Around 45 million Americans try to lose weight and get into shape annually. A great number begin fad diets, which encourage drastic changes in food consumption to reach weight-loss goals, as a New Year’s resolution. However, extreme lifestyle changes over a short period of time do not usually result in long-term success. In fact, within three years of dieting, 97 percent regain all the weight they initially lost. Fad diets can also cause negative health-related outcomes like deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals, gastrointestinal issues and more.
Making smaller, manageable changes overtime increases the likelihood of keeping the weight off. Determining if a diet is a fad can prove challenging, but Citizen Potawatomi Nation dietitian Maggi Gilbert employs a simple trick.
“Ask yourself, ‘Is this something I’m going to start and finish, or can I sustain this long term? Am I going to be able to make these changes for the rest of my life?’ If not, then that would be considered a diet,” she said.
Gilbert offices out of the FireLake Wellness Center where she helps clients form healthy eating habits. She often gets questions about various fad diets, but several that top the list include juice cleanses, the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting.
“Yes, you can have that initial weight loss. But because it’s a diet, and may not be maintainable for the rest of your life, we tend to see that weight creep back up,” Gilbert said. “Even sometimes more weight is gained in the end.”
She encourages clients to watch portion sizes rather than completely avoiding certain foods.
“Restricting food can cause us to hunger for that food more and lead to an overindulgence,” Gilbert said. “Figuring out that balance can take time. It’s a learning process.”
Some fad diets can affect medical readings, cause irritability and even influence changes in body temperature due to calorie restriction, she added.
“We can become deficient in different nutrients if we’re cutting out complete food groups for an extended period of time. Deficiencies may not be evident unless seen by a doctor to have specific testing done,” Gilbert said.
One of the first things Gilbert does with a new client is discuss short-term and long-term goals as well as debunk some of the food-related myths such as avoiding all carbs, eating at only specific times of day, and other food conspiracies that accompany most fad diets.
“We discuss healthy lifestyle changes that can be made and sustained for the rest of their lives to produce those changes they hope to see,” she added.
Those involved with CPN’s Diabetes Initiative Program can attend Gilbert’s cooking demonstration and grocery store tour at FireLake Discount Foods where she provides education and exposure to healthy food options.
“We’re trying to help people navigate the grocery stores in general but then give them some ideas of healthy things they can incorporate,” she said.
Gilbert’s clients either participate in CPN’s Diabetes Initiative Program or receive a referral from a physician.
She encourages those interested in losing weight to set attainable but also challenging goals while keeping potential barriers in mind.
“Maybe it’s something like, ‘I never eat vegetables, so I’m going to start incorporating one vegetable in my day, one for each meal or try a new vegetable or fruit each month,’” she said. “The key is starting small — we all know that change can be difficult.”