This week, a very unfortunate conversation occurred at work. Fad diets became the hot topic. Sugar cleanses. Juicing. Atkins. Paleo. Keto. Carb free. Raw food diet. Cranberry juice cleanse. Cabbage soup diet. Many of these diets are temporary-no one can live on cabbage soup for a lifetime. And juicing is fun until there’s cake. Then, cake wins. ALWAYS. Cake wins, always.
I’ve done my fair share of diets. And I’ve tried the odd thing to lose weight. Drink unsweetened cranberry juice with every meal. Know what that does? Makes you hate life. I did Paleo- and it helped. However, you can’t really eat like a caveman. Know why? Because there’s no more mammoth, and everything we eat is completely different than anything that existed ten thousand years ago. But several of the rules are good ones. Eat foods in their natural forms. Cut back on highly processed items- and anything that isn’t natural.
And really, THAT is the rule that fad diets have taught me. Atkins and Keto focus on keeping carbs low. If you tend to binge on carbs (cookies, cakes, fries, etc), setting yourself a limit is great. But restricting yourself to 30 carbs a day (helpful note: that’s 2 pieces of bread) for life is no one’s dream. But saying “at each meal, I will have 10/20/30 carbs” allows you to have a goal.
With Paleo, I focused on eating things that occur naturally. Paleo tells you to not eat beans, dairy, and most starchy veggies. This, once again, is not something I can maintain. I love milk, ice cream, cheese, and potatoes. Giving all that up for life is an impossibility. But eating natural food, cutting back on artificial ingredients, and eating more whole foods gets you most of the nutrients you need naturally.
Most cleanses are also not maintainable. Drink only juice for the rest of your life? Not going to happen. Most people can’t do that. And those that do a cleanse to “clean out toxins in their body”- well, you body does that naturally. Every day. If it didn’t, you would die. So following a strict, kale juice only diet might help you lose weight- but it may also make you want to kill people. And if you scale back too much, as soon as you give up (and you will) you’ll pack back on the weight. Which makes the suffering so much worse when it was pointless. And there are smoothies and juices that are great. There are days when I drink my breakfast because I don’t feel like eating a meal- and it’s easy option. But a juicing diet would never work for me. Unless it was ice cream. Milk shake diet? I’m in. But otherwise, no. No thank you at all.
Each fad diet has its benefits. And important lessons can be gleaned from all of them. But most fad diets are fads for a reason. No one maintains them for life because it isn’t possible. But I have found that knowing myself, and knowing what I am capable of, helps me find diet tweaks that work. And those things are different for everyone. Research, try different things, and find what works for you. There isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to anything in life. And leave room to eat foods you love. Because sometimes things DO taste better than thin feels (and I should know, I’m fat).