For the new year, if you’ve been struggling with your weight, you might turn to a new diet for help with shedding pounds.
So what will it be in 2018? Weight Watchers? Paleo? Jenny Craig? Low-carb?
Some nutritionists say rather than jumping on the latest diet bandwagon or trend, it’s time to consider embracing a “non-diet diet” — basically a set of guiding principles that can help you lose weight and keep it off for good.
“A non-diet diet is for anyone who has ever said ‘The diet starts Monday,’ ” said Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian and author of “The Diet Detox: Why Your Diet is Making You Fat and What to Do About It.” “It’s a lifestyle approach to healthy eating.”
The problem with most diets, according to Alpert, is that they have an “expiration date.”
“Whether it’s one day, 10 days, 30 days or 45 days — with an end date, you are setting yourself up for failure and for the never-ending yo-yo dieting cycle,” she said.
For example, if you’ve been forbidden from eating bread, “even a stale bread basket looks amazing,” said Alpert. And once you’ve been deprived of the foods you love, you are more susceptible to binging and eventually regaining the weight you’ve lost — plus a few pounds.
“When you put food on a pedestal, and only focus on willpower to avoid your favorite foods, you create an unhealthy relationship with food and are more likely to overeat,” said Alpert.
What’s more important for success, experts say, is avoiding strict food rules — something that is typical of many diets.
“A sustainable eating plan that is balanced and is not restrictive is easier to adhere to in the long run,” agreed Kelly Pritchett, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Also, most diets that restrict or eliminate foods are also missing important nutrients and this can result in nutrient deficiencies.”
The non-diet diet
Since deprivation sets us up for diet failure, one of the most important aspects of a “non-diet diet” is intentional indulgences — that is, planned splurges without guilt attached.
“Guilt makes you fat,” said Alpert. Feeling guilty about your food choices causes you to make more poor food choices, and so it becomes a cyclical pattern, according to Alpert. “There is a time and a place for French fries and pizza and a piece of cake.”
The key, however, is planning ahead. For example, if you’re going out for dinner, and you know the restaurant has an amazing chocolate cake, then you can allow some room for it by cutting back on your starches during the day. But the idea is to fully enjoy your treat while you eat it. “It’s about eating intentionally … and saying ‘I’m going to have that piece of cake and not feel bad about it.’ “
Allowing yourself a small indulgence even on a daily basis can be helpful for weight management, according to Pritchett. “You have to figure out what works for you. I like two daily dark chocolate squares because it’s typically satisfying,” she said.