Every year, thousands of people resolve to lose weight after the seemingly endless indulgences that come with the holiday season — for good reason. Many people gain a couple of pounds from consuming too much sugar, too much booze or too many “comfort foods,” and January first seems like a great time to reset and start fresh. With the new year comes new energy to kick-start efforts to get healthy.
Come Feb. 1, most people have fallen off the bandwagon, only to feel bad about themselves for failing. This can lead to emotional eating, which can lead to more weight gain. However, if you’ve fallen victim to this cycle, it may not be your fault. It may be the diet you swore you were going to stick to this year. It’s time to look at a few of these “miracle” solutions for weight loss and see them for what they are — gimmicks that lead you to crash and burn before Valentine’s Day even rolls around. Here are a few diets to avoid this new year in your weight loss efforts:
Juice cleanses or detoxes
The notion that you need to cleanse or detox your body is a made-up one. Your kidneys and liver are designed to rid your body of any toxins you may ingest, such as alcohol, medications or by-products of metabolism. No liquid is going to do a better job than your biological processes.
Juice isn’t food. It lacks the fiber, protein and fat your body needs to function on a daily basis. It’s also not particularly filling; and if it’s made of mostly fruit, the high amount of sugar will cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to mood swings and hunger pretty quickly.
Unless you have celiac disease, there is no reason to eliminate gluten from your diet. Gluten-containing foods like wholewheat bread contain nutrients and the fiber that you need in order to stay healthy. Plus, gluten-free versions of processed foods still have the same amount of calories, fat and sugar — if not more — than the regular versions and are often twice the price. If you are trying to lose weight, try eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains instead. Many healthy, whole foods are naturally gluten-free anyway!
The Paleo Diet
Any diet that eliminates whole food groups can put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies. While the high amount of whole foods like fruits, vegetables and meat is a good thing, along with the elimination of highly processed foods that often contain a lot of sugar and sodium, there is no need to completely remove dairy and grains from your diet. Like I mentioned before, minimally processed whole grains are a healthy way to get more fiber, vitamins and healthy fats. Dairy like low fat milk and yogurt also contains calcium, vitamin D and protein. The Paleo Diet also focuses heavily on meat, including bacon and red meat, which contains high amounts of artery-clogging saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can not only lead to weight gain, but also raises your risk of heart disease.
Very low-fat or low-carb diets
Not all fat is bad fat, like people used to think. In fact, unsaturated fats like the kind found in fish, flax seed and avocados, can actually improve heart health. Consuming healthy fat as a part of your diet can actually help you lose weight by making you feel more satisfied. Carbohydrates are also essential for your body to function. Your brain needs at least 130 grams of carbs per day just to keep you alert and moving. Just make sure you are eating healthy, minimally processed carbohydrates like those found in fruit, milk and whole grains. Simple carbohydrates like those found in table sugar, sweets, and white bread are more likely to cause a spike in blood sugar, leading to weight gain.
Now that you know which diets to avoid, which ones should you try? A balanced diet filled with whole foods is the healthiest and easiest to maintain long-term. Focus on adding healthier food instead of removing food groups. If you add more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, you will automatically leave less room for refined sugars and flours and saturated fats. If you make it a goal to eat one more fruit or vegetable at every meal, you may have to bump out something else.
I recommend starting slow, then making healthier changes. First, set a goal of eating a serving of fruit with breakfast every day. Once you do that for a week or two, add another goal, like having a serving of vegetables with lunch every day. Pretty soon you will be getting lots of healthy and filling foods and you won’t even realize it! Remember, leave a little room for a small treat every day. I like to have a small piece of dark chocolate or a glass of wine in the evening. Total deprivation is no fun and makes it harder to stick to a plan. Here’s to a healthier you in the new year!