studies show that people who are making changes to their lifestyle make more positive lifelong changes when social support is involved. For many people, the support of others will be key in a successful weight loss program. A healthy and well-developed weight loss program will contain information on social support and perhaps even offer in person or online meetings for support.
6. Where is the evidence?
Is there realistic evidence based on scientific research that this program is not only healthy, but effective? Before starting any weight loss program, do a quick google search to find out reviews from Nutritionists, Doctors and real life participants before making your decisions. And remember, in this day and age, there can be bogus information out there. Stick to reliable health websites like WebMD, Nutrition.gov, and trusted local hospitals and dietitians.