Why Is Diet Important?
We have all been there—sitting at a red stoplight only to look up at a billboard and see the tape measure with the attractive female holding it to her stomach to show off all of the weight she’s lost on the “xyz” diet. This is a familiar photo that nearly every American has been shown at one point or another in their lifetime, whether they’re looking to lose weight, gain weight, or just become healthier overall.
But before you start to take that journey—for whatever reason—it’s important to truly understand what dieting actually is. Navigating the journey of diet pills, plans, and supplements can be discouraging if you do not understand the foundation of a diet itself.
Understanding what you are signing up for before committing to a certain diet program will not only give you peace of mind—it will also give you a realistic expectation of what you are about to journey into, which will up your rate of success
Diet is described as a group of foods that a person, animal, or community eats habitually. But in terms of pills, plans, and supplements, diet is a little narrower term:
Food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health. To select or limit the food one eats to improve one’s physical condition or to lose weight. (emphasis added)
Understanding what you are signing up for before committing to a certain diet program will not only give you peace of mind—it will also give you a realistic expectation of what you are about to journey into, which will up your rate of success. One of the keywords from the definition of dieting is “habitual,” which I wanted to highlight because any diet worth starting and sticking to will require habits to be put into place.
So how do you really decipher which program, supplements, or pills to start taking? Especially with so many products screaming for your attention through advertising in all its myriad forms. They all promise the same things: fantastic weight loss, unlimited energy, pure animal magnetism, and a brand new you (like there’s something wrong with who you are just because of a few extra pounds). Sadly, many fail to deliver on these promises, which only leads you back to square one. So you need to be smart in sorting through them.
It’s important to first pick out the inconsistencies of the product or program you are most interested in starting. Pay attention to what they are claiming their product will do, and go from there. If objective science, customer voices, or the product’s own labeling don’t match up with the claims, there might be a problem.
Navigating the journey of diet pills, plans, and supplements can be discouraging if you do not understand the foundation of a diet itself.
Some simple research up front about the ingredients in the diet pill or supplement will tell you a lot. WebMD.com, the Mayo Clinic website, Drugs.com, and other reputable sources have reams of information on many supplement ingredients, both herbal and “nutritional” (enzymes and such that don’t grow like plants). Some companies don’t even offer an ingredient list—a major red flag right there. Picking up on inconsistencies by researching ingredients can potentially save you thousands on fad diets, fake diet pills, and supplements that quite simply don’t work or can make you sick.
There are a lot of independent reviewers online these days, too. They aren’t employed by supplement companies, and they care more about your health than a profit margin. ConsumersCompare.org is one of these independent reviewers. They do the legwork so you don’t have to.
Take Phen375, for example. In ConsumersCompare’s review for Phen375, you can see how it was determined the likelihood that the supplement would work, versus what’s just a filler and overpriced. Or their Benefiber review, which gives insight to what the product actually is and what customers have to say about it.
Being able to look at a diet and know within a minute or so whether it’s healthy or a “fad” is what you’re aiming for. And marketers are going to do their level best to confuse you. They’ll attack your intelligence, your self-worth, try to convince you that you can expect dramatic results without any effort at all, melt away pounds while you sit on the sofa with a dozen donuts and a Netflix binge. We’d all like to believe that; but most of us really do know at heart it’s not going to be that easy. So marketers try another tactic; they come up with the wildest out-there ideas and convince you it’s going to take half-starving yourself, or consuming a parade of products that taste horrible and drain your bank account, “but it’s worth it in the long run.” Both of these marketing strategies are “fads.” They have one purpose: to make money for the creator.
That’s not to say every diet plan or product is a scam. But knowing where those ads are coming from helps you navigate the maze. And understanding the basics of healthy living in general. Real food, in healthy portions, and regular movement of your body. That’s the goal. This style of diet is the most successful, and it will leave you feeling the best.
So what does a healthy diet look like? It really just includes real food: vegetables and fruit, proteins (either through lean meats or plant proteins—the debate on this one will likely go on forever), whole grains, and healthy fats. The portions are not overly large, but they’re filling. The processed, “junk,” and fast foods that inundate our world become treats—not kept in your home; occasional rather than habitual. It just takes a choice and a routine to set yourself up for success.
Diet Change – How to Do It Right
Now, just because you’ve made a decision to start eating in a specific way, or taking a supplement of some kind, doesn’t mean your body is ready to jump right in. Longtime diet choices don’t reverse themselves overnight, and there may be some blowback involved. For example, a sudden elimination of processed sugar from a diet that’s been high in sugar is a bit like a drug detox; there can be withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, and feeling weak or shaky. Natural sugar foods like fruits can help ease these symptoms. Lowering your caffeine intake can cause feelings of lethargy. But it’s all temporary; understanding and planning for such occurrences helps you stay motivated through the first few days and weeks. And habits don’t form overnight, either—it generally takes three weeks for anything to become a habit, so allow yourself time.
