One of my favorite sayings and one of my favorite hashtags: It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. We all hear it, we may have an idea of what it really means, but let’s break it down. What the heck are we actually getting at when we say that? Social media influencers left, and right are promoting supplements, quick weight loss plans, and detoxes to help you lose weight. Our “diet culture” has taken the word ‘diet’ and made it mean something strict and regimented, losing the actual meaning of the term. Why has the world taken the field of health and wellness and overcomplicated it? Healthy living is a lifestyle, it’s not a diet, and if you treat it like a diet, you will never succeed.
Everywhere you look on social media there is another influencer or “nutrition professional” trying to sell you a new supplement, a quick weight-loss plan, or a detox or cleanse to get you back on track. Most of these (not all) so-called professionals have no experience nor brains to do basic research on the supplements that they are trying to push. Remember my blog on supplements? If so, you will remember that they are poorly regulated. For all you know, your supplements have steroids in them (true story). While there is a time or place for supplements, these decisions should be made under the supervision of a healthcare provider (aka somebody with actual expertise in these fields and standards that they are legally and ethically bound by), not the influencer with the best reel. How about that cleanse or detox you have seen all of your friends have so much success on? News flash… your body detoxes every day… we have a liver and kidneys that do an amazing job at this. Check out this video, it’s too funny not to share and will give you some additional insight to my thoughts on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xi8ZYTFrb8. No detox, supplement, or restrictive diet is going to get you where you want to go. You have to make a sustainable lifestyle change that supports healthy living. This includes things like your diet (which is actually defined as the foods and beverages you consume), physical activity, sleep habits, stress levels, mental and emotional health, as well as many other facets.
Many people want make healthy changes in order to lose weight. Weight loss is a complex process. While our diet culture has successfully over complicated it by making you think that if you only eat cabbage for the rest of your life, you will be super healthy (said nobody with a brain, ever), or you cannot be healthy and eat carbs at the same time, it is helpful to understand a few things about weight loss:
- When you gain weight, your fat cells increase in size AND number. When you lose weight, your fat cells ONLY decrease in size. Meaning, people who have gained and lost weight have the same increased NUMBER of fat cells present. Well, unfortunately, these fat cells are always there and eager to take up more fat, making it that much harder to keep weight off. This is also a great reason to prevent weight gain in the first place.
- People who have recently lost weight have enzymes that are more active after weight loss. These enzymes are basically fat-storing enzymes, and they are BUSY after you lose weight. They are actively trying to store more fat. Once again, making it even harder for people trying to lose weight and keep it off.
- Your body has a set point, meaning that it wants to be a certain weight. There are all sorts of internal mechanisms that are hard at work inside of your body trying to maintain that set point, even after you lose weight. This can, once again, make it especially challenging for people to lose weight and keep it off. It can be an uphill battle.
- A safe and realistic rate of weight loss is 1-2lbs per week or 5-10% of your body weight over 6 months. Yes, I know, that is not as fast as you want it to happen, but when you lose weight faster than that, your really losing lean muscle and water, not that fat you are trying to get rid of.
So, all of that being said, your weight loss strategy should be focused on long-term behavior changes, not simply a diet, and focus should be placed on prevention of weight gain in the first place.
Hopefully, some of that information gives you some insight into that saying, “It’s a lifestyle, not a diet”. Prioritize cooking healthy meals at home, fit your fitness in, and make your health and wellness a priority. No pill, cabbage soup, or detox is going to give you those things. Also note that prevention is key. If you can keep from gaining the weight in the first place, that is the best strategy. Adults that gain 10 or more pounds at any point in their life are actually at double the risk of developing type II diabetes… just a little extra motivation to adopt that healthy lifestyle (Whitney). There is a time and a place for nutrition and health “challenges”, just be mindful of what your takeaway is. Try to focus on behavior changes and things that may promote that, instead of viewing these things as restrictive and limiting. At the end of the day, there is no easy fix to living a healthy life. Start making changes and keep challenging yourself. Pick small, achievable tasks each week and set yourself up for success. Over time all of these changes really can turn in to a one big lifestyle change, which will benefit you more than any short-term fad you embark on. Choose your health and wellness and make it a priority.
Whitney, E. N., & Rolfes, S. R. (2011). Understanding nutrition (12th ed.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.