Weight Loss: Dieting vs. Lifestyle Change
As we ring in the New Year, many will also ring in a new diet…cause that’s what you’re supposed to do come the New Year, right?! I’m sure if you are reading this right now, at some point in your life you have been on some kind of “diet”, whether it be a New Year’s resolution diet or some other time of year diet. And by “diet” I mean restricting certain foods/food groups and/or calorie counting with the goal of weight loss. To diet is defined as “restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” We could all share stories of success and failure when it comes to our dieting endeavors- whether we’ve done Atkins, Keto, Whole30, Paleo, the blood type diet, veganism, among many more.
According to the CDC in 2017-2018, 42.4% of Americans were categorized as obese. Obesity is an epidemic that is plaguing many Americans. And along with this epidemic comes a lot of people trying a myriad of diets to try and lose weight- some successful and some not. It is estimated that 45% of Americans go on some sort of diet each year. What most diets have in common is the thinking that if you eat less calories, you will lose weight. But time and time again this has proven to not be the case (for many).
What is the difference between “dieting” and making lifestyle changes?
Obesity and being overweight can lead to several dangerous and life threatening health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes just to name the most common ones. Oftentimes doctors and medical practitioners will tell their patients it is imperative to their health to make lifestyle changes- healthier eating and more physical activity.
The difference is that a diet consists of making temporary changes (and often drastic, unrealistic changes) to how you eat. A diet is very input output focused. If I eat this certain way or eat these certain foods, the outcome will be weight loss.
Lifestyle changes take into account a person’s psychology, behaviors, budget, and values when developing a sustainable plan. Lifestyle changes involve looking at the whole person and every aspect of their life. You can diet all day but if you are a highly stressed individual who emotionally eats and continues to fall into this pattern after a hard day at work, no amount of dieting will truly help you overcome this behavior that is rooted so much deeper. In a situation like this, we need to first address it from a psychological standpoint and help decrease stress or find other coping mechanisms outside of eating.
Why do lifestyle changes have a higher success rate than dieting?
Lifestyle changes have a higher success rate because it’s liveable. It’s balanced. It leaves room to enjoy life and leaves room for grace when unexpected things arise. The goal is to implement changes that can stand the test of time, changes that can be maintained for the long haul and won’t get “old” or “boring”. We have to implement changes and live a lifestyle in which we can get back on track once we have fallen off or we know what we need to do and can execute it after a weekend or a vacation where we were a bit more lax on our diet and exercise.
The main focus and goal of dieting is weight loss but when this is the main focus, we miss out or give up on other changes in your life that could have positive effects and be beneficial- such as decrease in stress levels, improved health markers, sleeping better, and feeling more energetic. These positive benefits will help someone maintain and sustain those lifestyle changes long-term because they feel better and when we feel better we are in a better mental state to make positive, healthy choices.
4 Ways to Make Sustainable Lifestyle Change
- Change your Mindset: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, our mindset and perspective is everything. Knowing WHY you are doing something is necessary in order to maintain said behavior. Oftentimes we view eating healthy as restrictive and boring and exercise as dreaded and torturous. Instead, what if we viewed healthy eating as a way to fuel our bodies and we viewed food as medicine? What if we viewed exercise and moving our bodies as a gift instead of grueling? Changing our expectations and setting realistic weight loss goals is important as well. Sometimes we don’t need to lose as much weight as we think we do in order to be healthier and to see our blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other important health markers go down and in the right direction. Setting a realistic weight loss goal can help you to feel motivated and give you confidence that you can achieve that goal versus setting a lofty goal and feeling like you will never get there, get discouraged, and then quit.
- Consistent Eating Patterns: I like to live by and encourage my client’s to live by the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time you eat healthy, whole foods, and the other 20% is left for eating out, drinking alcohol, having a sweet treat, etc. It is near impossible and quite miserable to eat clean and healthy 100% of the time with zero sugar, zero wine, zero pasta, zero steak. It’s simply not sustainable. With 80/20 eating, you are consistently eating the same way but it allows enjoyment of life and enjoyment of food without guilting ourselves or feeling like we derailed all previous success. The key with 80/20 eating is to get right back on track after an evening of eating out or going to a party.
- Move More: Perhaps the thought of working out 30 minutes to an hour 5 days a week sounds daunting and overwhelming to you. Don’t let this fear of formal exercise scare you away. Just start moving your body more. Stand as you work. Take your meetings outside and walk and talk. Park further away. Do squats and lunges as you stand over the stove and sautee your vegetables for dinner. Take the stairs. Walk instead of using the moving beltway in the airport as you travel. There are so many creative ways we can incorporate more movement into our days. A body in motion stays in motion. The more we move our bodies and begin to feel more in shape, the easier it will be to transition into an exercise class or get to the gym for weight lifting. But movement doesn’t need to be formal to be formative. Simply move more and you’ll be amazed at how your body feels and responds. And maybe before long, you’ll find yourself taking exercise classes because you truly enjoy moving your body.
- Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Research has proven that slow and steady weight loss is the ticket to keeping it off. You may lose a significant amount of weight doing a fad diet, but the question is will you be able to keep that weight off long-term? Don’t get discouraged if it is taking you longer than anticipated to lose weight. It is hard work and takes time, but it is so worth the wait to be healthier and feel WELL!
The weight loss industry is definitely not suffering with it being valued at more than $66 billion. We are bombarded with products and programs that offer promise after promise to help us finally lose the weight and reclaim our lives, especially this time of year with New Year’s resolutions on the rise. Don’t get me wrong, there are some supplements and programs that are highly effective, but, it is so individually based. And oftentimes, people think by popping a few pills or adhering to a strict program for a short amount of time means they will see the results they want and can then go back to how they were living before- all while maintaining those results. This is why we see yo-yo dieting and people losing significant amounts of weight and then gaining it back or we see people giving up on their New Year’s resolutions come February. Lifestyle changes seek to mitigate this yo-yoing back and forth and help individuals lose and keep the weight off for optimal health for the long-haul.
If you are interested in learning more about weight loss through lifestyle changes, feel free to email me (Meghan) at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer a FREE 30-minute consultation.
Have a happy and healthy New Year everyone!