Thinking About Starting a Diet? Look Over a Dietitian's Checklist of Essential Questions First
Finding a diet that works for you is hard, to say the least. And so many of them tout amazing results in a short amount of time that — news flash! — aren't sustainable longterm and aren't realistic for every body type. If going keto works for you, great! But know that some people find staying in ketosis too difficult (and there are a slew of pretty nasty side effects, too). Have you found success with intermittent fasting? Props to you! A registered dietitian does warn against trying it if you're a diabetic, though. For every success story, there's someone who didn't get the outcome that they thought they would, or someone who can't maintain that diet for health reasons.
Registered dietitian Lauren Cadillac, RD, CLT, knows what experimenting with diet after diet is like. She told POPSUGAR that since she was 16 years old, she's tried "basically everything under the sun." That included "the cookie diet, the master cleanse, paleo, keto, intermittent fasting, flexible dieting ('If It Fits Your Macros'), and eventually a bodybuilding diet."
Lauren, who calls herself the "Feel Good Dietitian," recently posted a checklist on Instagram she wants people to go through before diving into a weight-loss diet. "When seeking out a diet to lose weight, if you answer NO to any of the purple (left) questions or YES to any of the blue (right) questions, I'd suggest you skip it," she wrote in the caption. Essentially, if the diet doesn't bring you joy, isn't sustainable, doesn't improve your qualify of life, or strays from your beliefs, Lauren thinks you should opt out. If the diet has a restrictive list of what not to eat, interferes with your social life, is endorsed by celebrities (and seems gimmicky), or guarantees drastic results in a short time frame, she advises to steer clear. See that full checklist above.
"Diets take up a lot of mental real estate, can cause stress, limit you from enjoying foods you truly love, and can interfere with your social life and personal relationships."
"It's not that a specific diet will immediately bring you great joy; rather, it's more of a question of if the diet will steal it from you," Lauren explained. "Diets take up a lot of mental real estate, can cause stress, limit you from enjoying foods you truly love, and can interfere with your social life and personal relationships, all of which equal less joy."
Lauren said she didn't go to the beach for two Summers in a row because packing the right food was too stressful. "I couldn't go out to dinner with friends, and I was always hungry and therefore miserable to be around. A lot of my relationships suffered because of my dieting." Everyone is different, and diets may work for you, but Lauren said it got so bad that she developed an eating disorder — and she's not alone on that front.
Sustainability is another important factor. Lauren believes that if you don't see yourself being able to maintain the diet longterm, you're at risk of gaining weight back. Though there are ways you can maintain your weight loss after the fact, she pointed to research suggesting that 95 percent of diets fail within five years, meaning the individual regains the weight they lost within that time. (Note: as this article from Vox explains, studies also show that outside factors can play a role in the success of a diet.)
"In fact, two-thirds of people will regain back more weight than they lost in the first place," Lauren said. She explained, "Our bodies see dieting as a famine, and in order to save us from this famine, a survival mechanism kicks in leading to a slowed metabolism, increased enzymes that store fat, decreased muscle mass as your body cannibalizes it for energy, and a shift in fat storage." You can read more about regaining weight post-diet here.
Lauren is a big fan of intuitive eating and listening to hunger-fullness cues, which she's spoken to POPSUGAR about in the past. As she wrote in a blog post from earlier this year, "To simplify it into one sentence: eat the things that make you feel good (energy, mood, digestion, sleep, strength) and that you enjoy." Plus, she discusses more about the negative effects of yo-yo dieting here.
Bottom line? Lauren wants you to consider the points above before you start a diet. She also noted that if you have food allergies or a serious medical condition that requires you to eliminate specific foods (gluten for those with Celiac disease, for example), "by all means do so, but consult a dietitian first." It's ultimately up to you; however, there definitely are important questions you should be asking yourself beforehand, and consulting with a doctor is always a smart idea.