Most people who read my articles and e-books know me as a science guy who likes to quote research and apply research to daily problems such as weight loss, bodybuilding, and other health/fitness related topics. However , sometimes you have to step back from the science and look at the big picture to help provide people back into focus, so they can see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
For many individuals reading this article, finding an effective diet plan that works most of the time must seem as complicated as nuclear physics. It’s not, but there are a bewildering number of choices for diets out there. High fat or no fat? High carbohydrate or no carbohydrate? Low protein or high proteins? To make matters worse, there are a mil variations and combinations to the above diet scenarios to add to the misunderstandings. It seems endless and causes lots of people to throw up their hands within frustration and give up. In this article I will attempt to change all that.
There are some general guidelines, rules of thumb, and ways of seeing a diet program that will allow you to decide, once and for all, if it’s the right diet for you. You may not always like what I say, and you should be under no illusions this is another quick fix, “lose hundred lbs. in 20 days, ” guide of some sort. However , in case you are sick and tired of being confused, tired of taking weight off only to put it back on, and tired of wondering tips on how to take the first steps to deciding the right diet for you that will result in long lasting weight loss, then this is the article which could change your life…
Does your diet pass “The Test”?
What is the number one reason diets fail long term; above all else? The number one reason is… drum roll… a lack of long term compliance. The numbers don’t lie; the vast majority of people who lose weight can regain it – and often go beyond what they lost. You knew that will already didn’t you?
Yet, what are you doing to avoid it? Here is another reality check: virtually any diet plan you pick which follows the basic idea of “burning” more calories then you eat – the well accepted “calories in calories out” mantra : will cause you to lose weight. To some degree, they all work: Atkins-style, no carb diet plans, low fat high carb diets, all manner of fad diets – it just does not matter in the short term.
If your goal would be to lose some weight quickly, then find out and follow it. I guarantee you will lose some weight. Studies generally discover any of the commercial weight loss diets can get approximately the same amount of weight away from after 6 months to a year. For instance , a recent study found the Atkins’ Diet, Slim-Fast plan, Weight Watchers Pure Points program, and Rosemary Conley’s Eat Yourself Slim diet plan, were all equally effective. (1)
Other studies comparing other popular diets have come to essentially the exact same conclusions.
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For example , a study that compared the Atkins diet, the Ornish diet, Weight Watchers, and The Area Diet, found them to be basically the same in their ability to take bodyweight off after one year. (2)
Recall what I said about the number one cause diets fail, which is a lack of compliance. The lead researcher of this current study stated:
“Our trial discovered that adherence level rather than diet plan type was the primary predictor associated with weight loss”(3)
Translated, it’s not which diet they chose per se, but their ability to actually stick to a diet that predicted their weight loss success. I can just see the hands going up right now, “but Will, some diets should be better than others, right? ” Are some diets better then others? Absolutely. Some diets are healthier then others, some diets are much better at preserving lean body mass, some diets are better at suppressing urge for food – there are many differences between diets. However , while most of the popular diet programs will work for taking weight off, what is abundantly clear is that adhering to the diet is the most important aspect for keeping the weight away from long term.
What is a diet?
A diet is a short term strategy to lose weight. Long term weight loss is the result of an alteration in life-style. We are concerned with life long weight management, not really quick fix weight loss here. I don’t like the term diet, as it represents a brief term attempt to lose weight vs . a change in lifestyle. Want to lose a lot of weight quickly? Heck, I will provide you with the information on how to do that here and now to get no charge.
For the next 90 to 120 days eat 12 scrambled egg whites, one whole grapefruit, and a gallon of water twice a day. You will lose plenty of weight. Will it be healthy? Nope. Will the weight stay off once you are carried out with this diet and are then forced to get back to your “normal” way of eating? Not really a chance. Will the weight you lose come from fat or will it be muscle, drinking water, bone, and (hopefully! ) a few fat? The point being, there are many diet plans out there that are perfectly capable of obtaining weight off you, but when thinking of any eating plan designed to lose weight, you need to ask yourself:
“Is this a way of eating I can follow long term? ”
Which brings me to my check: I call it the “Can I eat that way for the rest of my life? ” Test. I know, it does not exactly roll off your tongue, but it gets the way.
The lesson here is: any nutritional plan you pick to lose weight must be component of a lifestyle change you will be able to follow – in one form or another — forever. That is, if it’s not a method of eating you can comply with indefinitely, even after you get to your target weight, after that it’s worthless.
Thus, many fad diets you see out there are immediately eliminated, and you don’t have to worry about all of them. The question is not whether the diet works well in the short term, but if the diet can be adopted indefinitely as a lifelong way of eating. Going from “their” way of consuming back to “your” way of eating once you reach your target weight is a recipe for disaster and the cause of the well established yo-yo dieting symptoms. Bottom line: there are no short cuts, there is no free lunch, and only a commitment to a lifestyle change is going to keep your fat off long term. I recognize that’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s the truth, like it delete word.