Your gender and genetics can be as much a factor in the success or failure of a specific plan as the intricacies of a plan itself. Analyze your own goals, desires, and optimal outcome so you can find a program that will help you reach your goals.
Along with your mindset, your physical body itself needs time. New or unfamiliar foods, supplements; things you may not be used to taking. Your digestive system has to adjust to these new items, and it could rebel at first. And what your friend can eat without blinking may give your stomach or digestive tract some hiccups until your body adjusts. But some diets or supplements have much more serious effects, and it’s important to be aware of your body; sometimes a side effect is really a warning signal to “stop!” Not all diets are healthy and safe. If you are experiencing negative side effects that cause pain and discomfort, keep an eye on it.
It takes several factors to tailor a diet plan for you personally. Your current body weight, your weight goals, any medical conditions or allergies you may have, your body chemistry, and much more. A healthy diet means different things to different people—just ask vegetarians vs. low-carbers—but mostly it breaks down to a few simple parts: healthy eating, exercise, a lot of rest, and sometimes supplements to help trim down the weight. And you should always include your doctor in your decisions; that way you can keep an eye on things like your blood pressure, which can have serious consequences if not monitored.
There are many different diet programs to choose from: the Advocare diet, the Keto diet, Weight Watchers, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, Mediterranean diet…the list goes on pretty much indefinitely. They all offer different philosophies, timetables, goals, support, food requirements, and supplements. No two diets are exactly alike, and no two people are exactly alike. Your gender and genetics can be as much a factor in the success or failure of a specific plan as the intricacies of a plan itself. Analyze your own goals, desires, and optimal outcome so you can find a program that will help you reach your goals.
How to Choose the Right Diet
To reiterate, not all diets are the same; Supplements or meal-replacements advertised as the latest “miracle” will fizzle out a short time later (Seriously, if any form of the word “miracle” is in the ad, skip the product). They can be the biggest thing one moment and proven a fraud the next, so it’s important to choose the right diet for your needs.
We’re not all destined to be Captain America. Just because protein powder has been drilled into our minds for post-workout doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you personally.
For example: Protein powders were initially created for bodybuilders, to increase muscle mass quickly without them having to stop to cook a rack of chicken breasts on a daily basis. But a lot of everyday folks have opted for protein powders as well, instead of actual protein from meat or plant sources. And as an occasional meal replacement, if you’re running to work from the gym, they’re convenient. But according to a popular article published in April 2017 in the Huffington Post,
“In modern society, we’re always on the go and don’t have time to prepare quality recovery snacks. This is where protein powders really come into play,” Kelinson says. Sports nutritionist Suzanne Smith, R.D., who works at UC San Diego Health, agrees that protein powder can be a nice pantry item if you’re in a hurry. “You can just add a scoop to your almond milk and throw it back,” she says. …
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat a ton of protein. … The recommended daily allowance of protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, according to the USDA. If math isn’t your strong suit, follow this general rule of thumb: The average adult female needs 46 grams and average adult male 56 grams of protein daily. That adds up to about 15 to 19 grams of protein per meal, which is totally attainable in more natural protein sources, such as lean meats, cheese, yogurt, or nuts, which also contain healthy fats to help you feel satiated and full.
FUN FACT: What does 15 grams of protein look like? A half cup of cottage cheese. A serving of Greek yogurt (6 to 8 ounces). Two ounces of cheese (i.e., mozzarella, cheddar or Swiss). Four tablespoons of peanut butter. A half cup of almonds. One scoop of whey protein. (bracketed phrases added)
We’re not all destined to be Captain America. Just because protein powder has been drilled into our minds for post-workout doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you personally. Or, just because a close friend of yours lost weight with the latest and greatest diet pill, doesn’t mean you’ll see the same success. Many times ads and testimonials (usually paid) portray only the best end results; they leave out the struggles, side effects, and downright failures to appear more successful than they really are. Remember, they’re out to make money. Diving into the facts and understanding why a product works or doesn’t is the best route to success.
Knowledge is power in the dieting world, and the more you know, the more weight you’re likely to lose.
Another big example: Caffeine. Many people are looking for a morning pick-me-up to get them charged for a workout. Enter diet pills—and the list is exhaustive: the yellow pills, the green pills, and OMG, the black pills. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is fine, though pregnant and nursing women should be cautious with even that amount. But most diet pills are loaded with caffeine, far more than a single cup of coffee—and some of that caffeine is lab-created (anhydrous) rather than from natural sources; it’s more concentrated. And sometimes you don’t know that a natural ingredient also contains caffeine, so when you see it combined with the anhydrous you don’t realize you’re getting far more caffeine than the label states. If you are not using the caffeine pills for a pick-me-up or a substitute for sugary caffeinated drinks, or if you’re caffeine-sensitive in the first place, you can wind up feeling seriously ill. Do not combine caffeine-heavy diet pills with caffeinated drinks (coffee, soda, etc). And depending on the medical conditions or medication you are taking, caffeine consumption can adversely affect your health as well.
