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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Give Up Diets, But Not Hope!


Good morning! Well, if you’re a regular dishee you know that I loathe diets (as in deprive yourself, eliminate your favorite foods, eat only what and when the diet dictates, drive yourself crazy, etc.) and I’ve often said that I believe diets cause weight gain. Well, a study just released by UCLA concludes that two thirds of “dieters” gain back all the weight they’ve lost (or even more) within 4 to 5 years. The study’s lead author reported, “Most of these people would have been better off not going on the diet at all.”

So does that mean you should give up all hope of ever reaching your weight goal if you’re one of the 66.3% who are overweight? Absolutely not, because dieting is not the answer to weight loss. Here’s how I look at it. You have 4 choices:

1) You can continue to exist exactly the same way you have been and not make any changes. If you do this, most likely your weight will either stay the same, or, you’ll put on the “average” 1-2 pounds per year most adults gain. If you’re unhappy with your weight and how it impacts your current or future health risks, as well as your quality of life (i.e. maybe not being able to do things you’d like to do), this probably isn’t the best choice.

2) You could tip the scale in the other direction, throwing all caution to the wind, really chowing down on everything you want whenever you want, and giving up all forms of physical activity. Ditto the above re: probably not the best choice if your goal is to improve your health and lifestyle.

3) You can go on a diet. It could be any kind – old, new, from a book, with a group, formal, informal, even one you made up yourself. If you do this, even if you lose weight, you have a 66% chance of gaining it back plus more, and most likely, your social and emotional health will suffer, i.e. you feel deprived, miserable, cranky, can’t go out to eat with friends/family without struggling with what to order, you have to stick a candle into a banana on your birthday instead of coconut cake (my personal favorite)….If you’ve been down this path before, you would probably agree that it’s paved with physical, emotional, and social potholes. Whenever I hear a person say, “I have to get back on my diet” or “I have to start being good again” I want to pull out a giant stop sign and say, “Wait, don’t go there!” You do have one more choice.

4) Moderation, moderation, moderation (ok, here I need you to think of the song Halleluhiah but change the word Halleluhiah to moderation). I’ve seen countless people lose weight this way and most importantly keep it off while feeling at peace, maintaining their energy and zest for life (which many diets drain you of), all while continuing to enjoy food and being able to navigate social situations without stress or pressure. Of any of the choices, this one seems to be the only win-win.

So, what does moderation look like? Well, here’s an example, and here’s another. But come back tomorrow for even more. This is one topic I never tire of talking about and it may just be one of the most important.

P.S. Another example of moderation is buying one cupcake instead of a whole cake!

Photo courtesy of National Cancer Institute
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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