The health and fitness industry inundates us with options. For anyone truly striving to make positive, healthy change, it can be overwhelming. Who do we trust? What program should we follow? Is vegan best? What about Keto? What experts should we believe?
Rather than drowning in information, get back to the basics.
Ground yourself in these 5 Practical Tips.
Follow this simple Action Plan.
Protect Yourself from a Bad Diet.
1. If it Sounds Too Good to be True, it Probably Is
Anyone who’s struggled with weight-loss has struggled with the reality that change is tough. It’s easy to fall for the tempting promise that we just need a quick, simple fix to change everything. However, a lifetime of bad habits has built our bodies and shaped our routines. It’s not just the “bad part that has done damage to us. It’s also the “habits” part that can make it so hard to change. Giving up your French fries and ice cream in place of sweet potato fries and banana Nice cream can uncomfortable. However, with a PLAN in place and a COMMUNITY to support you, anything is possible.
Action: Think long-term
Rather than hoping for an instant cure, spend time investing in a long-term plan. Spend energy getting involved with healthy-eating communities. Make time to add cooking and meal prep to your weekly routine. Indulge in the motivational quotes and inspirational stories that will stay with you even when you are tempted to fall into old bad habits.
2. Push Aside Pills and Powders
This follows the same idea of “Too Good to be True”. However, the pill-pushers are getting sneakier. I recently took a phone call from a fellow “Well-Being advocate”. We bonded for a bit over our shared passion to get people to eat a more plant-based diet. As our conversation continued, though, I began hearing the sales pitch for a super pill promising to provide all the vital nutrition we need in a day.
It’s not just me. With clever TV commercials, pop-up ads, and radio promotions, the fantasy draws you in first: Tired of Being Tired? Sick of that extra Belly Fat? Get Healthy! Feel Great! It’s Easy!
Then they knock you over the head with some fancy-pants unicorn powder and a label listing 30 ingredients that you don’t understand. But “Don’t Worry”, they tell you. “It’s all Organic, GMO-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan”.
Action: Get Real (Foods)
If a pill brags about the energy-boost from greens, then just eat real greens. If a powder is pumped full of the super-power of cranberries, then eat whole cranberries. No need to waste your money on fancy labels and beautiful packaging. Keep your money in your wallet and real food on your plate.
Pro Tip: Andrea Wise, premier Chicago fitness trainer and owner of Andrea Wise Lifestyle, reminds us to "Check the ingredients... the fewer ingredients the better. If you can't pronounce it, try and avoid it. Just because something says "organic" it doesn't mean it is "healthy."
3. Be Careful of Reincarnates
What’s old is new again in the diet industry.
Remember Atkins? Remember how we all laughed when it turned out that eating bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast might not be as healthy as we’d like it to be? In the past 20 years since Atkins died, it has reincarnated with some new names:
Ketogenic: This “new” diet is based on the same fundamentals as Atkins: High-fat, low-carbs, plenty of protein. A day on Keto looks much like a day on Atkins with bacon for breakfast, a bun-less burger for lunch, and roasted chicken for dinner.
Paleo: It pushes aside the carbs in fruit for unlimited fat in wild-caught salmon. Your waist my shrink the first 2 weeks you give up dairy, but your cholesterol will soar.
Similar incarnates include the Dash Diet, Fertility Diet, and the Blood Sugar Diet.
While some of these might allow a couple of whole grains on the plate, the focus is still on eating more animal protein and fat. The marketers will try to sell you on the same story you bought 10 years ago. The same basic dieting principles are the same; they’ve just been given a shiny new package. Be careful.
Action: Trust Science
Science might evolve, but it doesn’t change. A 2014 study compared all of the popular "fad" diets. It came to the basic conclusion: "Real Food" is the winner. "A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention." (Atlantic Online)
The truth of a whole-foods, plant-based diet has sustained healthy communities for centuries. Rip off that shiny Reincarnated Atkins packaging and look deeper into the basic tenets.
"Think Long Term"
Pro Tip from Lori Bumbaco (RDN, CSO, LDN)
"Watch out for a diet like Whole 30." Sure, many people who are initially motivated can lose weight regardless of the diet plan they follow. The trick to keep off this weight is the follow through. What's going to going to promote health in 1 month...2 months...the rest of your life?"
Pro Tip: Thing Long Term
While many of these fad diets promise short-term results, they don't promote long-term health. Lori Bumbaco (RDN, CSO, LDN) Oncology Dietitian at the Cancer Wellness Center warns us to "Watch out for a diet like Whole 30. Sure, many people who are initially motivated can lose weight regardless of the diet plan they follow. The trick to keep off this weight is the follow through. What's going to going to promote health in 1 month...2 months...the rest of your life?"
4. Watch out for "No"
"No starches...No Carbs...No Sugar"
Some diets focus exclusively on what we can't have. For many of us, hearing the word "No" can simply create a deeper craving for a food. Our willpower is a muscle. Diets that are overly restrictive can fatigue our willpower muscle so much that we become preoccupied with what's missing.
Action: Focus on Overall Health
Pro Tip: Lori Bumbaco reminds us to work on changing our habits. Working to create an overall lifestyle of wellness can be much more realistic and enjoyable. Focus on the foods and routines that support overall health
Avoid the "NO"
Rather than focusing on what we can't have, find the foods and routines that support overall health
5. Do a Double-Check: Certification + Experience
When looking at the name behind any diet protocol, you want to ensure the person handing out the advice has the authority to do so. Check for two things:
Certifications can come from universities, professional conventions, on-line programs (like Cornell University’s Plant-Based Certification or NASM’s Precision Nutrition), and continuing education workshops. These certifications require attendees to pass a standardized test to prove their knowledge. This helps ensure that all professionals at this level are sharing the same fundamental education.
Experience comes when those professionals apply their book smarts to clients in the real world. As much as we can read about calorie counting and glycemic index in a textbook, implementing that knowledge on the specific needs of individual clients is a totally different story.
I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years. I can hands-down say my initial certification was essential to giving me the basic understanding of body mechanics, anatomy, and exercise. However, my 15 years’ experience has helped shaped that knowledge to fit the thousands of different bodies that have trusted me with exercise and nutrition advice. A health “professional” just out of school with only a handful of clients under her belt? She just isn’t ready. A life-long gym rat who’s trained all of his buddies but never bothered to learn the science of catabolic energy consumption? Also unqualified. You can’t have one without the other.
Actions: Click on the About Me section
When you’re on a website or thinking of buying a new diet book, find the About Me section. Check for both experience and certifications. In real-life, ask to see proof of both. Any professional should openly be ready to share her accreditation. If she seems offended or change the topic? Walk away. Do not trust her with your health.
Action Plan Recap:
1. Think long-term, lifestyle changes
2. Eat real, whole foods
3. Trust science to cut through the packaging of fake diet promises
4. Focus on Overall Health
5. Double-check experience and certification
Get started with your healthy plant-based diet. This 1 week meal plan gives you all of the recipes you need. Plus, you get a handy shopping list and helpful nutrition information. The menus is 100% vegan, oil-free, and whole-foods. All of the recipes are gluten-free, delicious, and easy to follow. This is the essential for your healthy vegetarian diet.
About the Author
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, and a blogger for Kuli Kuli Foods. For fun, she loves to travel, with her favorite trips including 4-days on the Incan Trail, 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile, 5 months backpacking in New Zealand, and exploring the fascinating flavors of Northern India.