Once you hear the term , you may immediately think of eating restrictions in mind given that you have to limit or select your food choices according to your objective. The word should not have such a negative connotation as has been used over the ages to describe a person’s eating habits and selection. Dieting is the act of regulating one’s food intake in order to achieve a certain external and/or internal goal. Regardless of the goal, various factors are to be considered, such as nutrients, food choices, and the number of calories consumed. People usually “ go on a diet” because they want to achieve their body or nutritional goals in a predetermined timeframe. Losing weight has been the usual and common goal as to why people go on diet. This is how fad and crash diet trends gained popularity- convincing people that they can achieve their goal as quickly as possible by following a certain eating pattern. This is also how a lot of misconceptions have been formed around the term-making people recognize and approach dieting the wrong way. The following are the leading reasons why fad diets fail;
Biochemistry and physiological imbalances
There is a connection between food and body metabolism, therefore, it is important to identify those before following a certain diet. Biochemistry — or ‘biological chemistry’ — is concerned with all of the biochemical reactions which take place within our bodies and brains. This signifies that our bodies react to meals differently depending on our biological chemistry. A diet may work for you but it may not work for someone else. The physiological aspect of food pertains to our body’s mechanism. This indicates that there may be certain meals that work better for our body as it is dependent on how well our body responds to their food content. In connection, when selecting a diet, you should identify both your biochemistry and physiological imbalances. Most of the people do not have any knowledge regarding these areas because it is not widely introduced. They primarily became based on preferences and goals instead of needs. Through identifying these, you will be able to curate meal plans that will assist you towards your goal while matching your body’s nutritional needs.
The reality is that people who go on a fad diet usually do lose weight quickly, but they also gain it back as soon as they start going back to their normal eating habits. Examples of such dets are the “cookies diet” or the “banana diet”. They sacrifice their overall wellbeing just to look good externally. There is no plan for sustainability given that they entered the diet with the idea that once they lose weight, then they have succeeded. However, the faster you lose weight, the faster you gain it back. The sustainability of the diet is essential-once you lose weight, the next goal would be to keep it off. This simply indicates that the diet should be healthy. Eating healthy should also be enjoyable. You can still have delicious meals by researching for and switching to healthier alternatives. Ultimately, your meal plans should be based on nutrition and not on calories.
Similar to sustainability, too many restrictions on your diet will only lead to setbacks. If you lower your caloric intake too much or limit yourself to a certain type of food, then you will develop an unhealthy relationship with food. You will see food for its calories instead of its nutritional value. Your body will also eventually get used to eating that same amount-leading to a weight loss plateau. On the other hand, there is a boundary between restrictions and alternatives. For instance, switching to plant-based meat instead of real animal meat or switching to olive oil instead of canola oil. These are healthier choices that are based on nutritional value rather than calories.
Weight loss plateau
Weight loss plateau means staying on the same weight or no longer losing weight despite being on a certain diet. For those who have been dieting for months or years or have even followed different diets, this is usually a common experience. Mayo Clinic (2020) explained that “As you lose weight, you lose some muscle along with fat. Muscle helps keep the rate at which you burn calories (metabolism) up. So as you lose weight, your metabolism declines, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did at your heavier weight.” Because your body has been used to a specific calorie intake, then it will no longer lose weight due to a slower metabolism. You reach a plateau when the calories you usually burn are equivalent to the calories you eat. You may either increase your physical activity or decrease your caloric intake further-which is not a good idea. Therefore, fad diets only work and remain for a certain amount of time.
The majority of the people who go on a diet enter it with the wrong mindset. If you aim to see results as fast as possible, then you are already setting yourself up for failure. It is significant to recognize that setting eating goals should also depend on several factors. The three main questions you should be asking yourself are, “Does this diet cater to the needs of my body?”, “Is this diet healthy for my mind and body?”, and “Will I be able to sustain it in the long run?” If your answer is no, then it is most likely because your meal plans or eating patterns are too restrictive. Dieting should be based on the amount of nutrition you get and not the number of restrictions. Hence, before going on a diet, you should start with a proper mindset. The key to a successful diet is by aiming to be healthy both in mind and body. Losing weight should simply be a benefit-not the goal. Dominique Fradin-Read MD