Updated: Jun 15
With COVID stay home I noticed how easy it is to slip into really bad unhealthy habits - binging on comfort food to cope with stress, binging on social media to get that instant gratification of that like on your post, Netflix binging on TigerKing. Whatever it is, you know you're slipping back and losing weight can be even more difficult now more than ever.
It's so easy to just follow the next "silver bullet" diet that promises the world to you.
Unfortunately, many Americans have an unrealistic expectation of how we should look. Social media and constant bombardment of the ideal body image can cause us to make drastic changes in our eating habits to try and achieve those ideal bodies.
This has caused the creation of fad diets to take over the average American household. These diets make promises of rapid weight loss, but they are actually damaging to our health. The weight that is lost with these diets, usually comes right back.
Although fad diets are very popular, balanced nutrition combined with regular physical exercise is the key to a sustainable healthy weight. This article will break down the differences between balanced nutrition and a fad diet, and help you learn to identify and avoid fad diets and implement balanced nutrition into your life.
What is a Fad Diet?
Fad diets are extreme dieting techniques that are meant to help people lose weight quickly. They pop up, get very popular, and then usually disappear as quickly as they came.
Fad diets tend to cut out whole food groups, severely restrict your calorie intake, make wild claims of quick weight loss or increased energy, or include pills, shakes, or powders that make the “magic” happen.
Many times, fad diets can even be endorsed by a well-known celebrity, but this doesn’t mean that they are worth it. Fad diets can lead to dehydration, lack of vitamins and minerals, headaches, nausea, being so weak you can’t think straight, fatigue, bowel problems, and the list goes on.
You need to do your own study into their claims and the feasibility of the diet and its effect on your health. For the most part, fad diets should be avoided at all cost.
If you’re looking for a silver bullet, it isn’t in the fad diet. Making lasting lifestyle habits is what really works and that takes effort, patience, and commitment. With society pushing instant gratification more than ever, this can be hard to develop but it is well worth it.
What if you need to lose weight quickly?
There are times when you might need to temporarily use what would typically be considered a fad diet because you are in a dangerous situation related to your being overweight. Your doctor might prescribe you to a certain diet that isn’t sustainable and, in this instance, it’s okay.
Even in this situation you should be picky about which diet you use. Some examples of diets that can be maintained for a period of time without causing damage to your health include the low carb version such as Atkins, Ketogenic, and the South Beach Diets.
Of course, you should always get doctor’s or nutritionist’s sign off before delving into any of these diets to avoid potential harm. The nature of some of these diets might interact negatively with your own body chemistry or illnesses that you have.
You can also consider some diets that are good for diseases related to inflammation such as Vegan, Paleo, and the Zone diet.
Another example of a popular diet that can be beneficial when used sparingly is intermittent fasting, or the 5:2 diet.
I personally tried a raw food diet as I needed to loose about 5 pounds in a month to prepare for a bicycle race. It took a major effort with food prepping because I didn't find many food vendors that catered raw food options outside of pure salads and veggies.
I succeeded but I knew it was a temporary fix to maintain my healthy lifestyle. So what would I recommend for the sustainable way to maintain your weight and most importantly your health?
How to make balanced nutrition a part of your life
The best way to lose weight is by changing the way you eat for the rest of your life. Making small positive changes consistently until you eat a balanced meal every day will create a lifestyle that you can enjoy and be at you best physical health.
You will slowly drop the weight, maintain high energy levels, get great sleep, and have good mental focus.
So, what is the end goal? What does balanced nutrition really look like? Put simply, balanced nutrition should meet all your body’s needs and nothing more.
Figure out your daily caloric need. Use this calculator here to find out: https://tdeecalculator.net/. Now that you have a ballpark, you can determine how much food you should be eating every day approximately.
Include the three macronutrients in every meal. These three are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Focus on getting plenty of complex carbs, lean protein, and high-quality fats like Omega 3’s. Your macros ratio should be 10-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrates, and 20-35% fat. You can work with these numbers and ratios to find the one that works best for you. The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.4-0.8 grams per pound of body weight depending on how active you are. Most people would hit the lower end of this spectrum. If you eat a high protein diet (higher than 35% of your calorie intake), your risk of heart disease and some types of cancer gets a significant spike.
Make it a habit to make your veggies the star of the show, or at least the main supporting role. When you include a rainbow of fruits and vegetables into your daily menu, your body gets its vitamins and minerals needed.
Drink lots of water to keep the body hydrated.
Be mindfully engaged in your food choices and eating habits, not putting severe rules or restrictions on what you put into your body.
Mindful eating can be difficult at first and self-discipline might be an issue if you’re not used to the technique. Our next article will focus on how to use mindful eating to make balanced nutrition a lifestyle. It will also talk about how to use meditation and physical activity to enhance your success.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Youth Fitness Specialist