Reframe thinking about diets to include more than weight loss

By MISSY CORRIGAN
Posted 11/8/18

How many times have you heard or said, "My diet isn't working?" By the age of 45, both men and women on average will have tried more than 38 different diets in an effort to lose weight.

Many dieters will jump-start their efforts with a new …

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Reframe thinking about diets to include more than weight loss

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How many times have you heard or said, "My diet isn't working?" By the age of 45, both men and women on average will have tried more than 38 different diets in an effort to lose weight.

Many dieters will jump-start their efforts with a new program of eliminating certain foods or applying new strategies hoping that things will change. And while diets and programs actually can work, the root of the problem is sustainability.

When we look at success stories, the first thing we notice is the physical change, which is generally weight loss. You may notice that the individual is smaller, more toned and defined. It definitely catches your attention and heightens your desire to want that, too. If it worked for them, it could work for you. Would an advertisement of an individual who doesn't show many physical changes (i.e. weight loss) but promotes health improvements have the same enticing effect on a consumer? Probably not. For this reason, magazines, social media, diet programs and clinics advertise based on the physical changes that have occurred. When the weight loss isn't happening as expected, we assume the diet just isn't effective.

However, from a health perspective it may be working just fine. Regardless of weight loss, there are so many other things happening in your body: lower blood pressure, more controlled blood sugar, better sleep, less stress, more energy, improved digestion, stronger immune system and more balanced hormones, to name a few. All of those are positive health outcomes from better eating choices and patterns.

So maybe it isn't that diets are failing us? Perhaps we are paying attention to the wrong metric, using weight loss as the only standard of measure for progress. When the expectation isn't met, disappointment sets in, and we give up, returning to our old eating habits. The overall health of our body ends up missing out on the potential positive health that is within reach.

It's no doubt that better habits improve health, reduce health risks and improve quality of life. While it is feasible to change and adopt habits that you know are just for the short term, a 30-day, 60-day or even a 90-day diet just doesn't compare to a lifetime of controlled eating.

There is no secret to losing weight other than eating right and exercising regularly. Unfortunately, cost, taste and convenience are more likely to determine the food you eat rather than how healthy the food is. With all the extreme strategies, dieting tips and programs, it's easy to be misled and give up so quickly.

To overcome this, identify what changes you want and learn what your new health behaviors can help you achieve. If it is improvements in your blood work, let your doctor know so you can work together and stay informed of how your behaviors are affecting your results.

Weight loss on the scale cannot reveal any improvements in blood work, so do not use that as a measuring tool. To make your new behaviors sustainable, find a healthy maintainable lifestyle to live life better, not just longer.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.