Beyond Fad Diets: How To Stick With Healthy Eating

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Trendy diets come and go. So can your excitement for them.

Why is this? What goes on in your head that makes it so difficult to stick with a diet or to control what you eat?

Premier Health Now directed these questions to Fadi Tayim, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist and division chief of the Brain Mapping Center at the Clinical Neuroscience Institute.

Dr. Tayim gave us the lowdown – from his professional vantage point and from his personal experience with weight-loss plans like Whole30, keto, and intermittent fasting.   

The promise of diets as “a new, faster, easier way to lose weight” is what hooks people, he says. “It’s similar to new exercise plans that say, ‘Forget about 60 minutes a day. You can do this for five minutes a day.’”

Why You Lose Commitment To a Diet

“A lot of people have success the first couple of days of a diet,” Dr. Tayim says. “A lot of that is due to the motivation behind why they are doing it.”

Then, he adds, “the excitement goes down because now you’re going into a negative reward process – you’re removing something that you enjoyed (sugar, for instance) and you’re finding it hard to replace it with something pleasurable that you enjoy.”

He adds, smiling, “All diets would work if you removed the stuff that you love and replaced it with stuff that you love.” 

Sharing his experience with Whole30, Dr. Tayim says, “I thought it was great the first week, but it got a lot harder. I was ready for the 30 days to be done, but I also lost 15 pounds.” (Some of the credit, he adds, goes to working out four or five days a week.)

Other factors that can lead to loss of interest, besides the restrictions, include the expense of some diets and failure to see results.

From Fad To Consistency

The key to sticking with a diet and making it a consistent part of your life, Dr. Tayim says, is preparation. This starts with learning about the diet before you start – “not just jumping on the bandwagon without a meal plan in place or a strategy of how you can cut back calories, if that’s the kind of diet that it is.

“Oftentimes people start a diet, but they don’t know, ‘OK, what’s Thursday going to look like?’ Or, ‘what am I going to do on a weekend when I’m with friends? How am I going to approach an office party? Are there any concessions I can make with this diet?’”

Planning meals increases your chance of staying on course with a diet – whether it’s a trendy, fad diet or a basic plan of balanced nutrition, Dr. Tayim advises.

Planning and cooking ahead can protect against cravings and hectic schedules. “You get home late from work and don’t want to cook. So, you just eat whatever you have, or you just order food. And it’s usually not something that’s on your diet plan.”

He adds, “With most plans you can have a cheat day without undoing everything you’ve achieved. But plan your cheat day, too. It’s important to be consistent, even with your cheat days.”

Other Diet Advice

Dr. Tayim also recommends:

  • “Always consult with your health care provider to be sure any diet you start is going to be healthy for you.”
  • Set realistic weight-loss goals. Instead of “I want to lose 50 pounds,” keep in mind that one-half to a pound of weight loss per week is considered healthy.
  • Pair diet with exercise “to maximize the results of your diet. The majority of healthy weight loss results from diet, rather than exercise. But they go hand in hand to maintain proper health. They work better together than either alone.”
  • Tell friends and family that you have started a diet, “so they can encourage you and know not to entice you with certain foods. That’s a huge help for a lot of people.”
  • Use online diet forums to learn from others’ experience and how to “transition a fad diet into a consistent diet for a lifetime of healthy eating.”

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