The statistics don’t lie: having the weight off is not the toughest part, keeping the weight off is! If you take a close look at the many popular fad/commercial diets out there, and you are sincere with yourself, and apply my test above, you will find most of them no more appeal to you as they once did. Additionally, it brings me to an example that will adds additional clarity: If you have diet A that will cause the most weight reduction in the shortest amount of time but will be unbalanced and essentially impossible to follow long term vs . diet B, that will take the weight off at a slower pace, but is easier to follow, well balanced, healthy, and something you can comply with every single year, which is superior? If diet A gets 30 lbs off a person in 30 days, but by next year you might have gained back all 30 pounds, but diet B gets 20 lbs off you in the next 3 months with another 20 lbs 3 months after that and the weight stays off by the end of that year, which is the greater diet?
If you don’t know the answer to those people questions, you have totally missed the point of this article and the lesson it’s wanting to teach you, and are set up for failing. Go back and read this section again… By default, diet B is superior.
Teach a man to Fish…
A well known Chinese Proverb is – Provide a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed your pet for a lifetime.
This expression fits completely with the next essential step in how to decide what eating plan you should follow for losing weight permanently. Will the diet plan you are thinking about teach you how to eat long term, or does it spoon-feed you information? Will the diet rely on special bars, shakes, supplements or pre-made foods they provide?
Let’s do another diet The vs . diet B comparison. Diet plan A is going to supply you with their food items, as well as their special drink or even bars to eat, and tell you exactly when to eat them. You will lose – say – 30 lbs in two months. Diet B will attempt to help you learn which food items you should eat, how many calories you should eat, why you need to eat them, plus generally attempt to help teach you how to eat as part of a total lifestyle change that will allow you to make informed decisions about your nutrition. Diet W causes a slow steady weight loss of 8 -10 lbs per month for the next 6 months and the weight remains off because you now know how to eat properly.
Recall the Chinese proverb. Both diets will assist you to lose weight. Only one diet, however , will teach you how you can be self-reliant after your experience is over. Diet A is easier, to make sure, and causes faster weight loss compared to diet B, and diet M takes longer and requires several thinking and learning on your part. However , when diet A has ended, you are right back where you started and also have been given no skills to fish. Diet companies don’t make their own profits by teaching you to seafood, they make their money by giving you a fish so you must use them indefinitely or come back to them after you gain all the weight back.
Thus, diet B is superior for allowing you to succeed where other diet programs failed, with knowledge gained that you can apply long term. Diet programs that try to spoon feed you a diet with no attempt to teach you how to eat with no their help and/or rely on their particular shakes, bars, cookies, or pre-made foods, is another diet you can get rid of from your list of choices.
Diet plans that offer weight loss by drinking their item for several meals followed by a “sensible dinner; ” diets that allow you to consume their special cookies for most foods along with their pre-planned menu; or diet programs that attempt to have you eating their bars, drink, or pre-made meals, are of the diet A variety covered above. They’re easy to follow but destined for failure, long term. All of them fail the “Can I consume that way for the rest of my life? ” check, unless you really think you can eat cookies and shakes for the rest of your life… Main point here here is, if the nutritional approach you use to lose weight, be it from a book, the class, a clinic, or a good e-book, does not teach you how to eat, it’s a loser for long term weight reduction and it should be avoided.
The missing link for long term weight loss
We now make our way to another test to help you choose a nutrition program to get long term weight loss, and it does not really involve nutrition. The missing link for long term weight loss is workout. Exercise is the essential component of long term weight loss. Many diet programs do not contain an exercise component, which means they are losers regarding long term weight loss from the very begin. Any program that has its focus on weight loss but does not include an extensive exercise plan is like buying a car without having tires, or a plane without wings. People who have successfully kept the weight away overwhelmingly have incorporated exercise into their lives, and the studies that take a look at people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off invariably find these people were consistent with their diet and exercise plans. (4)
I am not going to listing all the benefits of regular exercise here, but regular exercise has positive effects on your metabolism, allows you to eat more calories though be in a calorie deficit, and can help preserve lean body mass (LBM) which is essential to your health and metabolism. The many health benefits of regular exercise are well identified, so I won’t bother adding them here. The bottom line here is, (a) should you have any intentions of getting the most from the goal of losing weight and (b) plan to keep it off long term, routine workouts must be an integral part of the weight loss strategy. So , you can eliminate any program, be it book, e-book, clinic, and so forth that does not offer you direction and help with this essential part of long term weight reduction.