Why When Talking Weight Loss, We Don’t Talk About ‘Diets’ or ‘Maintenance’

Nutrition // Georgina Moore

It’s time to throw words like ‘diet’ and ‘maintenence’ into the garbage bin along with any junk food left in your kitchen. If you want to lose weight and stay in control of what you see on the scales permanently, then all the diet and exercise books in the world won’t help you. You need to re-program the way you think about food, exercise and ultimately yourself.

As a dietitian, I’m constantly asked by patients if I can construct a ‘diet plan’ to help them lose weight. Generally, I try and turn the conversation around.

There is no ‘trick’ to weight loss. Eat more calories than you burn off, and your body will store them, and you’ll get bigger. Cut down on the calories and up your expenditure with more activity and exercise, and it will get smaller. Simply, your body will do as it’s told, and you are the one giving it the instructions.

I could give you a nutrition plan, but I want to know what kind of instructions you plan to give your body when you go ‘off’ it. Will you just go back to your previous lifestyle – the old recipes you cooked and the old portion sizes – I want to know how you plan to keep that weight off for decades, not weeks or months.

Yo-Yo-No

If you aren’t interested in having a conversation with me about sustaining healthy habits long-term, then you just might be a yo-yo dieter.

Yo-yo dieters follow fad diets, lose weight and achieve their goal (or get pretty close). They then revert to old eating patterns and end up gaining the weight back. Often, to their horror, they gain a little extra weight too. They might wait a few months or a year before jumping on another fad. And the cycle begins again.

The problem with fad diets is that they are typically structured around extreme behaviours, removing an element of your diet that you need or skewing your diet to focus on one nutritional group. For example, they might be focused on no carbs, no fruit, all protein, or minimal dairy.

The removal of certain food groups from your diet is not a long-term solution; it isn’t even a sustainable short-term solution. This type of approach to food can lead to malnutrition as you are not getting the broad spectrum of nutrients that your body needs.

All or nothing nutrition plans can also lead to a sense of deprivation that can trigger dangerous behaviours. You might feel really positive when you start cutting out all the carbs and fruit, confident that this is the solution. But more often than not, you’ll find your inner teenager busting out. You’ll throw the towel in, buck the plan and not only cave in but potentially swing in the other direction, maybe even binging on the very food you have been avoiding.

Fad diets are all about the short cut, the quick fix rather than the slow burn. The lifestyle they present isn’t sustainable. You need to be honest with yourself. The truth is that significant changes to lifestyle take time and planning, but they are key if you picture yourself living a healthier life now and well into the future.

All is Not Lost

If this sounds all a bit doom and gloom, I have some good news. If you have been a yo-yo dieter in the past then all is not lost. Recent research* has shown that those with a history of cyclical dieting are just as likely to succeed and reach their goal weight with a sustained approach as anyone else.

No one is doomed to fail. You just need a plan and if your lifestyle needs a shake-up, chances are your thinking does too.

Fad Diets, a Fail Safe Route to Failure

Fad diets set you up to fail. 12WBT sets you up for success. It is structured to teach you the skills and give you the knowledge you need to make great dietary and lifestyle choices. You’ll learn which foods will keep you full AND meet your nutritional needs. You’ll see it isn’t rocket science and that healthy food can taste amazing. There is no such thing as ‘diet’ food – just good food.

We educate and guide you to make better decisions with the long-term goal being optimal health. If we use the word ‘diet’ we are referring generally to what you eat, not to deprivation.

We don’t aim for weight loss followed by maintenance; in fact to us maintenance is a dirty word. It suggests complacency. You need to take action to remain active. We want you to grab the new healthy lifestyle you have gained and hold strong.

We don’t want you falling back into old habits. That would mean we hadn’t done our job properly. Instead we challenge you to continue to challenge yourself, to establish new health and fitness goals so you remain empowered and in control of your lifestyle.

Leave the yo-yo back in the playground and take a grown up approach to your health.

*Reference: History of weight cycling does not impede future weight loss or metabolic improvements in postmenopausal women, C.Mason et al, published in Metabolism Clinical & Experimental Journal, 62 (2013), pp.127-136)

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