Dieting is often seen as a quick way to lose weight. We associate a diet with big life events such as prom, weddings, summer vacations, and more. Unfortunately for most Americans, dieting is – more often than not – a temporary attempt at weight loss that ends in an ongoing struggle with weight fluctuation. Diets are often restrictive and make certain foods taboo entirely.
Dieting is one option for losing weight. However, people keep the weight off when they truly make lifestyle changes. This also encourages healthier ways of thinking about your body and it’s physical and mental health.
Why Dieting Is Only A Temporary Fix
For many ‘dieting’ leads to quick weight loss for a short amount of time. This gives people a temporary solution to the problem. They can wear that dress! Those pants do fit! Through their newfound diet and exercise routine, individuals obtain the body image they prefer.
More often than not, the dieter’s mindset runs along the lines of “I’ll lose the weight and it will stay off.”
Unfortunately, a temporary diet and exercise program has a direct correlation to body health. Once eating habits return to ‘normal’ and the exercise routines cease, the weight will quickly return causing an unhealthy fluctuation.
A typical dieting program consists of the following:
- Foods are marked ‘unhealthy’ or ‘bad’ result in the complete removal of these foods from one’s diet.
- Calorie restrictions. When people count calories for everything going into their body, it leads to stress. If these thought patterns continue, they devolve quickly to unhealthy habits.
- People measure success & failures on a scale. Oftentimes, this leads to a focus on an obsession solely with weight loss rather than achieving a healthy body. This is an even bigger issue when you add in the fact that human body weight fluctuates.
- Rapid weight loss leads to drastic changes in the body and causes individuals to feel both hungry and tired on a consistent basis.
These typical dieting methods more often than not lead to feelings of frustration, discouragement, and loss of self-worth. This is especially true when the weight returns after the dieting period have ended.
Why Lifestyle Changes Work
While dieting focuses on short-term results, lifestyle adjustments focus on long-term management. A change in lifestyle reduces the stress brought on by a fad diet. Lifestyle changes allow for a more gradual and effective change. Unlike diets, lifestyle changes don’t need to be as restrictive as removing foods completely but rather moderate the amount of consumption of foods that are considered ‘bad.’
Lifestyle changes are nothing more than learning healthy habits and habits quickly become second nature. A successful lifestyle change will include the following:
- Substituting unhealthy foods for healthy alternatives without sacrificing flavor. There are many healthy alternatives to foods that are considered ‘bad.’ For example, beef can be purchased in a leaner ratio for grease and fat reduction. Sugary cereals can be exchanged for full-grain options that feature fresh fruits and berries for a ‘healthy sugar’ meal rather than a processed sugar meal.
- As mentioned above the practice of moderation rather than restriction will go a long way in helping the development of healthy habits. Perhaps you only have one donut with a banana or apple rather than two donuts. These moderation tactics will help remove the feeling of restrictions and the desire to retaliate by gorging oneself on ‘bad’ foods.
- Weight loss is focused less on numbers reflected on a scale and more on how you ‘feel’ and look. Getting healthy and losing weight isn’t just about looking good, it’s about feeling good too. With better health, you are more likely to keep the weight off and stay motivated to stick to your new lifestyle and habit changes.
- While an easy way to track weight loss is via a scale, a much healthier method is 1-2 pounds per week rather than a drastic drop reflected in dieting.
When it comes to dieting versus lifestyle changes you are better off focusing on developing new habits slowly over time. Dieting is a short-term and temporary solution that often leads to more harm than good.
With lifestyle changes, you are being kinder not just to yourself but your body as well. The reduction of stress associated with dieting is just the first step. With lifestyle changes, you also avoid the feelings of extreme hunger, fatigue, food deprivation, weakness, and overall both physical and mental exhaustion.
While weight loss is slower with lifestyle changes, it is both permanent and healthier in the long run as opposed to dieting where most if not all previously lost weight will return. Lifestyle changes do not need to be an overnight process and are best done with the ‘snowball method.’ Start small and allow your healthy habits to build from there, make one change at a time until it becomes a habit, and then make another change. You will not only be happier, but healthier too.