Jan. 1 signals a new calendar year, and for many Canadians, a “new year, new me” mentality. In fact, getting in shape is consistently one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions.
While making lifestyle changes, as approved by a doctor, is not a bad thing, turning to a fad diet to achieve a resolution is not ideal or healthy. Instead, choose to make healthier and more sustainable changes to your lifestyle.
What’s a fad diet?
Fad diets typically promise quick weight loss, oftentimes through unhealthy and unbalanced dieting. A diet can be considered a fad if it:
- Claims to help you lose more than 1-2 pounds per week.
- Promises that you’ll lose weight and keep it off without giving up fatty foods or starting an exercise program.
- Bases its claims only on “before and after” photos.
- Limits your food choices and encourages you to only eat a specific set or type of food.
What are the dangers of fad diets?
Fad diets can lead to things like gout, poor athleticism, heart disease and—ironically—poor, long-term weight-loss control. If you’re looking to get in shape or lose weight this year, make lifestyle changes that encourage portion control, exercise more, avoid empty calories and eat a well-balanced diet.
Keep in mind that forming healthy dieting practices now will keep you on track with your long-term weight-loss goal.
Sustainable Alternatives to Fad Diets
Losing weight may be the greatest battle that you fight in your lifetime. Experts speculate that a wide variety of issues affect how people gain and lose weight, yet gauging how to tip your energy balance is a great way to move the scale in your favour.
The first step in losing unwanted pounds is to determine how many calories you must consume each day to maintain your current weight. To do so, multiply your current weight by 15 (roughly the number of calories per pound per body weight needed to maintain your weight, if you are moderately active). Being moderately active means engaging in 30 minutes of physical exercise daily, such as a brisk walk, using an elliptical machine or climbing stairs.
Here’s an example: A woman who is 1.6 metres tall and weighs 155 pounds must lose 15 pounds to be within a healthy weight range. Multiplying 155 by 15 yields 2,325 calories per day; that is the number of calories that the woman must eat to maintain her weight. If she wants to lose one to two pounds per week, she should eat 500 to 1,000 calories less (1,325 to 1,825). If she is not active, she should incorporate exercise into her routine.
What foods should I incorporate into my diet?
Reducing your calorie intake to hit your target consumption goal does not need to be difficult. Here are some ways to do so:
- Avoid high fat or processed packaged foods and snacks.
- Add up the number of calories per serving of all foods that you consume and then plan your meals around your target calorie total. To do so, read food and drink labels and pay close attention to serving sizes. Also ask for nutrition information when eating out.
- Eat meals that are low in calories at regular intervals. Plan your meals and snacks for specific times of day and stick with this game plan.
- Cook with lean cuts of meat.
- Choose foods that are filling, yet low in calories, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid eating fried foods—instead cook in pans lightly coated with cooking spray or braise foods with wine or broth. Baking, broiling and roasting are other methods for cooking that add no fat to the meal.
- Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy products, to get protein and calcium without the fat.
How can I build out a sustainable exercise routine?
#1. Start Sensibly
Don’t begin your exercise program too ambitiously. The key to success is to start slowly and increase the difficulty of your workouts as you become more fit. Those who overdo it often experience muscle soreness, become discouraged and quit.
Rather than trying to run five kilometres on your first day, begin by running 1 or 2 kilometres and increasing your distance as your fitness level improves. Most importantly, remember that feeling dizzy or ill is your body’s way of telling you that you are working too hard. If this happens, take a break or stop your workout for the day.
#2. Find the Right Pace
Exercise should be fairly comfortable for you. Your pace should be just below the point at which you start to breathe quickly. Exercising at this pace produces two desirable results: it mobilizes fat burning and helps you develop endurance. This means that for maximum fat burning, longer, slower exercise is more beneficial than short, strenuous workouts.
If you are reasonably fit and exercising at the proper pace, you should burn between 400 and 600 calories per hour during any aerobic exercise. This includes riding a stationary bicycle, walking or running on a treadmill or using a stair climber.
Turning to a fad diet to achieve your New Year’s resolution can be problematic and more hurtful than helpful. Instead, start incorporating sustainable and enjoyable new behaviours into your lifestyle for lasting results.