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.

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