5 Things to consider when choosing a diet

As they say, old habits die-hard. Unless you have chosen to follow an eating plan that you can see yourself following forever more, you are likely to retire to your old ways when the expiry date on your diet is reached.

As predictable as it may sound, you want to start a diet that isn’t really a diet at all, but rather a lifestyle change. 

Weight-loss, when it is happening, is very exciting and motivating, but once you get to weight maintenance often the hard work needs to begin and reality sinks in that the changes that were made to your eating habits now need to become your “forever”.

The weight that you’ve lost is only viewed as successful, once you have kept it off for an entire year.

1.    How do people do it?

The National Weight Control Registry is a long-term study which currently observes over 10 000 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and managed to keep it off. 

The following are the research findings that have helped them keep on the straight and narrow:

  • 78% eat breakfast every day
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

2.    Are you eating to fight disease, or feed it?

Most of your food should be minimally processed, eaten as it is found in nature, and is mostly plant based.

3.    Does it pinch your pocket?

Believe it or not, healthy can actually be cost-effective.  To save on your food bill try focusing less on grass-fed, organic and free from foods (free from gluten/wheat/lactose etc), and rather include minimally processed whole foods that are seasonal, that can be bought in bulk (and shared), and plant yourself a vegetable garden. 

Once you are aware of them, small changes in your shopping list can have a significant effect on the weight of your wallet.  Take for example swapping your fillet of salmon, for a few pilchards (of which the omega-3 content is similar) – your per portion cost drops from approximately R40 to R3.50. 

A similarly easy swap with very little impact on health outcome is swapping your olive oil (approx. R150/L) for canola oil (approx. R22/L).

4.    Does following it make you a hermit?

Is your diet one that can only be followed if you dedicate all your time to preparing your intricate meals?  Is socializing difficult to do because of all your restrictions?  Although you may be able to follow this for a short period of time, eventually the natural need to socialize and be with others will take over and adherence to your diet will wane. 

Find a way of eating that doesn’t just suit you, but also your family, and allows you the flexibility to still enjoy eating meals out with others.

5.    Is it a miracle-worker?

If the new diet you have decided to embark on has one or more of the following characteristics – you may be chasing a fad diet which is both unsafe and unsustainable:

  • Offers an easy magic solution without having to make many lifestyle changes
  • Promises rapid weight loss of more than 1kg a week
  • Promises specific “fat burning” properties of foods (such as the grapefruit diet)
  • Promotes the avoidance or severe restriction of major food groups
  • Promotes eating mainly one type of food (e.g. cabbage soup or eggs)
  • Recommends eating foods in particular combinations for your blood type
  • Recommends detoxing or juicing
  • Offers no supporting evidence
  • Recommends eating non-food items such as cotton wool
  • The same diet is recommended for all people without accounting for specific needs such as age, gender, body size and activity levels

Image credit: iStock 

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