Weight Loss Wednesday: There Is No Quick Fix Diet

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What does summer mean to you? For me, summer is a season of celebration, of barbecue and baseball, for surfing and the beach. It is also swimsuit season, meaning that until Memorial Day, I will likely be peppered with questions on weight loss by coworkers looking for a quick fix from their local dietitian. My answer to them is usually a variation of the same thing: “‘There is no magic bullet.’ ‘You can’t lose 25 lbs. in a week.’  ‘No, I do not believe in the cabbage/ South Beach/ intermittent fasting/ super cool whatever fad diet as a means for sustainable weight loss.’”

We as humans are pre-disposed to looking for the easiest way to reach our goals; this includes weight loss goals for summer.  The Internet is quick to reinforce this idea, and as the days grow longer and the weather grows warmer print and digital content alike start sprouting articles about ‘quick and effective weight loss’ or ‘how to look good in a swimsuit by next weekend’. To put it mildly, this is utter and total crap. The bottom line is that there is no easy fix and while extreme restriction of calories can lead to rapid weight loss in the short term, the results promised by these fad diets is just not sustainable in the long term-here’s why. 

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Fad diets “work” mainly by restricting foods to a select few items or a smaller than normal portion, be it through extreme portion control or restricting eating times by fasting. This means that overall calorie consumption drops and weight loss follows.  But as soon as you resume your normal eating/ drinking patterns this calorie restriction also disappears, meaning that weight you lost? Yeah, one long weekend filled with late nights and boozy brunches can put you right back to square one. The worst part is that putting your body through extreme calorie restriction makes it think that its starving, so when it does finally get a meal or two again, it helpfully guards against further starvation conditions by stockpiling energy- in the form of fat. Great news, right?

Well, there may not be a “magic bullet” for weight loss, but all is not lost.  Lasting weight loss can be yours. How? With small, consistent behavior change. Start now, start small, and don’t try to change everything at once. Make a small change you can live with, and stick with it until it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore. Then, make another one, and another. Soon, all of the changes you need for long-term weight loss will be in place and ready to rock. If you still aren’t quite sure where to start, that’s ok. It’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to ask for help. If you need guidance, ask a dietitian. It just so happens I know one.