In January, 1 in 4 Americans will start the year off with a resolution. Topping the list of resolutions are to eat more healthfully or lose weight – more than 50% of all New Year’s resolutions involve weight loss. The diet and weight loss industry, fully aware of these trends, are about to flood our social media feeds and televisions with advertisements for quick fix weight loss programs and fad diets. Many people wonder how to wade through the weight loss messaging and find a sustainable way to eat more healthfully in the new year. The following are some tips to help you develop long-term healthier eating habits.
First let’s define a fad diet. A fad diet is typically one that promises quick weight loss. Most of these diets do so by eliminating important sources of nutrition such as grains or certain fruits and vegetables. Some also claim magical thinking around specific foods such as sweet potatoes, while demonizing others such as legumes. There are hundreds of fad diets available, but one thing they all have in common is that they promise a quick fix to what is really a lifelong journey of health. Many produce fast results but are unsustainable for the long term. However, research studies of people who have lost weight and kept it off show that sustainability is the key to long-term success.
Realistic lifestyle change involves finding eating habits that support overall health in addition to weight loss. Research has shown that among people who have lost weight (at least 10 pounds) and kept it off for at least 5 years, there is one common factor: continued success involves eating high quality nutritious foods with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. These eating patterns also minimize consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (such as sodas), processed foods, and refined grains. There is no one size fits all dietary approach that will work for everyone, but nearly all successful and maintainable weight loss can be attributed to healthy eating patterns that were lower in calories overall while being higher on the Healthy Eating Index.
Wondering how to get started? Slowly incorporate healthier eating habits. By picking one or two goals per month, many people find that they can achieve success and stick with these changes. A small goal could include adding in 1 fruit and 1 vegetable serving to each day, committing to 150 minutes of exercise each week, or aiming for 25 grams of fiber per day. Working with a registered dietitian is another great way to get help choosing goals and finding ways to maintain change.
As you are being inundated with ads for the latest diet that promises rapid weight loss, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And lifelong healthy eating and sustained weight loss is just that — lifelong.