At any given time, about 25% of us are trying to lose weight on some sort of diet. That's a lot of people! More often than not, those diets fail. Collectively, we've lost weight, but gained more back. What gives?
For starters, not all diets are great. Many are gimmicky and downright harmful. If you're one of the millions that are committing to a diet right now, here are a few signs that it might not be working right for you - and what you can do about it!
1. You're Constantly Cranky
It's perfectly understandable to be a little on edge when starting a diet that denies you less-than-healthy foods you've eaten for a long time. Cutting out high sugar foods, caffeine, alcohol or processed foods can make anyone a little irritable for the first few days. But if you're going on day 30 of eating clean and can't seem to buck up when it comes to meal time, consider making a couple changes. In no way am I suggesting that you start eating processed junk food again, but try to give some thought to ways you can make food more interesting or tasty. Healthy food is actually really good! Here are a few suggestions:
- Instead of steamed veggies, try roasted or grilled.
- Add spices for more flavor - they're always healthy!
- Add complementary condiments like guacamole, hummus, tzatziki, mustard, or homemade mayo to foods
- Avoid the same old foods day in and day out. Look for variety.
2. You're Lacking Energy
The #1 upside of eating healthy is almost always increased energy. If your energy is suddenly sapped after starting a diet, something went wrong. Sometimes people make the mistake of eating far too little when starting a diet. For most of us, eating 5000 calories is way too much. On the flip side, eating 500 calories is way too little. But we still persist with the notion that if eating too much made us gain weight (true), then eating too little will help us lose weight (false). Not so fast. Eating too little can actually put your body into a state of "fight or flight," which in turn adds pounds rather than removes them. Eat less junk/processed food, eat more healthy/unprocessed food (but not too much), move more and your energy will almost certainly improve overnight.
3. You're Not Eating Fresh Foods
You just started a diet, but it's mostly packaged. Not good. Packaged foods are processed foods. Processed foods never, ever, ever have the same amount or quality of nutrients as fresh foods. If your diet consists of foods from the freezer section of the grocery store, or packages off shelves with a number denoting a certain amount of points, please start looking for fresher alternatives. A diet that lacks quality of food, often at higher prices, is not worth it.
4. You're Gaining Weight
This is never a good sign. If you're gaining weight, which believe it or not is not that uncommon, re-think what you're doing. If you're eating healthy, it's possible that you're eating too much healthy food. For example, walnuts are very healthy in small amounts. But if you sit down with a big bag of walnuts and polish them off...yeah, you're going to gain weight. With the exception of most vegetables, just about every other healthy food applies, even fruit. Your body needs the energy we get from calories to keep us moving, but too much gets stored as fat.
On the other side of coin, if you're not overeating and still gaining weight, you might not be eating the right foods for your body. Hormones play a big role in where we gain weight. Since everyone's hormones sit at different levels, fat storage and weight gain shift from person to person. For instance, a person who is trying to lose belly fat by going on a very low fat diet might actually gain more weight through the midsection. Eating the right amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat for your body - along with many other variables - is incredibly important to lasting weight loss.
5. You're Avoiding Specific Macronutrients Altogether
Anytime you go on a diet that all but eliminates a certain macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate or fat) for a prolonged period of time, your body will suffer. With the exception of carefully planned fasts, diets that eliminate or significantly reduce fat, for instance, will never work out well for your body in the long run. Our body needs protein, carbs and fat. No diet should be 100% of one or completely void of another. Do your best to avoid this type of diet.
6. You're Losing Weight, But Feeling "Softer"
You've lost five pounds. Great! But suddenly you've lost that great definition in your arms, shoulders or bottom. Wait a second! Did you lose muscle? Sounds like it. It's unlikely that your diet is eating your muscle, but if you're following a fad diet that also suggests cutting back on specific exercises or movements because they'll "add inches," (sadly, diets like this exist), you've been misled. A lean, muscular body could weigh just as much as a soft, less-muscular body, but sport a pair of jeans that are two sizes smaller. Along with your healthy diet, keep your body active and moving.
7. You're Experiencing Unwanted Side Effects
If you start experiencing side effects like hair loss, lack of sex or a worsened appetite, something has gone of track. Of course, seek advice from a medical doctor right away, but consider your diet right, too. Often times when people go on a diet, fat, calories and energy-giving nutrients are often reduced. Even though it's good to cut out unhealthy fats, and excessive calories, cutting out too much of either is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It doesn't take a long time for physical or emotional side effects to rear their ugly head. If you noticed new side effects shortly after you started a diet, stop what you're doing. Weight can always be lost is a healthy way. Don't risk your health for a couple pounds.
8. You're Constipated
If you can't poop, things aren't right. Even though it's common for bathroom habits to change when diets change, if you're constipated for a prolonged period of time, it's important to get things back on track. The culprit could be a lack of water, a lack of foods high in fiber or a lack of healthy bacteria in your gut! Do a quick mental check of your diet. Are you eating plenty of vegetables? Are you drinking plenty of water? Are you eating foods that will build good bacteria in your belly? Make sure you're eating lots of vegetables, drinking lots of water (preferably eight ounces before every meal or snack), and taking a probiotic.
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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.