OK, here’s my final weight loss myth of the week, and I know it’s a controversial one: the best weight loss approach is the one that works for me.
I completely agree that finding an approach that really works for you is critical. For example, if you eat most of your meals out, adopting a plan that requires you to cook everything from scratch probably isn’t practical. But, in all my years as a nutritionist, I’ve seen many weight loss approaches that “worked” (in terms of creating weight loss) that I just can’t put my stamp of approval on. For example, I’ve had people tell me they lost weight by eating a single food over and over and over (like chicken noodle soup only for breakfast, lunch and dinner), cutting out all carbs (including whole grains and fruit) or doing something even more extreme, like taking risky pills.
Any time you change your diet in any way that creates a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. But that doesn’t mean that:
a) All of the weight you lose will be body fat – unhealthy weight loss can lead to dwindling muscle mass
b) You’re getting all the nutrients you need – an unbalanced diet can weaken your immune system, cause you to lose bone density and even accelerate the aging process
c) You'll be able to sustain the results
As a health professional, I want to help people not only lose pounds and inches, but do so in a way that optimizes wellness (mind, body and spirit). Losing weight isn’t about starvation and deprivation – at least it doesn’t have to be.
Even if you’re successful, if the method you used wasn’t healthy or sustainable, there’s a good chance you’ll either re-gain the weight you lost or incur health problems as a result of missing nutrients. Side effects of an unhealthy weight loss regime can include fatigue, constipation, hair loss, getting sick more often, getting injured more easily or suffering from injuries that don’t heal, dry or dull skin, irritability, trouble concentrating, crankiness, trouble sleeping, constant cravings or even worse (such as heart and kidney strain, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances).
If you’ve lost weight or are losing, ask yourself these three questions about your approach:
- Does it help me feel energized and nourished?
- Can I realistically see myself eating this way for the rest of my life?
- Am I eating in a way I would recommend to the people I care about most (would I feed my child, niece or nephew, best friend, mom, or even pet this way)?
Throughout my career as a nutritionist, I’ve had many people reach out to me because they felt trapped – they lost weight in an unhealthy way but felt afraid to stop or change for fear of gaining it back. I know that’s a scary feeling, but weight loss shouldn’t come at the expense of your physical or emotional health. You can abandon an unhealthy approach without sacrificing results!
Have you ever felt imprisoned by your weight loss approach? Please share your thoughts!