At the beginning of a new year, many people are determined to commit to their resolutions of changing their diets and losing weight. So they start out the year by drastically slashing their daily calories, swearing off all carbs, sugar, and alcohol, or even trying extreme diet fads like juice cleanses or fasting. All of these are harsh changes, and diets almost always fail.
There’s a reason why diets don’t work for long-term weight loss: most people view this way of eating as temporary, and if they are successful in losing any weight, they usually revert back to their old habits and ultimately gain back the weight—and sometimes more. Diets that severely restrict calories or omit whole food groups aren’t sustainable.
What does work? Making lifestyle changes. Specifically, making small but significant changes to your diet will set you up for success to lose unwanted pounds and improve your overall health.
Focusing on just a few small changes at a time will allow you to establish new, long-term healthy habits, rather than diving into an all-or-nothing way of eating that always fails because it is not sustainable long-term.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts for revamping your diet and making small, gradual lifestyle changes that will help you shed pounds and improve long-term health.
Don’t do a cleanse.
After the holidays, which are filled with rich, sugary foods, people incorrectly believe doing some sort of juice cleanse or fast will help them lose the extra pounds they gained and cleanse the “bad” foods from their bodies. However, dietitians all agree that scientifically there is no such thing as a cleanse. Diet books and wellness brands will try to convince you that a cleanse or fast must be done to remove so-called toxins from your body from all that overindulging during the holidays. This is false.
A cleanse simply restricts calories and makes you feel like you’re doing something good by not eating inflammatory foods, but it does nothing for your body other than making you feel deprived and likely to overeat when your cleanse is finished. And you still have to confront the behaviors and eating habits that made you feel like you needed to do such an extreme diet in the first place.
Do slowly phase out processed foods.
Raiding your pantry and fridge and throwing away everything that you deem unhealthy all at once is a surefire way to set yourself up for a junk-food binge a few days later. Instead of purging everything, start swapping out processed foods like chips, cookies, candy, and convenience meals for healthier options slowly—a little at a time. For example, instead of grabbing a sugary protein bar for a snack, try eating fruit and Greek yogurt, or instead of a bag of potato chips, trade it for veggies and hummus. Slowly work in swaps for other processed foods for healthier, whole foods like fruits, veggies, low-fat proteins, nuts, and whole grains.
Do hold the mayo.
A really easy change to make is eliminating sauces and condiments that add empty calories like mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings, and special sauces. Doing so could save you 100 calories per day. At the very least, switch to lower fat versions of salad dressings and mayo if you must have it with certain foods.
Do a complete coffee makeover.
Skip the Starbucks trips and not only will your wallet thank you, but it could also help you lose up to 15 pounds in a year. Those fancy coffee drinks and lattes are loaded with sugar, heavy cream, and lots of calories with no nutritional value. If you need your morning cup of joe, try drinking regular coffee with less added sugar and low-fat or fat-free cream, or no cream at all.
Don’t skip breakfast.
It may be tempting to skip your first meal of the day in an effort to save calories, but research has shown that regular breakfast eaters lose more weight than those who regularly skip it. But it’s also what you eat for breakfast that counts. Switch out your morning muffin or bagel for eggs, and it could help you lose 65 percent more weight. Eating a breakfast rich in the protein found in eggs will keep you fuller longer and can help you eat less throughout the day.
Taking a slow, steady approach to weight loss by incorporating small, achievable changes can help you successfully lose the extra pounds and create healthier habits you’ll want to keep.