If you’ve attended any of my online workshops then you know how much I dislike quick fixes and crash diets. You might also know that I’ve tried many of them myself, only to fail time and time again.
When I say quick fixes, what I truly mean is any kind of crash diet plan which promises unhealthy amounts of weight loss in a short period of time- like losing 10 or 20 pounds in one week. I’m also talking about those programs which unnecessarily restrict your eating and turn your exercise into something out of the military. There are hundreds, probably thousands of programs like that out there.
While it is true that you may experience some results, like weight lost or maybe some more muscle definition- the weight and pudge tends to come back after the program is over, and then some.
I remember working at a health food store while I was in nutrition school. At least 50% of the people who came through the door were looking for a weight loss remedy. Specifically a pill or two they could take to drop weight, and drop loads of weight quickly. I would have to look at them and explain that while the store did carry supplements of this nature, many of them came with their own laundry list of potential cautions and side effects. Many of these customers were hell bent on their choices however, believing what certain TV doctors were telling them in a 2 minute clip.
If you’ve ever tried some diet pills, done some crash dieting and calorie counting or military-style workouts only to drop a bit of weight and gain it back in double, this article is for you.
Here’s a few reasons these programs and pills are failing you every time:
They Muck Up Insulin
Many crash diet programs focus on two things: reducing calories and reducing dietary fat. Both of these strategies have the potential to really fuck up our blood sugar. Insulin is the hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels. If we become insensitive to insulin, this leads to a myriad of problems. Everything in our body depends on the well-working relationship between blood sugar and insulin. Without it, we feel stressed, gain weight, can’t ovulate, and feel depressed.
Calorie counting focuses only on the total calories you intake during the day, rather than the proportions of certain foods that you eat. So in theory, you could enjoy five 100-calorie snack packs as long as it fits into your daily total, even though they have zero nutrients. So you end up eating a sugary, carb-filled day of food and feel SUPER hungry despite eating a little something every couple of hours. You are literally starving your body of the nutrients and calories it needs to function optimally- in order to balance your hormones and boost your metabolism.
Additionally, those low-fat diets make me absolutely crazy. The school of thought that fats are bad for you is ludicrous. This science came out of some bad studies back in the day, and a low-fat diet was promoted for a few decades as being heart-disease preventative and great for weight loss. The truth is that every single fucking cell on our bodies has fat in it. Our body makes hormones (like estrogen and cortisol) from cholesterol in fat. No fat = Shitty health.
When we eat fat, we are satisfied for at least 4 hours. More fat = No overeating. Eating a larger proportion of healthy dietary fats (like avocados, coconut oil and seeds) reduces the amount of blood sugar and insulin floating around. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, so the less active insulin there is, the less fat will be stored in your body. Not to mention that your hormones will work to keep you on an even keel day in and day out.
They Decrease (Already Negligible) Self-Confidence
So many of us do these crash diet programs and pills because we don’t feel good about ourselves. We’re too fat to be loveable. We’re too fat to get the raise or find a spouse. We’re too fat, ugly and shitty. These programs market to us in a very strategic way to make us feel as bad about ourselves as possible. Then we’ll buy their program, right?
While surface confidence may increase when you lose weight, the ugly cycle restarts when the weight starts to climb again, and we feel out of control. I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely been a slave to the scale. Thinking if I was X pounds, I would finally be happy. But when you step on the scale one day to see a much anticipated number, only to see it climb by 2 pounds the very next day, it’s quite a blow to the psyche.
They Don’t Emphasize the Creation of a Long-Term Lifestyle
Quick weight loss, and see ya later! That’s the mentality of many crash diet programs. There is absolutely no education on how to keep up a healthful lifestyle after the program is finished. So we go back to our old ways- it’s human nature!
And even if you tried to continue a low-calorie, low-fun program going for the long-term, eventually the body will crash. Crash from not enough calories, and not enough nutrient density. Sure, avocados may be higher calorie and higher fat, but they also provide your body with loads of important fats, vitamins and minerals which keep you healthy and happy. The opposite of this is those damned 100-calorie packs (which I loathe). They provide some calories, and zero nutrition. These foods are so doctored its amazing people are living (not thriving) on a diet of these every day! Don’t you want to THRIVE?
