I’m talking about diet. D-I-E-T.
The word, diet, is often treated like a 4-letter word, no? Especially in the healthy living world on blogs.
There are a lot of things I love about the healthy living blog-world: The sense of community, the desire and passion to promote health and wellness, the support, and positivity. However, one thing about it that tends to frustrate me is the rose-colored glasses when it comes to losing weight. Edit: I’m definitely not talking about vanity pounds, or reaching an unhealthy, or unattainable weight, or someone who is recovering from an ED. I’m talking about clients who might be overweight or obese and would like to lose weight to reach a healthy weight (or fit better in their clothes, or lose inches, etc.)
I get where people are coming from when they say losing weight is a lifestyle, I do. They mean that a person should develop healthy habits and incorporate them into their lifestyle – working out, eating vegetables, not eating so many sweets, etc. I used to think – and preach – this way, too! Until I started training clients – clients who wanted to lose weight to be at a healthy weight, who had already been eating healthy food and exercising – or living a healthy lifestyle. These are things that are good to do at all (most) points of life – not just when one is trying to lose weight.
But when people reiterate the quote: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle! it really makes me kinda stabby. It’s not fair to those who are really trying to lose weight to say that to them. Here’s why losing weight isn’t all about developing a healthy lifestyle:
1. Two words: Calorie Deficit.
To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you take in less calories than you burn. How you do that is another matter, whether it’s through diet, exercise, or a combination of both. Once you lose this weight, congratulations! You’ve reached your goal weight.
Now what? Now it’s time to go off the diet, because you no longer need to be in a calorie deficit. You’ll need to be at maintenance, and stop dieting since you’ve reached your goal. I encourage those who’ve done this to go ahead and incorporate what they’ve learned about health into their lifestyle. Even if you’re not counting points or calories, your eating habits are going to need to shift somehow once you’ve lost the weight. Eat at maintenance now, but still eat your fruits and veggies
2. Losing Weight is Hard.
Losing weight is hard. Even for someone with all of the knowledge about nutrition in the world, it’s difficult. It’s not fun to not be able to eat and drink all the foods. It’s not fun to have to deliberately not give your body what it requires to maintain the weight it’s at – it doesn’t like it! (note: I’m not talking about HUGE deficits – enough to lose 1-2 lb’s a week.) That’s what it takes to lose weight for most people, and that’s not the kind of lifestyle I’d like to have.
3. Maintenance Mode.
Whether it’s through calorie counting, food logging, portion controlling, or just eating more mindfully, one will need to change the way he or she eats eventually, in order to maintain the weight loss. If you were calorie counting, you’ll add more calories back, portion controlling, you’ll increase the portions, “eating intuitively,”then you’ll do whatever your intuitions tell you do. Keep on working out, keep on lifting weights, keep on making healthy choices, BUT – give yourself room to enjoy yourself.
In my opinion, this is also good to give people a stopping point. A clear line. A plan to adhere to in order not to continue losing weight. A lifestyle to continue so they don’t keep losing weight and become underweight. There are few people who reach their weight loss goals who keep that weight off in the long term. When someone loses weight, they also often lose muscle mass, ergo their resting metabolism decreases. This is where the lifestyle thang comes into play. If part of the healthy lifestyle one developed was lifting weights, that person also likely maintained muscle mass more than someone who did not. This will definitely help the metabolism stay constant.
I guess I’m saying that in my opinion the “lifestyle” enters in maintenance mode. Someone may have dieted to reach a healthy weight, but now has to live a healthy lifestyle to maintain it.
Of course, there will be some times where you’ll weight a little less – and sometimes a little more, but the idea is to give yourself some room to enjoy, while sticking with what you learned. I’m actually having a little trouble not rambling here. I should do a post on maintenance all on its own!
I want to hear from you! Have you successfully lost weight (or helped others lose weight?) What methods worked best for you?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or registered dietician. I am a certified personal trainer and this is my opinion blog.