You shouldn’t have to over-think the choice of the right diet. Start with supplements you know and are comfortable with and branch out from there. Do your own research—that’s important. Even if you’ve heard good things about one supplement over another, still do a little digging; you’ll either validate those claims, or learn something you didn’t know before. Knowledge is power in the dieting world, and the more you know, the more weight you’re likely to lose.
Staying On It
Once you’ve figured out the best diet fit for you, the work comes into play. For many, starting the diet is not the hard part, but rather sticking to it and being consistent so that you can see results. And continue to make healthy choices once you’ve reached your weight loss goal. Find exercise you enjoy, whether it’s a sport, yoga, aerobics, or just a brisk walk outside. Embrace your new life and your new habits; make losing weight more about finding health. And find support along the way; knowing you’re not going it alone makes a huge difference. Many reputable diet programs offer support communities, and there are dozens if not hundreds of general diet/health forums and groups on social media—lots of cheerleaders available.
Each flight of stairs instead of elevator ride; each length of the parking lot walked because you parked further out; each apple chosen over a donut; each home-cooked meal over the drive-thru.
So once again, to find a diet program you can stick with, the first step is to make an informed choice. Science articles can give you insights about safety; but to get the lowdown on effectiveness, you’ll want to turn to reviews third-party sales pages, social media, blogs—pretty much anywhere you can hear from sources not linked financially to a product. Among the many review sites available for health and wellness products—and specifically weight-loss products—is ConsumersCompare.org. They check the science, and they check the customer voices from objective sites.
Your second step is to choose a diet program that fits easily into your day, your budget, and your basic food preferences—there’s no point investing in a smoothie-based meal plan if you don’t care for the texture of smoothies. If you tend to gag on pills, probably best to steer clear of pill-based plans. You’re just setting yourself up for defeat. Make a choice you know you’ll be able to adapt to.
Lastly, other healthy lifestyle choices will help you not only feel great, but make it easier to undertake the change of dieting. Every step away from unhealthy food choices and toward good is a win. There’s a fun quote that’s been around for a while now: “Every step you take means you’re lapping those still sitting on the sofa.” Or something like that.
It can be hard to not take it personally, to not feel like a failure if you’re not losing at the rate you had hoped. Remember, every step is a win.
Each flight of stairs instead of elevator ride; each length of the parking lot walked because you parked further out; each apple chosen over a donut; each home-cooked meal over the drive-thru. Every single one of those choices is a win for your health, even if it doesn’t show up on the scale right away. And a pound of muscle takes up less space under your skin than a pound of fat; so you’ll feel (and possibly look) different before the number on the scale catches up.
Dieting can still be an emotional rollercoaster for people, though; especially when they see results followed by a stall. It can be hard to not take it personally, to not feel like a failure if you’re not losing at the rate you had hoped. Remember, every step is a win. But know your own personal triggers: stress, disappointment, anger…any or all of these can have any one of us reaching for our own personal “comfort food,” be it French fries or Haagen-Dazs.
That’s not to say you have to forego them completely when you’re at your most frazzled, but be aware of why you’re reaching for it, and have a small serving combined with some other non-food comfort mechanism—that means buy the small serving in the first place, rather than scooping from a big one and have the rest of it staring at your for the next hour until you give in. If you’re a cookie-comfort person, there are scads of single-serving recipes on the Web. Make one. Eat one. Take your time with it and let it comfort you. Then suck in a deep breath and move forward.
Dieting can be tough, whether you’re new to it or a seasoned veteran who’s all but given up on it ever working. It’s about choices, and we don’t always choose best. But you can make the next choice the best. And then the next. And the next. One step at a time, and soon you’re flying down the road to better health. Take the potholes as just that—little temporary bumps that require an adjustment, but don’t have to land you in the ditch. It’s always about the next choice.
The idea of dieting is so monetized in our modern world, by companies who just want to be the next big thing and up their profits. They shower you with colorful pictures and “trial offers” and “become a distributor” because they want your money; they could care less about your health. So it’s important to do your research and learn how to stop yourself from falling into the trap of trusting supplement manufacturers on the basis of their advertising.
Listen to your body. Do your research. Keep your doctor in the loop. And take advantage of the testimonials of those who’ve trod the path before you; read independent blog reviews and customer reviews to really understand what people did and did not like about a particular program, and then put yourself in their shoes to see if you would agree.