Their Science is Crap
Remember that I mentioned the old school of thought about low-fat, calorie-reduced diets are healthful? Yeah, it’s total crap. Sorry to burst your bubble but someone had to drop this knowledge on you. Our bodies are in dire need of fat and calories. There’s even whole cultures who eat mainly fat (like the Inuit and other northern aboriginal cultures) and thrive on it. They don’t eat any boxed or bagged foods, and somehow still manage to be healthier than a lot of us!
Our bodies need cholesterol to make all steroid hormones- including cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (to name a few). Where does that cholesterol come from? F-A-T. Go ahead, eat those eggs. Eat that fish. Eat those nuts and seeds. Your body thanks you.
What about the old adage that reducing calories and doing cardio will help you lose weight and balance hormones? Crap. Reducing calories only makes your body think it’s starving and so in an effort to prepare for a potential lack of food, your body goes into fat storage mode. Even the carbs you’re eating will be stored as fat. Add that to the breakdown of muscle tissue (not fat tissue) that results from low-calorie diets and you have a recipe for disaster. Disaster as in poor hormonal balance, super slow metabolism and yes, even mood problems like anxiety and depression.
If you’re mind is completely blown after reading this, and now you’re freaking out because you don’t know what to do or how to eat, don’t worry. It’s really not all that complicated. Here’s a few tips on what works.
What Can I Do That Actually Works?
Be a tortoise, not a hare.
Slow and steady wins the race. I get that you want to be some pounds lighter already. And you’re sick of trying shit. And you want to be at the end result already- like how many more months and years should you have to struggle?
Get it. Been there. Tried it all. You know what worked? Going slow. Giving in to the process. Accepting myself as I am now, even though I still want to make changes.
Eat the rainbow.
Don’t restrict yourself (unless you have to due to allergies or other diseases, of course). Variety makes me happy. I love being able to have 10 different vegetables in my fridge to enjoy for the week. I don’t enjoy the fake crap that comes in bags, boxes and cartons. No flavor (except maybe salt, sugar or chemicals), no nutrition, no value. Throw it away and replace it with some colorful shit.
Yes, leading a healthy happy hormone-promoting lifestyle takes some planning. I use one day per week to prep most of my food- from chopping veggies to cooking proteins and preparing snacks. I even cut up my green juice veggies ahead of time when I know I’ll be busy. I run my own business and still manage to be healthy. You can too.
Pick some easy recipes. Make a grocery list. Stick to it. Prep the food when you get home. Throw some prepped shit together after a long day at work and voila! Healthy dinner. Repeat.
Get accountability and support.
Trying to do it alone is no good. Creating a separate meal for yourself while watching your spouse and kids eat some crappy shit you’d rather be shovelling in, sucks. Trying to manage your already busy life and include healthy food, lifestyle and emotional practices is a lot. Why not ask your hubby to take on some responsibility? Get your kids in the kitchen and let them tear lettuce and shred carrots for a salad. Get an organic produce box delivery. Make big batches of healthy food and swap with your girlfriends- might take a night or two of cooking off your plate.
Schedule time to meditate and move your body. Seek out a natural healthcare practitioner to put you on the right track and to keep you accountable to your personal goals. Join groups and take workshops with like-minded women who can support you in your journey. Whatever it takes!
Most diet programs are not personalized. They say eat 1200 calories and do 45 minutes of cardio 5 days per week not matter who you are. If our bodies are all individual (they are) and no two alike (they aren’t), then why would you want to use a program that promises results for men and women, young and old, diseased and un-diseased? Doesn’t make sense. Find a program, community or practitioner that can personalize your journey by recommending specific foods, exercise protocols and supplements to get you where you want to be. This is how you can be sure what you’re doing is addressing all the root causes of your issues.