Top Four Reasons Why You Should Not Go on a Weight Loss Diet
By Julia Liber, Registered Dietitian
Spring is here! You’ve put away your winter wardrobe, and you’re starting to pull out your spring clothing. Although many are excited for the start of warm weather, for some, Spring comes along with worries which were not present during the Winter season, mainly the pressure to lose weight.
Some people tend to gain weight during the winter season. This becomes especially challenging at the start of Spring, as people feel more exposed when wearing fewer layers and lighter clothing. When embarking on a weight loss journey, many turn to weight loss programs, weight loss coaches, strict dieting or weight loss applications, which require logging your food on a daily basis.
These are the top four reasons why a weight loss diet is not the recommended course of action:
1. These Diets Do Not Promote Health
Many of these diets encourage reducing the intake of essential food groups or macronutrients. For example, the Ketogenic Diet suggest your daily carbohydrate intake to be between 5-10%, when Canadian and American guidelines recommend 45-65% of your total intake come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates play a key role in our bodies, mainly being our body’s main source of energy, as well as supplying along some essential micronutrients such as magnesium and B Vitamins. (To learn more about carbs, refer to my article here). In terms of fat, not only does the keto diet encourage a higher fat intake, yet it typically does not differentiate between saturated and unsaturated fats. A diet which is high in saturated fat is a risk factor for developing heart disease by increasing the amount of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream.
2. These Diets Have a One Size Fits All Approach
When signing up for a weight loss program or a weight loss app, it will often calculate how many calories or points you need per day. To calculate this number, your height, weight, age, and physical activity are taken into consideration.
Although these values are often calculated using scientifically valid equations, what many people don’t know is that these numbers are not “end all be all”. Meaning that the number that the app is suggesting may be higher or lower depending on factors including genetics, muscle mass as well as your medical state.
Your caloric and energy needs are numbers that should be mainly used by dietitians, rather than by the general public. Dietitians know the limitations of these tools, and how these numbers can be adjusted depending on the individual.
In fact, calorie and nutrient tracking is not what I recommend my clients to do, as it can promote an unhealthy relationship with food .
3. Promotes an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, to the point where it can become toxic
If you go over your daily calorie, macronutrient, or daily points, then you can perceive yourself as a failure.
Furthermore, many of these diets have a list of forbidden foods. As a result, if you do break the rules and eat a forbidden food, you will feel guilty. Additionally, once you slip up, you may have the tendency to binge on these forbidden foods, telling yourself “diet starts tomorrow”.
Eventually, you start perceiving foods as bad, and yourself as bad when you slip up, resulting in an unhealthy relationship with food and with yourself.
Exercise is often part of the weight loss plan. Yet, for many weight loss plans, exercise becomes less about pleasure and health, and more about burning calories. As a result, exercise can become a burden, which results in an unhealthy relationship with exercise.
4. These Diets Are Not Successful in The Long Term
Another characteristic of these diets is that often, they suggest making drastic changes in your eating habits quickly, resulting in rapid weight loss. These diets are not sustainable in the long term as they are too restrictive.
Instead of following a weight loss diet:
👉Focus on healthy eating
The weight loss mindset comes with the pressure to look a certain way, which be damaging to your body image. If you shift your focus to healthy eating, you’ll be setting a more body-positive goal. Rather than setting a goal on how you look or how much you weigh, set a goal towards factors that are more directly in your control, such as your eating habits.
What is healthy eating? Be sure to check out Canada’s Food Guide.
Want to learn how to improve your eating habits? Check out my Guide to Healthy Eating, Without Going on a Diet.
👉Embrace your individual differences
As individuals, we all come from various backgrounds, have different food preferences, and enjoy different activities. Rather than following a one size fits all plan, find a way of healthy eating that works for you! In some cases, many people find it helpful to see a Registered Dietitian, who can provide personalized recommendations, considering your individual differences.
👉Eating and Exercising Should Be Pleasurable Activities
Don’t restrict the foods you love. Rather, find a balance between nourishing your body with healthy foods, while at the same time including the foods you love.
Exercise should not be a burden. Exercise in a way that feels good to you, in a way that promotes mental health. AGM health and fitness offers exercise programs for women which are focused on both physical and mental health. Check it out here.
👉Focus on long-term success!
Rather than expecting immediate results, focus on long-term change! Behaviour change is a journey that requires a lot of time! Therefore, don’t give yourself a strict deadline. Rather, make changes to your eating habits in a gradual manner so as not to overwhelm yourself.
How to set goals for long-term success? Refer to my previous article.
Enjoy the Spring Season! If you have any questions or need extra support, feel free to reach out.
Canadian Sugar Institute. (n.d.). Dietary guidelines on sugars. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://sugar.ca/sugars-consumption-guidelines/dietary-guidelines-on- sugars#:~:text=Canadian%20Dietary%20Guidelines,-The%20Dietary%20Reference&text=The%20AMDR%20for%20carbohydrates%2C%20which,energy%20for%20adults%20and%20children.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, December 11). The truth about fats: The good, the bad, and the in-between. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good#:~:text=A%20diet%20rich%20in%20saturated,10%25%20of%20calories%20a%20day.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, August 31). Should you try the keto diet? Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-try-the-keto-diet
Harvard T.H Chan. (2019, May 22). Diet review: Ketogenic diet for weight loss. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary program that works. New York: St. Martin's Griffin.
The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, or give specific medical advice. The information in this article is not intended as medical advice, medical nutrition therapy, or individualized nutrition. No content on this should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical or nutritional advice from your doctor or Registered Dietitian.