The 6 Diet “Rules” You Need to Break Today

Article posted in: Lifestyle
diet rules

It takes just one Google search to know that there are plenty of wacky theories out there about the best approach to weight loss (cabbage soup diet, anyone?!). But the truth is, many of these fad diet plans aren’t practical or sustainable, which means they won’t lead to lasting success. Plus, many leave you short on energy and nutrition―a recipe for full-on diet disaster.

The truth is, to achieve long-term weight loss success, you can’t rely on quick fixes and totally restrictive rules. You have to make lifestyle adaptations that are both realistic and sustainable. Subsisting solely on grapefruit for the rest of your life or never snacking again is neither of these things.

Here are six diet “rules” you should disregard on your way to weight loss:

1. Just Don’t Eat
While it’s true that cutting unnecessary calories from your diet can be a safe and effective way to lose weight, it’s important not to cut too many. Calories are your body’s source of energy. Without them (or with too few of them), you will suffer serious health consequences. In a 2007 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, extreme calorie restriction (CR) was associated with malnutrition, a risk factor for a slew of issues, including anemia, muscle wasting, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, gallstones, irritability and even depression. Findings from other studies have linked extreme CR with risk factors for osteoporosis, plus reduced muscle mass, decreased capacity to engage in physical activity, increased cold sensitivity, menstrual irregularities and infertility. Many dieters also report experiencing insomnia and compensatory eating with excessive CR.

Instead of meticulously counting calories, focus instead on choosing healthy foods like veggies, lean proteins, dairy and healthy fats. Get used to listening to your body. Eat slowly and only to the point that you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

2. Forego All Fats!
In the weight loss world, fat has gotten a bit of a bad rap. But the reality is some fat is necessary for life. In humans, fat helps support normal growth and development, provides energy, allows proper cellular function, provides protective cushioning for organs and helps with absorption of certain vitamins like A, D, E and K. Since the saturated fats found in foods like meat, butter, lard and cream, and trans fats (found in baked goods, fried foods and margarine) are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, try replacing them with unsaturated fats, which are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease. Sources of this type of fat include plant-based oils like olive and canola, avocados, nuts and seeds. Or, opt for plant-based saturated fats like coconut oil and the kinds you get with dairy, since these offer nutrition your body needs.

3. Take Up Permanent Residence in the Gym
Engaging in regular physical activity is an important piece of the weight loss puzzle and should be a regular part of your regimen. But moderation is key. Studies suggest that too much exercise can lead to a number of issues like hormonal imbalance, fatigue, insomnia and even depression. Many people also report experiencing a drastic increase in appetite after extreme bouts of physical activity, which can lead to overeating and negate any weight-related benefits of exercising. Plus, if you exercise so intensely you’re injured or sore for days after, it will be difficult to sustain this otherwise healthy habit.

So how much is enough? On the South Beach Diet, you’ll get specific direction regarding the optimal amount of exercise for where you are in your weight loss journey. More generally, if you’re striving to prevent weight gain, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 150-250 minutes/week of moderate-intensity physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that performing at least 150 minutes a week (about 30 minutes, five days a week) of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, will optimize health benefits for adults. Those seeking to slim down should aim for 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. And of course, don’t forget the importance of incorporating resistance training into your workout regimen—the CDC recommends at least two times a week.

4. Break Up with Your Loved Ones
While it’s true that parties and happy hours aren’t exactly diet-friendly, with a little planning, you can still enjoy a social life while you lose weight. If you’re headed to a party, offer to bring a veggie tray and a healthy dish you love. That way, if the rest of the spread looks like weight gain waiting to happen, you’ll have options. The easiest way to make happy hour a healthy hour is to avoid alcohol altogether. But if you do choose to imbibe, opt for a small glass of dry red wine (four ounces) or light beer (12 ounces). Make sure to sip slowly, and don’t skimp on water. Since happy hour takes place dangerously close to dinner time, plan to have a healthy afternoon snack that will hold you over before you head out, and set a happy hour curfew. That way you’ll avoid the temptation to dig in to calorie-packed bar food, and can head home for a healthy dinner.

5. Stop Snacking… Forever
For many of us, snacks can account for more than a quarter of our daily calories. But if you munch on nutrient-dense foods (high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats), you’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight, according to the results of a five-year study known as the “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” This study revealed that healthy snackers were less likely than non-snackers to be overweight or obese.

6. “Negative Calorie Foods” Are Your Best Friends
Grapefruit, celery, coconut oil and other foods are reputed to have a “thermogenic” effect, meaning you literally burn more calories eating and digesting them than they contain. But many of these fat-burning ingredients are simply nutrient-dense foods that are low in calories and high in fiber—just like most other fruits and vegetables. These foods are healthy components of your diet, but they don’t possess magical properties that make them better than others at helping you lose weight. A well-balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods is the foundation of steady, sustainable weight loss.