Now that the new year has begun, many people are trying to become healthier and eat better. Some, unfortunately, will try "quick fixes" and fad diets.
Yo-yo dieting - or weight cycling, as experts call it - is practically a national pastime. An estimated 54 percent of people in the United States are currently trying to shed pounds, fueling a $59-billion-a-year industry of supplements, books, and packaged foods that promote weight loss, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a marketing research group.
It's not only your waistline that suffers from yo-yoing. "Repeated crash dieting increases metabolic hormones, such as insulin, and elevates levels of hormones, including estrogen," says Andrea Pennington, MD, author of The Pennington Plan for Weight Success. "These changes cause you to start putting on weight around your middle, which research has linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease."
Yo-yo dieting operates in such a way that it is harder each time to lose weight. As the yo-yo nears the end of its string, the plastic spool starts spinning slower. Likewise, the diet follower may find weight loss success harder and harder to maintain as time goes by, leading to low self-esteem, depression and demotivation. As soon as you attempt to eat normally again, all the weight regained will be stored in the form of fat. This type of diet essentially tampers with a healthy body's normal fat-to-muscle ratio, which is a primary aspect of good health.
Instead of turning to a fad diet, try these suggestions to begin the process of transforming yourself into a healthy and confident new you.
Aim for realistic weight loss goals. Don't place added pressure on yourself to lose 15 pounds before Valentine's Day. Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint.
Decrease calorie consumption. "Even if you're doing everything right, your weight can fluctuate based on the time of day or how hydrated you are," says Evelyn Tribole, RD, coauthor of Intuitive Eating. In fact, research shows that women who fixate on counting calories and restricting their food intake report more stress and have higher levels of cortisol, which is linked to overeating. "Instead of obsessing about every morsel, think about how eating right and exercising make you feel," Tribole says. "Do you have more energy? Are you able to keep up with your kids?" If you take the time to notice the positive effects of each healthy behavior - whether it's pushing away from the table before you clean your plate or biking for 30 minutes a day -- it's easier to motivate yourself to stay on track.
Do not skip breakfast. In one recent study, people who ate breakfast as their largest meal lost an average of 17.8 pounds over three months. The other participants consumed the same number of total calories per day, but ate most of their calories at dinner, according to the study published in July 2013 in the journal, Obesity. The large-dinner group only lost an average of 7.3 pounds each over the same time period.
Modify activity levels to sustain muscle mass while losing weight. Everyone needs exercise. Exercise not only helps you maintain healthy weight levels, but also is critical for strengthening bone density, increasing muscle strength and improving endurance. Exercise can also be a great stress reducer while helping to improve your self-esteem. When you feel good about your appearance, you become happier and more self-confident which improves all areas of your life.
Take a good look at what, when, and why you eat. If you're a stress eater, try making a list of calming strategies that don't involve reaching for a cookie jar. When you feel overwhelmed, consult your list and pick out something you can do in the next 10 minutes. Go for a brisk walk with your dogs or play a quick game of tag with your kids. Distract yourself long enough for your stress levels to come down.
To learn how Fitness for Health can help transform you into a healthier you, call 301-231-7138 or visit www.FitnessForHealth.org.