One of the most insidious of these traps is the “negative option marketing” scam. In these, a company screams “Free trial! Pay only shipping and handling!” for their miracle product. But if you read their Terms and Conditions—and if those aren’t easy to find in the first place, you can bet this little scam is going on—you find that when you sign up for this “free” trial you’re also enrolling in an autoship program, where they will automatically send you another bottle of product (usually before you’ve had a chance to even get the “free” one open) and charge your credit card an exorbitant amount of money (the average is $85) every month without ever notifying you again. Cancelling these deals is always a headache; better to never get hooked in the first place.
Many people say, “I don’t have time to diet or exercise.” Let’s face it right now: that’s an excuse. There are plenty of ways to make healthy eating and exercise choices on the go. We’ve touched on a few already. But let’s break it down one more time, with a little help from a great article by John Rampton, writer for Entrepreneur magazine, published in May of 2015:
- Don’t Skip Breakfast: Google “healthy easy breakfast on the go” and you’ll find tons of ideas. Our bodies and brains need fuel in the morning.
- Make It Convenient: a lot of grocery stores today have pick-up or delivery options; make use of them. Or, if you have the time, boil a dozen eggs on the weekend and keep them in the fridge (mark them to differentiate from the raw ones); bake or grill a whole package of chicken breasts for use during the week; portion out nuts, fruits, and vegetables so they’re easy to grab; lots of ideas.
- Prepare in Advance: I think we just hit that one.
- Invest in Grab-and-Go Snacks: Just keep in mind that commercial granola can be loaded with fat, sugar, or both. But packs of almonds are always a good choice, as are raisins (natural sugars, but concentrated—smaller servings are best) and homemade trail mix.
- Don’t eat and work; give your food the attention it deserves. Better yet, eat and meet—engage in a little conversation over lunch while you both/all enjoy eating again. Make dinner family time again, if you can.
- Understand how the buzzwords work: “Low-fat” and “fat-free” items will almost always have added sugar—they’ve got to do something to it to make up for the flavor they’ve taken out. Similarly, low-carb specialty foods will be higher in fat than normal. And after decades of “low-fat” guidelines, science is finally realizing that too much sugar is equally bad for us and contributes to obesity and heart disease as well.
- Stay hydrated: Water. A little lemon or a few berries if you absolutely must have some flavor with it. But this is a must. Our bodies are three-quarters water; if it dries out, it can’t function properly. The guideline is 8 cups each day – 64 ounces of water, some of which we do get from real foods, but a good guideline is at least 48 ounces – that’s two fill-ups of the average water bottle sold in stores. You won’t drown.
- Choose healthy options at restaurants: “To play it safe, stick with grilled instead of fried and choose sides like fruits, soups, and salads over fries or onion rings.”
- Shop the Outer Limits: At the grocery store, spend 90 percent of your time shopping around the outer walls of the grocery store rather than in the middle. Fresh produce, store-baked breads, the meat counter, the seafood counter. The majority of processed foods congregate in the center of the store. One exception: frozen vegetables. If you can’t make it to the store every night, frozen vegetables (sauce-free) have nearly the same nutrients as their fresh counterparts. Choose real
- Once in a while, indulge. Note the clarifier there. Once in a while. Most diet programs allow for what they call a “cheat day,” but don’t think of it as cheating—that implies guilt, again defeating the purpose. Indulge; allow yourself the freedom of not feeling guilty. But, indulging doesn’t mean taking the all-you-can-eat buffet at their word. Have a meal, rather than a -fest; choose a favorite and enjoy every bite.
- Every step you take is a win over staying on the sofa. Stairs, parking lots, bike paths, and walking business meetings (when possible) are all wins for your health. Any flight of stairs can give you the same resistance training as the gym. Get up and dance like no one’s watching. Ten minutes…five minutes of your lunch hour…can make a difference.
“Diet” doesn’t have to be a four-letter-word, and dieting doesn’t have to be uncomfortable; it really just comes down to choosing which path is right for you and your body. Listen to your body. Do your research. Keep your doctor in the loop. And take advantage of the testimonials of those who’ve trod the path before you; read independent blog reviews and customer reviews to really understand what people did and did not like about a particular program, and then put yourself in their shoes to see if you would agree. These simple tactics will make it easier for you to narrow down the decision-making process, and get you on track to feeling good about changing your lifestyle.
ConsumersCompare.org reviews do the legwork, with references to scientific backing (or the lack thereof), the claims made by a product versus the reality found by customers, an exploration of the ingredients in a supplement or the details of a plan, all in one spot. They make recommendations, yes, but they also provide the tools for you to make your own choices. They warn about dicey ingredients and shady business practices (like that negative option thing, which is a big scam these days; be really aware of that one). Because they’re not sponsored by any of the manufacturers of these products, the only interest they have is in helping you navigate the shark-infested waters of the diet industry with as few scars as possible.