Jerny Rieves continues her series on eating rules for a healthier life with rule number 5Don’t go to extremes.

Making the resolution to “lose weight” or change your diet in 2014?  Jump on board!  There are hundreds of diet plans out there to choose from.  Most of them are fads, backed up with little science and a whole lot of marketing.  There are also some super programs out there focused on educating you on how to make real, lasting, healthful changes.  So how do you know the difference?

While it is true that in order to see change, you need to make change, it is your willingness to make permanent change that leads to long term success.  Let’s face it, that’s what you really want, right?

Jerny_diet_extremes_350With the above concept in mind, my 5th rule for eating is this: Don’t go to new extremes, rather… you should eliminate any extreme behaviors you are currently practicing.

Eating an entire box of Girl Scout cookies is extreme.  Drinking alcohol until you black-out is extreme.  Finishing a bag of chips, single handedly, that has 11 servings in it is extreme.  You can rationalize this behavior until you are blue, but the reality of the situation is that our body is not designed to handle any of those three examples.

The human body is a finely tuned machine.  It will use what it needs as fuel, and the rest will be stored as fat.  If you are deficient in nutrients, it will send a signal to the brain to eat.  If it does not receive the signal that the deficiency has been satisfied, it will not turn off the signal.  Over-eating, or over-drinking anything causes stress on the body.  It is only designed to manage a relatively small amount of consumption at any one time.  Eating excessively causes a cascade of chemical (hormonal) reactions to occur, and the end result is always fat storage.

The same is true in dieting.  Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum.  Eliminating entire food groups is never a good idea unless… you are severely allergic or you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that warrants avoidance of these foods.  Lactose and Gluten are specific examples.  Those with food sensitivities (that have been evaluated by a qualified professional) will be given specific recommendations.  Dr. Atkins is dead, so you didn’t get your advice from him, just a marketing company that would love for you to buy the food (see my last column…rule #4).

Extreme calorie restriction for any longer than 48 hours is a major no-no.  You may have fantastic short term results, but the health risks can be long lasting and/or permanent.  You will most likely gain all the weight back and more because your body has now been trained to store fat for emergency situations.  None of us need any help in that department.  Not only did you set yourself up to fail, you also shortchanged yourself on vital nutrients that are important to everyday function.  No matter how much juice you drank, it doesn’t replace food.  This style of dieting is not only ineffective; it can be downright dangerous for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

So what is a good plan?  Here is a bullet list of what to look for when seeking the “diet” that is right for you.

  • Jerny_diet_extremes_200The recommended food and beverages are pure food, and the labels are very clear on what it is you are eating.
  • There is a support system in place.  You can call or email a question and receive a quick response, and there is an emotionally supportive group to help with the difficulty that behavior change invariably brings.
  • You are encouraged to eat the appropriate amounts for your needs and size.  A 250 pound man should not be following the same plan as a 150 pound woman.
  • It should be comprehensive.  The plan should mention that exercise is an important component to ensure long term results.
  • It should be easy to follow and understand.
  • If products are included, they should be high quality protein from non-GMO sources, and free from artificial sweeteners.  Vitamins should be reputable and manufactured in the US.
  • The company should have a strong, healthy history.  Due diligence is required when researching even more well-known businesses.  The diet industry is not held to high standards and “buyer beware” is appropriate here.
  • It should work!  Most plans will come with a money back guarantee.  If you are not satisfied, don’t give up.  Return for a refund and find something that works better for you.

The bottom line:  There are more programs and resources than ever to ensure your success.  Finding what works for you isn’t difficult.  The behavior change that will be required long term is a little tougher to stick with so it has to be doable.  Avoid extremes, find what works, and stick to it!

Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels!  Cheers to more energy, better health, and smaller sizes!

Check out Jerny’s previous articles on her Rules for Eating here: #1#2#3, #4

Jerny Rieves, cscs, pes, ces, health education - health educator - Scottsdale