By Diana Kelly
The Rumor: You have to go on a strict diet to lose weight
It's fitting that "diet" has four letters, because for many of us, it's a curse word. We associate dieting with punishment, starvation, beating ourselves up, avoiding any fun social activities and basically, waiting until it’s over and we can start living our lives again -- in leaner bodies, of course. In 2012, there were 108 million people on diets in the United States. To help them reach their goals, Americans spent about $20 billion on the weight-loss industry, including diet books, diet drugs and weight-loss surgeries.
Is it necessary, though? Can you lose weight without being on a diet? We talked to nutrition experts Amy Jamieson Petonic, RD, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, upwave's diet and fitness experts, for their tips on how to shed pounds the healthy way and keep them off for good.
The Verdict: The most effective weight loss involves lifestyle changes, not crash diets
“Successful weight loss isn’t all-or-nothing thinking,” says Lakatos. “Dieting is a temporary thing that you think you’re on or off of. When you tell yourself you can have this and you can’t have that, oftentimes it winds up backfiring. People end up giving in and eventually binging on the foods they avoided because it’s very hard to be extremely restrictive for a long a period of time.”
“But healthy eating is a lifestyle,” says Lakatos Shames. “Focus on healthy options of what you know you should eat. If you concentrate on eating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, there is less room for the dessert and junk in your meals. Focusing on what you can’t eat is the dieting mentality.”
To lose a pound you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories. Over the course of one week, that could be trimming 500 calories from your daily intake or trimming 250 calories from your diet and burning 250 calories through exercise.
“Ditching 500 calories from your day could be as simple as eating one less bite at every meal and skipping sorbet after dinner,” says Lakatos. “One client of ours always drenched her salad in dressing. When she switched to balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, she lost about 7 pounds quickly. These little changes can make a big difference.”
“Dieting [has] such a negative association with food,” says Petonic. “When you begin to associate good, whole foods with pleasure, weight loss will happen with very little effort.” Petonic suggests eating these foods to help you lose weight without dieting:
Whole grains: Eat 100 percent whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta or brown rice. All provide essential B vitamins and minerals that will fill you up and keep energy levels high.
Quinoa: It’s a complete plant protein that give's you all nine essential amino acids and is packed with fiber and iron.
Salmon: This protein source is high in omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are anti-inflammatory, and they provide essential proteins for growth and development.
Pistachios: These protein-packed nuts may help increase you metabolic rate and promote fat burning.
But don’t forget to get moving! Exercise is just as important as nutrition because that’s how you burn calories, says Lakatos. “Exercising is how you speed up your metabolic rate and get your body going. We’ve found that when our clients exercise, they feel good about themselves, and they don’t want to undo their hard work by eating the wrong foods.”