Dietitians see this all the time: clients and patients coming in for a consultation, having never seen a dietitian before, but having tried all kinds of weight loss plans, diets, and supplements, which have left them unable to attain their goal of losing weight.
Many of them also admit to having experienced the ”yo-yo” phenomenon, a vicious cycle where you start by realizing you’re not feeling so great, and decide to put yourself on a restrictive diet. You lose all this weight, but your metabolism slows down because you’re not eating the quantity your body needs, and your body thinks you’re in a crisis where food is not available. It does so as a survival mechanism.
As time goes on, you realize that you’re not satiated, and find your cravings to be even stronger than before you started dieting. Eventually, you give up on your diet, and instead of having a bit of the snack that you’ve forbidden yourself from eating that you were craving, you binge and go back to your previous eating habits. Keep in mind, your metabolism has slowed down, and therefore stores all the energy you give it as glycogen and fat cells even faster than before. You then find yourself back at your initial weight, or even having gained more weight than before. A while later, the cycle restarts all over again, resulting in a fluctuation of your weight (hence the term ”yo-yo”), which may leave your metabolism confused, to say the least.
Here are the top 5 reasons why your diet isn’t working:
1. It’s too restrictive
Simply put, you’re just not eating enough. To help you feel fuller longer, you should optimise your intake of the nutrients that keep us full: protein and fiber. To help guide you, Canada’s Food Guide is a great resource that shows us visually what every meal should ideally look like to avoid developing chronic diseases in the future or helping us manage it if we already have them. It also explores how we eat, not just what we eat.
Keep in mind, the more your cut out, the easier it will be to fall into the ”yo-yo” diet cycle. That one almond you had for lunch is definitely not sufficient.
Consult the food guide here.
2. It’s unrealistic
Simply put, you might be cutting too much, too fast. You should ideally set goals for yourself that are set in time. For example, instead of having 2 glasses of wine every night with dinner for 7 days, I will have one glass of wine a night for the next week. Then, readjust according to how you did.
If you’re used to doing something a certain way or eating a certain food in certain quantities, cutting it out completely from one day to the next is not realistic.
You should aim to developing habits that are long term. But keep in mind that it takes time to reach the ”ideal” eating and lifestyle habits, but if you do so gradually, with goals that are realistic in small steps, maintaining them will be a breeze.
3. You’re too focused on weight loss
When asked what their goal is, most clients reply with: ”I want to lose weight”, without really looking into the other benefits of the healthy habits they seek. The funny thing is, once you stop thinking about constantly wanting to lose weight and shift your focus more on how your new habits (exercise, eating a balanced diet, eating meals in good company, being vigilant about food marketing and food labels and being present during your meals) make you feel, the weight loss comes all by itself.
Here are some ideas of other goals and reasons that you could focus on while keeping weight loss as a secondary goal:
- I want to have more energy during the day (this is a general goal, now you have to explore how to do so);
- I want to sleep better;
- I have a family history of heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes and want to be healthy for my spouse and/or children and/or friends and/or family;
- Exercising makes me feel good and helps me sleep better, so I do it more often;
- Exercising helps me clear my head and helps me deal with stress;
- I want to eat one portion of fruits and vegetables at every meal;
- I want to have fruit instead of a chocolate bar when I’m craving sugar;
- Doing weights at the gym makes me feel stronger, I’m not out of breath when I go up the stairs at work anymore.Please take note that your goals are yours and nobody else’s. Do it for you and your own health, and not to fit into anyone else’s definition of health or beauty.
4. You’re putting your trust in the wrong people
It’s very easy to fall for an ad that claims to solve all your issues! There is no need to feel guilty for other people taking advantage of your or people you know, who may or not may not be in a vulnerable state, looking for help. It is, however, your duty, now, after realizing the truth, to stay vigilant in regards to these ads, claims, and marketing. Always ask yourself: ”who is telling me this information? Do they have any sort of certification, experience or degree? Is the information backed by science?”
Keep in mind, when it comes to anything that has a link to food, ”dieting”, eating and lifestyle habits, a Registered Dietitian is always the best professional to seek information and help from. They will help you reach your goals with no judgment, no matter your goals.
For more information about how to identify false nutrition information/claims, click here.