At some point in our lives, regardless if we recognize it or not, have been involved in a diet. Whether it was a conscious attempt to restrict calories and lose weight, seeing a triggering picture in a magazine and deciding to skip lunch that day, or cutting a certain food group out of our life completely…these are all products of some sort of diet. There is nothing wrong with going on a diet, but its temporary nature and the approach people take towards it is what’s concerning.

In the world that we live in today, there are hundreds of different diets you can choose from. This can be very problematic for those beginning a new diet because they go in with an “all or nothing” mentality and cut out whole food groups, drop their calories drastically, or go on that new trendy liquid diet that doesn’t even have you eating solid foods. There is nothing wrong with wanting to start a diet in order to live a healthier lifestyle, but if you go about it the wrong way you are setting yourself up for disaster. Three main issues that arise with starting a diet are jumping in too fast and taking on more than you can handle, setting unrealistic goals for yourself, and becoming fixated on counting calories.

When starting a diet, it is common to jump in head first rather than dip your toes in the water. This leads to depriving your body of things it wants and needs, which all in all will make you miserable and likely cause you to ditch the diet. Making small changes at first such as drinking soda once a week rather than five, or replacing a side of chips at lunch with a salad is much more appealing and realistic. If you are cutting everything out of your diet at once such as sugar, bread, sodium, fruit, starchy carbs, you name it…you will likely drive yourself insane trying to find things to eat and give yourself unneeded stress. This goes hand in hand with feeling like you have to limit yourself to one type of diet. Some people feel as though they have to be keto, or paleo, or vegan to lose weight when in actuality, it just comes down to burning more calories than you are consuming.

Another common mistake when dieting is setting unrealistic goals for yourself. For example, if you make the goal to lose 15 pounds in a month you are in for quite the disappointment. Is it possible to lose 15 pounds in a month? Yes. Is it healthy and maintainable? Absolutely not. Losing weight at a slow and steady pace is always the answer. It took time for you to put weight on, so it will take time for it to come off as well. Losing one pound a week is not only healthy, but maintainable long term. When dieting, people always gravitate towards the “quick fix” rather than putting in the time and effort to set themselves up for success down the road. Once people reach the goal weight they were working towards they are likely so sick of extreme dieting that they return back to their old eating habits and gain all the weight back, if not more. If it is not a lifestyle, it will not stick. Don’t go for the fancy diet that promises you will shed fat fast, go for the lifestyle change that becomes a habit and teaches you healthy eating long term with no restrictions.

Lastly, another huge problem with diet culture these days is becoming too fixated on counting every calorie. Not only can an obsession with calorie counting lead to extremely disordered eating habits and body image issues, it can be extremely frustrating and difficult for the average person. Obviously, it is important to be conscious of the number of calories you’re consuming to lose weight, but it doesn’t have to be obsessive and exact to work. Simply consuming the appropriate nutrients your body needs to work properly and paying attention to portion sizes is more than likely enough to get the ball rolling on weight loss. Pay attention to your body’s natural hunger cues and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Eliminate empty calories from your diet when you can such as soda and alcohol. Paying attention to portion sizes is also important. I’m not saying you have to weigh out everything you eat, but having a better idea of what a real portion size actually looks like will definitely help. Most people don’t realize the extra 100-200 calories they may be consuming just by accidentally going over a portion size.

In order for a diet to be successful, it must be a way of eating that can stick for the rest of your life, not just a temporary fix because you have a vacation in Punta Cana coming up. Creating new habits isn’t easy, but when you trust the process and take the proper steps to become healthier everyday it certainly does get easier. Remember to set realistic goals and realize you are making an investment in yourself and your health by adhering to a healthier lifestyle. The best diet is the one that you can stick to.

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