How to start a new diet

Everything You Know About Starting a New Diet is Iffy (Well, Maybe)

My diet starts on Monday.”

I can’t eat that — I’m dieting.”

I’m on a new diet.”

How many times have you said one of these phras­es (or heard some­one else say them)? Diet talk is com­mon — and with many peo­ple try­ing to lose the weight they put on dur­ing the pan­dem­ic (an esti­mat­ed 48% of Amer­i­can adults gained weight in the first year alone), you might be hear­ing about diet­ing more than ever.

While pay­ing atten­tion to your diet is impor­tant, pay­ing atten­tion to which type of diet you adopt is crit­i­cal. With so much infor­ma­tion about a seem­ing­ly end­less amount of pos­si­ble diets — many of which con­flict with one anoth­er — you may be won­der­ing if every­thing you’ve ever heard about diet­ing is actu­al­ly correct.

Here’s the truth about 6 com­mon state­ments you may have heard about diets.

1. Diets are about los­ing weight.”

Some­times, weight loss is the main goal of diet­ing. How­ev­er, there can be a whole host of oth­er goals, such as main­tain­ing your cur­rent weight or gain­ing weight if you’re under­weight. There are also rea­sons that have noth­ing to do with weight, like improv­ing your heart health or cut­ting down on your sug­ar intake if you’re pre­di­a­bet­ic or diabetic.

2. I’m going on the [insert name of fad diet here]”

Fad diets are short-term, trendy” diets that promise quick and dra­mat­ic results, like los­ing 2 pounds a week. They often involve cut­ting out entire food groups or restrict­ing your­self to only one or two things.

Fad diets might seem too good to be true — and that’s because they are. Weight loss is usu­al­ly tem­po­rary and the diets aren’t sus­tain­able. Most dieters end up regain­ing the weight they lost or even gain­ing more weight in the long run. One rea­son these diets fail is because it’s dif­fi­cult to keep up a fad diet over a long peri­od of time.

Instead of going on a spe­cif­ic diet, focus on mak­ing changes to your diet that you can keep up over time — and that are not so restric­tive that you can’t stick with them.

Also read, Small Changes for Healthy Eat­ing

3. I’m cut­ting out carbs.”

It’s all about choos­ing the right carbs. Carbs can be either sim­ple or complex:

  • Sim­ple carbs are found in processed and high­ly sug­ary foods, like can­dy or soda.

  • Com­plex carbs are found in foods like starchy veg­eta­bles, legumes, and whole-grain prod­ucts. In gen­er­al, most of your car­bo­hy­drate intake should be com­plex ones.

How­ev­er, that doesn’t mean you need to cut out all sim­ple carbs. Sim­ple carbs can also be found nat­u­ral­ly in fruits, veg­eta­bles, and milk prod­ucts, and they are full of essen­tial vit­a­mins, min­er­als, and fiber. By the same token, some com­plex carbs, like those found in white flour or rice, have been processed and don’t con­tain nutrients.

Instead of ful­ly cut­ting out carbs, work on lim­it­ing sim­ple carbs, high­ly processed and refined sug­ars, and try eat­ing more unre­fined com­plex carbs like fruits and vegetables.

Con­tact your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian to see if you could ben­e­fit from nutri­tion­al services.

4. I’m going gluten-free so I can lose weight.”

Gluten is a pro­tein in wheat, rye, and bar­ley. A gluten-free diet cuts out any prod­ucts con­tain­ing these ingre­di­ents, like bread, pas­ta, and cere­al. This is the main treat­ment for celi­ac dis­ease — an immune dis­ease in which gluten dam­ages the small intestine.

In recent years, gluten-free diets have become pop­u­lar among peo­ple who do not have celi­ac dis­ease, as a way to lose weight. How­ev­er, while cut­ting down on your gluten intake might help you lose weight, there is no evi­dence show­ing that going total­ly gluten-free leads to weight loss.

In fact, cut­ting out gluten when you don’t need to can actu­al­ly back­fire. You may miss out on key nutri­ents, like iron, cal­ci­um, and fiber. Or, you may fall into the trap of think­ing that any­thing mar­ket­ed as gluten-free” is healthy — and wind up over-eating.

You can still cut back a lit­tle — but if your end goal is weight loss, com­plete­ly avoid­ing gluten prob­a­bly isn’t the answer.

5. Going veg­an or veg­e­tar­i­an is a guar­an­teed way to lose weight.”

This one is root­ed in truth. Evi­dence shows that plant-based diets tend to be asso­ci­at­ed with low­er body weight and can be help­ful for weight loss.

That being said, weight loss isn’t guar­an­teed. There are many foods that are tech­ni­cal­ly veg­e­tar­i­an or veg­an, like meat­less piz­zas on veg­an crusts. If your diet con­sists most­ly of these foods, and doesn’t include nutri­tious ones like veg­eta­bles, you’re prob­a­bly not going to have much luck on the weight loss front.

Also, becom­ing veg­an or veg­e­tar­i­an can mean not get­ting enough key vit­a­mins and min­er­als that are often found in ani­mal prod­ucts. If you decide to go veg­an or veg­e­tar­i­an, pay spe­cial atten­tion to eat foods that con­tain iron, pro­tein, cal­ci­um, vit­a­mins D and B12, zinc, and omega‑3 fat­ty acids.

6. Now that I’m eat­ing health­i­er, I don’t need to exercise.”

Your diet may play a big­ger role in weight loss than exer­cise, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore phys­i­cal activity.

When you exer­cise, the amount of calo­ries that your body burns off increas­es. This, in com­bi­na­tion with reduc­ing the calo­ries you eat, can help you not just lose weight, but keep it off. Reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty also has oth­er ben­e­fits, such as low­er­ing your risk of dis­eases like heart attack and stroke, and reduc­ing symp­toms of depres­sion and anxiety.

If you have a med­ical con­di­tion like heart dis­ease that could impact which types of exer­cise are safe or not, make sure to talk to your provider when begin­ning a new exer­cise program.

And that goes for diet­ing, too. Whether you’re look­ing to lose, gain, or main­tain weight, your provider can help you come up with an appro­pri­ate eat­ing plan that will help you meet your goals in a safe and healthy way.

Health Topics:

  • I have a patient-centered approach when counseling patients. I am passionate about helping people reach optimal health in all seasons of life. My hope for all my patients is that they reach their nutrition goals while learning to love the food they eat!