When I was in high school, I had a job at one of the first “all women” exercise facilities. I remember a day when the manager handed out samples of meal replacement shakes. The concept of a “diet shake” was new then—and women went crazy for this seemingly magical solution to weight loss. All you had to do was drink two delicious shakes and eat one meal a day, and extra pounds were supposed to melt right off.
The problem was (and still is), that unbalanced diet plans promoting quick weight loss through restricted eating set the stage for yo-yo dieting. Yo-yo dieting starts when a person loses a significant amount of body weight on a diet plan. But eventually, the diet plan is abandoned and the weight returns, often with a few additional pounds added on. The diet (or another version of it) may be tried again—and the next thing you know, you’re in a cycle of weight loss and weight gain that never seems to end.
Yo-yo dieting takes its toll emotionally, as many of us know. But it can also have harmful effects on your body. Diets that are intended as “quick fixes” for weight loss often involve drastic measures such as skipping meals or drastically cutting calorie intake. While eating practically nothing may seem like the ticket to a smaller dress size, starving yourself throws off metabolism, causing the body to burn fewer calories and store fat for energy.
Another issue facing yo-yo dieters is nutritional deficiency. On an extreme calorie restricted diet, you simply may not get all the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other nutrients your body needs to function properly. While the effects may not be seen or felt immediately, over time, they will surface—in your appearance (dull skin, brittle hair and nails) and in your overall health.
Say you finally reach your goal weight. Now what? If you’ve followed an extreme diet, chances are you won’t remain at that weight for very long. You’ll begin to eat more food, possibly ditching the diet altogether. Without the knowledge of how to eat properly to maintain a healthy weight, the pounds will pile back on.
All of this can be avoided. The key is to choose a sensible eating program and make a lifestyle change—not just a change just to lose excess pounds. Hiring a professional who can teach you how to make better choices and control your food portions is a good place to start. The Internet is also filled with information that can help you learn to eat well.
Focus on eating small meals five to six times a day—not skipping meals or getting your calories from meal replacement drinks (one a day is fine). Choose a healthy cereal or snack bar for breakfast; snack on fruit along with a protein (such as nuts) throughout the day. Make sure lunch and dinner include lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Adding a high-quality multi-vitamin and omega-3 supplement is also a good idea.
Healthy eating habits should be a lifestyle, and a lifetime choice, rather than something you do for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next fad diet. Start make changes now that will benefit you forever!
NPC National Figure competitor Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at email@example.com.