It’s not every unusual to hear about people who tried to stick to a particular diet, and yet, failed miserably. Admit it, you know someone who attempted to adhere to a strict regimen, but ended up gaining more weight. Well, there’s a reason behind those failures, and apparently, it’s common.
If one of your 2018 resolutions is to finally tap that #bodygoals you’ve seen on Instagram, you might want to forget all those diet plans you’ve heard about in the past. Nutritionists suggest a new and effective way to get a lean body, without too much suffering. For this fresh year, you may want to begin with a food regimen that you can actually enjoy. A diet that’s not a diet, but a way of healthy eating that you can live with the rest of your life.
Consider embracing a “non-diet” diet, which is basically a set of guiding principles that can help you maintain your ideal weight for good.
Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and author of The Diet Detox: Why Your Diet is Making You Fat and What to Do About It, said, “A non-diet diet is for anyone who has ever said ‘The diet starts Monday.’”
“It’s a lifestyle approach to healthy eating,” Alpert adds.
Why Diets Fail
According to Alpert, the problem with diets is that they have an “expiration date.”
“Whether it’s one day, 10 days, 30 days or 45 days — with an end date, you are setting yourself up for failure and for the never-ending yo-yo dieting cycle,” Alpert said.
For instance, you have been forbidden to eat bread, and suddenly “even a stale bread basket looks amazing,” said Alpert. Binging on the foods you love is likely to happen if you have been deprived of eating them, which could eventually result in gaining more weight.
“When you put food on a pedestal, and only focus on willpower to avoid your favorite foods, you create an unhealthy relationship with food and are more likely to overeat,” Alpert added.
When trying to shed off some weight, the important thing to do is to avoid strict food rules. Yet, most regimens require what needs to be avoided.
Kelly Pritchett, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, agrees, saying, “A sustainable eating plan that is balanced and is not restrictive is easier to adhere to in the long run.”
“Also, most diets that restrict or eliminate foods are also missing important nutrients and this can result in nutrient deficiencies.”
So what’s the non-diet diet?
Great question. One of the non-diet diet’s most important facets is having intentional indulgences. Since most diets fail due to deprivation, this new approach includes planned splurges without feeling guilty.
“Guilt makes you fat,” said Alpert.
Not everyone knows this, but according to Alpert, feeling guilty about our food choices makes us more vulnerable to making poor food choices until it becomes a cycle. “There is a time and a place for French fries and pizza and a piece of cake,” Alpert said.
Yes, this approach could be the diet of your dreams. It could be, however, the vital part of this approach is planning ahead.
For instance, you know you’re going to that restaurant, which serves an irresistible chocolate cake. You know you got to have it, so what you need to do is to leave a good room for that dessert. You’re going to cut back your starches for the day, so you can fully enjoy your treat without feeling guilty.
“It’s about eating intentionally … and saying ‘I’m going to have that piece of cake and not feel bad about it.’ ”
Letting yourself indulge even on a daily basis, but being aware and conscious of what you eat can a help a lot in weight management. “You have to figure out what works for you. I like two daily dark chocolate squares because it’s typically satisfying,” she said.
The essentials of the non-diet diet
When acquiring the non-diet diet, it’s necessary to include foods with protein and fiber for every meal, as well as a nutrient for snacks, according to Alpert.
Protein-rich foods helps reduce the appetite and lowers the consumption of calories. On the other hand, fiber slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping hunger at bay.
“Fiber and protein are helpful from a satiety standpoint, meaning they keep us full and satisfied longer,” said Pritchett.
For this approach, you can have an omelet with spinach and Cheddar cheese for breakfast; a chicken salad with lettuce, cucumbers and broccoli for lunch; and noodles with sautéed shrimp and zucchini in marinara sauce for dinner.
Another key factor to be successful in the non-diet diet is to limit the consumption of refined starches. These starches are likely to be over-eaten, and can quickly break down into sugar in the body, which leads to increased fat storage when consumed in large amounts. Some examples of refined starches include a slice of multigrain bread, two-thirds cup of cooked pasta or four pieces of sushi.
“If you are trying to lose weight, stick to one starch per day, but once you are closer to your goals, two is fine,” said Alpert.
Alpert also suggests to eat meals or snacks every four hours, as it allows the body to be refueled, which prevents over-eating, as well as the state of being “hangry”. She also recommends to include a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding”, which involves at least 12-14 hours overnight fast that is between your dinner and the following day’s breakfast. This way of fasting, which is not eating for a period of time, can effectively help reduce and maintain weight.
“People can’t stick to fasting for two days a week or only eating for a couple of hours during the day,” said Alpert.
The key is to eat an early dinner, which gives the same benefits of intermittent fasting minus the excruciating food deprivation. “I’m trying to make the early-bird special cool — can we hashtag that?” asks Alpert in her book.
Alpert adds, although food portion is important in dieting, the quality of food plays a more vital role. “I think what you are eating is so much more important than how much you are eating … and when you are eating the right foods at the right times, you will automatically be eating closer to the right amounts — and if you are hungry, there’s nothing wrong with eating more protein and fiber,” she said.
“We’re really talking about how you are supposed to live every single day for the rest of your life,” said Alpert. Basically, we need to find an eating plan that we can stick to for a long time. Our long term weight loss approach should not be complicated. That, of course, includes occasional splurges as part of flexibility.
“What makes this so doable is that the right choice is not always kale or spinach, but perhaps a bowl of spaghetti and a fudgy brownie,” Alpert wrote in “The Diet Detox.” “It’s these kinds of allowances — along with a clear, concise, no-BS way of thinking about food — that will help you make a long-term commitment to this way of eating.”