13 Common Dieting Tips That Don’t Actually Work & Might Be Dangerous
We all know there are a million and one dieting tips out there, with many claiming they'll help you "lose weight" and "feel amazing" with just a few easy steps. Whether it's by doing a cleanse, restricting calories, or eating a few pre-packaged meal bars, once enough people get on board it can be difficult not to jump on the bandwagon. And yet, since there are so many diet tips that don't actually work, it's important to be able to weed through the hype.
This is especially true for fancy diet trends, as well as for methods that seem too good to be true. "Diet trends are exactly that — trends that come and go," Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD, of Street Smart Nutrition, tells Bustle. "Trends and fads make broad recommendations that are unrealistic or even unsafe for some people. Nutrition and health should be individualized to take into account your personal goals, priorities, and lifestyle."
That's why common diet tips often don't work — we're all just too different. But, more importantly, they're simply not safe. So, instead of taking someone else's advice or hopping onto a trend, start making "dieting" about your own healthy and wellbeing. "Approaching diet and lifestyle changes with body kindness in mind allows us to set new standards and focus on our health and happiness, which is what really matters," Harbstreet says. Sound good? Then read on for some dieting tips to avoid, no matter how many people say they "totally work."
1. Cutting Tons Of Calories
Plenty of diets (if not most) suggest you cut calories. And yet, if you've ever given this a try, you already know it doesn't work. "Restricting too many calories actually lowers your metabolism, sending your body into starvation mode," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Not only is this an unsustainable habit, but it causes your metabolism to shut down. That's why Hershenson suggests eating smaller meals every three to four hours, all in the name of feeling satisfied and keeping your metabolism on track.
2. Skipping A Meal (Or Two)
In the same vein, many a diet plan suggests the idea of "skipping meals." But you certainly don't want to do this, either — especially since it can lead to unhealthy yo-yo dieting. "Your body and mind work best in a consistent environment," says psychologist Dr. Michelle Barton, PhD. "Keep that in mind and look for small sustainable changes that can build over time. There is no quick fix to staying healthy; it's a life long commitment."
3. Focusing On How Much Weight You've Lost
If weight loss is your goal, it's hard not to get excited by the numbers on your scale. And yet, you shouldn't let that be your barometer of success. "A lot of factors influence our weight such as hydration status and the time of day," Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD tells Bustle. "When we focus on weight loss ... we're only setting ourselves up for failure." She recommends focusing instead on all the new healthy habits you've adopted. "They're measurable and more directly relate to your health than weight does."
4. Trying The Latest "Detox" Or "Cleanse"
While they may sound tempting, all those detoxes and/or cleanses aren't actually good for your body — even if they do help you lose some weight. "People typically think this means the diet is working, but once they go back to their normal diet their metabolism will have slowed down and they usually gain the weight back, and then some," says registered dietician nutritionist Megan Casper, MS, RDN. Cue that yo-yo dieting again, which is definitely not healthy.
5. Skipping Breakfast Every Single Day
If you have in your head that skipping breakfast is a good idea, here's your friendly reminder that it isn't healthy. "When we skip breakfast, we are more likely to overeat later in the day and we can start to lose touch with our internal hunger cues," says nutrition coach Amanda Sauceda, MS, RDN, CLT. In other words, it can confuse your body and lead to other health issues, so try from now on make a habit of eating something (even if it's small) every morning.
6. Giving All The Latest Trends A Try
Remember: nothing good comes from quick-fix dietary trends, especially the kind that are restrictive or incredibly unnatural. "Our ancestors figured out how to live healthy lives ... without any tricks, gadgets, or anything else you think you need," nutritionist Parker Condit tells Bustle. "I can't think of a single diet that came about recently ... that is sustainable and healthy in the long run." That's why steering clear of the latest crazes and claims is generally the healthier choice.
7. Relying On Supplements Or Programs
You know what they say... if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. "This can apply to any sort of supplement, weight loss program, or dietary guidelines," Condit says. What you really want to do is eat nutritional foods, and work on fixing your unhealthy habits. "The path to good overall health is a low trajectory at a distant target," he adds. "If someone is promising it can be done quickly and easily, they're probably a charlatan." Or at least not very well informed.
8. Exercising Your Unhealthy Diet Away
I've definitely fallen into the trap of eating whatever I want and then "making up for it" at the gym. But, as it turns out, this isn't a healthy way to live. As award-winning fitness trainer and nutrition expert Felicia Romero says, "Exercise by no means makes up for a bad diet." While it's certainly important to move and stay healthy, she tells me true health actually starts in the kitchen.
9. Shopping The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store
Some health experts have suggested shopping the perimeter of your grocery store as a way to avoid the processed foods in all those center aisles (chips, pretzels, etc.). And yet, this common tip can cause you to miss out on some healthy options. "If you just stuck with the perimeter, you'd ... miss lots of great foods that are in the center of the store — beans, lentils, peanut butter, dried fruit, oats, and so much more," nutrition counselor Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN tells Bustle. So, feel free to shop wherever you please.
10. Eating That One "Magic Weight Loss" Food
Over the years, there have been some pretty ridiculous diets that involve eating only food. While they may cause you to lose weight in the short-time, any diet that's this restrictive is bound to fail. "No one can live on cabbage soup or grapefruit for the rest of their lives," says NYC-based registered nurse Rebecca Lee.
11. Relying Too Heavily On Pre-Packaged Meals
If you've had success with meal plans, then definitely do whatever makes you feel your best. But it seems most people don't do well with diets that revolve around meal-replacement shakes or pre-packaged foods. As Lee tells me, it's likely because they don't address underlying eating issues, which might mean you run straight back to your old ways once the shakes run out. Not good.
12. Skipping Dinner Late At Night
While you don't want to go to bed after a heavy meal (for the sake of your sleep), you also don't want to go to bed hungry. I've definitely done this, with that "don't eat before bed" tidbit floating around in my head. And yet the experts tell me it really is a terrible idea. "The number one rule is that when you are hungry you should eat," says certified fitness nutrition coach Jaclyn DiGregorio. "It doesn’t mean eat 1,000 calories at midnight, but fueling your body with real food when you are hungry is important." It's all about finding that balance, and listening to your bod.
13. Cutting Out All Sugars And Carbs
Some people feel wonderful without carbs or sugars in their diet. If this describes you, cool. But if simply you can't give up sugars and breads, don't feel bad about it. As DiGreggorio says, it's often healthier to practice portion control, and just have that damn bowl of ice cream, than it is to avoid your favs and drive yourself nuts.
Because being healthy isn't about denying yourself or doing anything too restrictive. It's about picking up better eating habits along the way, and then sticking with them for life. To do so, avoid trends and figure out what makes you feel great, and you'll definitely be on the right track to better health.
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