weight loss

The one question to ask before starting a diet

I’m often asked for my opinion on various diet and training programs. “Is this diet healthy? Will I lose weight? Will this exercise give me abs?”

More important than any answer to the above questions is what I ask in return. “Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?”

Cutting out all sugars, working out 6 days a week, and replacing meals with a protein shake may sound enticing, especially when such efforts are promised to result in weight loss. And for most people, strict dietary and exercises changes will lead to weight loss. At least in the short term. But what about long-term success? I have yet to meet anyone who wants to lose weight only temporarily with the intention of gaining it all back, plus more. We want to lose weight and keep it off for good. And so that is why it’s so important to focus on sustainable lifestyle changes for weight loss and maintenance.

Most “cleaning eating” plans recommend cutting out all sugars, alcohol, and perhaps even dairy and grains. While I believe this is a good approach to take if you’re interested in trying an elimination diet for food intolerances, I don’t believe it supports long-term weight loss.

Take Patty as an example. Patty enjoys wine and drinks a few glasses each evening with dinner. Patty decides to cut out all alcohol in order to lose weight. She saves a couple hundred calories each day and does in fact see weight loss. But then Patty’s real life gets in the way. She’s invited to multiple weddings over the summer, her girlfriends plan a get-together at the new wine bar downtown, and Patty’s husband continues to bring home a nice bottle of vino after work on Friday’s.

Is it realistic for Patty to continue avoiding wine all together for the sake of weight loss? Can she see herself doing this for the rest of her life? Likely not if its something she enjoys. In fact, continued restriction is likely to lead Patty to give up her wine-free diet all together.

A better approach? 

Multiple glasses of wine on a daily basis is a significant source of calories of empty calories and thus a good area to work on for weight loss. If Patty can limit her intake to one 5 oz (measured) glass of wine 3 days per week, she’ll cut several hundred calories each week and still be able to enjoy something she likes. During weeks when she has a social event, she can plan ahead and make one of those her wine days, still limiting herself to one drink.

This kind of “meet in the middle” approach is one that supports long-term weight loss because emphasis is on sustainable changes, not total restriction.
Think about your own weight loss efforts and which actions you feel you can continue for the rest of your life. If you don’t see yourself doing them in the next 2, 5 and 10 years, it’s a good sign you need to reevaluate your plan.

 

Image courtesy of http://tipstimes.com/diet

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