The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.
Habits and cravings are the devil when it comes to dieting. Let's first deal with habits. Juge explains that it takes a good week or two to ease into dieting. "Fast food is so easy and there's a McDonald's on every corner. The hardest thing is to develop the new habit of preparing your meals and taking them with you." The first week is the most difficult, so prepare yourself for some challenges as you abandon your usual routine. For example, you might usually go out for a sub sandwich or burger at lunch. You'll now have to bring your food with you and resist the temptation of spicing up your meal with the Doritos in the vending machine or your usual can of Coke. It can be a real mental battle to stick to your food plan.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
While some people respond well to counting calories or similar restrictive methods, others respond better to having more freedom in planning their weight-loss programs. Being free to simply avoid fried foods or cut back on refined carbs can set them up for success. So, don’t get too discouraged if a diet that worked for somebody else doesn’t work for you. And don’t beat yourself up if a diet proves too restrictive for you to stick with. Ultimately, a diet is only right for you if it’s one you can stick with over time.
Other factors that can influence your decision include the program’s overall cost and your budget, whether you prefer pre-packaged options or the flexibility to eat out and cook your own meals, and finally, the degree of community interaction. Multiple studies have found that weight loss and diet control are most successful when there’s a degree of accountability and peer support. Most diet plan programs have a wide range of interactive, community-building features that can also help you gage customer satisfaction with the diet plan.
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.
Eating healthy is easier if you prepare for the expected and the unexpected. That’s why Lara Felton, RDN, head of the dietary team at mobile nutrition app ShopWell recommends preparing filling snacks for work or school. “I find that people often make poor food choices because they get so hungry they just grab whatever is close,” she says.”If you have something healthy already tucked in your bag or briefcase, you’ll save yourself the extra calories and eater’s remorse.” She recommends packing snacks that have a balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fat to keep your energy levels up and hunger at bay, but nothing too perishable or fragile.
Becky Duffett is a contributing nutrition editor for Fitbit and a lifestyle writer with a passion for eating well. A former Williams-Sonoma cookbook editor and graduate of San Francisco Cooking School, she’s edited dozens of cookbooks and countless recipes. City living has turned her into a spin addict—but she’d still rather be riding a horse. She lives in the cutest neighborhood in San Francisco, spending weekends at the farmers’ market, trying to read at the bakery, and roasting big dinners for friends.