Keto, gluten-free, flexitarian . . . Chances are, you’ve come across at least one of these trending diets recently — possibly along with several others. And if you’re among the many folks who set New Year’s resolutions this year, eating differently in order to lose weight may be at the top of your goals list.
But before you embark on an entirely new eating plan, there are a few things to consider.
The Dark Side of Diets
While dieting may once have been perceived as harmless or good for your health, in recent years, a darker side has emerged. “Diet culture,” or the set of beliefs that values slenderness over actual health and wellness, has revealed itself as potentially harmful, especially when “normalized” through social media channels that emphasize false images over substance.
Any diet that encourages extreme cutbacks, for example, can have detrimental effects on your health, both short-term and long-term. Severe calorie restriction can lower your metabolism, cause nutrient deficiencies and fatigue, and even reduce immunity and fertility.
There are also potentially harmful psychological effects that come with dieting. While most people planning to better themselves don’t set out with harmful thoughts in mind, restrictive dieting “. . . erodes a person’s belief in their own abilities, suffocates their sense of peace about their character, causes them to question their value as a person, and finally, sadly, diminishes what they believe they deserve in life,” Darice Doorn, RD, LD explained to HuffPost in 2012. “This trickle-down effect damages almost every area of their life — work, home, and relationships.”
The good news is that there are ways to focus on weight loss without allowing the dark aspects of dieting to take over your life. Here are a few tips for striking a balance that works for you.
Explore Your Why
If you’re pursuing a diet, the first question to ask yourself is, “Why?” If it’s because you think you need to shed 20 pounds to be more “acceptable,” perhaps rethink your motivation. Wanting to have more energy, or to enjoy a long life by fueling your body more healthily may be more powerful long-term motivators (and better for you overall) than fitting into a specific clothing size.
Think Addition, Not Elimination
We already know that processed foods with added sugars, saturated fat, and excess sodium aren’t good for us. We also know that choosing minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods when possible is linked to a number of beneficial health outcomes, including:
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of certain cancers, including breast and colon cancers
- Improved bone health and reduced fracture risks
- Lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol
But it’s easy to become discouraged when we focus on what we can’t have.
So unless there’s a medical reason to eliminate a specific food or food group, consider practicing moderation across the board. Better yet, focus on what you can add — not what you need to take away. Filling your plate with a combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and proteins as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans allows you to emphasize nourishment and health over restriction. And may make you too full for the other stuff.
As with creating a new exercise regimen, changing your diet can take time, and experimentation. At LifeBrite Stokes, we’re here to address your body’s unique needs in a way that helps you feel and operate at your best. To make an appointment, call (336) 593-2831 or visit us online.
Learn more about LifeBrite
Atlanta-based LifeBrite, led by CEO Christian Fletcher, operates LifeBrite Community Hospital of Early, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, and Lifebrite Laboratories. To learn more about our services and facilities, visit our website or call (336) 593-2831.