The internet is filled with all kind of weight loss advice, ranging from simple tips, such as having a glass of water first thing after waking up, to strange fads, such as eating only bananas. With so much conflicting advice, it’s difficult to distinguish between the good and the bad. Where do you draw the line between what is genuinely helpful for long term weight loss and what is a ridiculous fad?
To make things more complicated, sometimes websites will give advice that results in quick weight loss that is actually harmful to your health in the long term. This includes many detoxes, low-calorie diets, or meal plans that completely eliminate important food groups. When bad weight loss advice can appear effective, how do you find effective long term weight loss tips?
Although there is not always a clear distinction, we’ve put together a list of five key qualities to look for in advice. These 5 differences between a fad diet and long-term weight loss will help you distinguish between tips that will help you lose and keep the pounds off, and tips that can be detrimental to your health.
1. Long term weight loss takes time.
The internet is full of short-term diets that promise to make you drop 5 or 10 pounds in a week. What these diets often do is help you de-bloat or help your body clean out waste from your digestive tract. While this approach can give you a flatter stomach quickly, the results won’t last. After the first few days, your body will return to its typical water and waste retention, meaning that the excess pounds will return as quickly as they disappeared. It is near impossible to lose this much weight in body fat in just a few days.
It is estimated that a person needs to burn around 3,500 calories in order to lose a pound of fat. In order to lose 5 pounds in one week, you need a deficit of 17,500 calories. This is a deficit of 2,500 calories per day. Keep in mind that this is just the deficit, meaning that you would need to burn whatever you eat on top of those 2,500 calories.
A more reasonable aim for long term weight loss is closer to a 500 calorie deficit per day. The number on the scale will drop slowly, but it will keep dropping instead of springing back up. Instead of following a quick-fix diet, try making small changes to your habits that will help you burn more calories throughout the day. Check out our post on 13 ways to burn extra calories in just 4 minutes a day.
2. Fad diets often eliminate essential nutrients.
An example of an extreme diet that eliminates essential nutrients is a meal plan that has you eat nothing but boiled potatoes and baked chicken breast. Even if you’re eating in the ideal calorie range, you might not be getting all your vitamins and minerals. A lack of vitamin C and A can weaken your immune system and leave you vulnerable to colds and influenza. A nutrient deficit can also cause amenorrhea, the loss of menstruation, is women. If your body lacks certain nutrients, you might become vulnerable to binges, meaning all weight loss efforts can be undone in a short period of time.
Look for meal plans that allow you to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Make sure you include sources of lean protein and healthy fats. No major food group should be eliminated. Even making room for the occasional dessert can be more effective for long term weight loss. Our meal planning posts can help you find tons of delicious new recipes that use fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean protein.
3. Too few calories can actually make you gain weight in the long term.
Another way you can become vulnerable to binges is by not eating enough calories. When your body doesn’t get enough energy to function properly, it freaks out and sends signals to your brain that you are in dire need of food. This causes you to crave high-calorie treats, often in the form of high-fat, high-sugar combinations such as ice cream, cakes, deep-fried meat, or sauce-drenched chicken wings.
Keeping your body at an elevated calorie deficit for a long period of time can cause permanent damage to your mind and body. Your metabolism will slow down. Non-essential processes will shut down. Muscle mass will decrease much faster than fat stores. Menstruation will stop. Your heart will weaken and you will lose bone density. Studies have also shown the link between starvation and mental deterioration. Depriving your body of necessary calories leaves you vulnerable to eating disorders. You become overly focused on food, even while depriving yourself of it. Hoarding habits, mood swings, and personality shifts have all been linked to starvation.
When following diets and meal plans from the internet, it’s very important to make sure you are still eating enough to keep your mind and body healthy. Unless advised by a doctor, try to keep your calorie deficit close to the recommended 500 calories per day.
4. Long term weight loss doesn’t involve fasting days.
Fad diets and detoxes often ask you to fast for a day. They can also ask you to keep your calorie intake extremely low for a day or two. Many people believe that if the fast only lasts for a little while, it doesn’t cause any harm and can aid your long-term goals. While a one-day fast might not seem like much, it can still put tremendous stress on your body.
Your body works at its best when it has a steady stream of energy. This is why it’s often recommended to eat small frequent meals, instead of large meals two or three times a day. Fasting for a day will slow your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
Long term weight loss sets up a routine where you eat the recommended amount of calories every day. Remember to keep your deficit within a reasonable range.
5. Long term weight loss includes carbs, fats, and proteins.
Carbs, fats, and protein are known as macronutrients. These are the foundation for healthy eating.
Many fad diets eliminate or severely limit one of these groups. The latest trends tend to cut carbs almost entirely. In the past few years, some have responded to the low-carb trend by preaching a high-carb, low-fat diet instead. In reality, both carbs and fats are important components of a balanced diet. Carbs are the main source of energy for your body. Fats are essential for proper brain function and play an important role in making you feel satiated.
Instead of eliminating or limiting macronutrients, look for a diet that’s structured around healthy carbs and fats. This means whole grains instead of added sugar, and fish instead of deep-fried treats.
Sources of healthy carbs include squashes, beans, fruit, oatmeal, and most vegetables. Healthy fats are found in fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Browse our recipes to find meals full of nutritional superstars.
To learn more about what makes a healthy diet, check out our posts on weight loss. You can find tons of tips and tricks to lose weight the healthy way!
How do you differentiate between fad diets and long term weight loss? Let us know! Leave a comment in the section below.