Drastic Diets Like Whole30 and Keto Rarely Work
As a nutritionist, here’s what I recommend instead
With January here, Keto and Whole30 are words we hear more often now than at any other time of year. Why? Many people want to eat healthier, lose weight and have more energy, and they believe that the New Year is the perfect time to make changes. They decide to follow a strict, short-term diet in the hopes that it will be just the “reset” that they need. But seeing as 80% of individuals who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them within a month, maybe an extreme January diet isn’t the answer.
Pulling a 180 on your life is simply not sustainable, especially when it comes to your diet. Being too restrictive with your food can not only take the enjoyment out of eating but can also contribute to an unhealthy relationship with your food.
As a nutritionist, here’s what I recommend doing instead.
cut out one food at a time
The thing about Whole30 is that it doesn’t teach you how to eat for the long run, and Keto is so drastic that is rarely sustainable (or necessary) for most people. For better results, you should focus on one food or nutrient to reduce or increase at a time. For instance, if you know you eat too many carbohydrates, start by exploring healthier swaps for some of these foods that you eat often. There is a wealth of recipes out there for veggie noodle dishes, cauliflower fried rice, and baked goods made from nuts and seeds. Experiment until you find recipes that you enjoy.
eliminate or add one habit at a time
Pick one area of your diet to work on at a time. For example, maybe you skip breakfast because you think don’t have time or don’t know what to eat. Commit to the simple act of eating breakfast every day and gear all of your efforts toward that goal. Look up some healthy smoothie recipes or make a big batch of egg and veggie muffins.
If you struggle with meal prepping, focus on that (meal prepping can be a huge help in eating healthy). Figure out what sort of prep works best for you: the morning of, the night before, in one big batch at the beginning of the week, etc. Set aside time each week to plan your meals, make a list and go shopping (or have groceries delivered if that’s easier).
Whatever habit you choose, don’t try to change any other areas of your diet until this one thing becomes easy.
be mindful about what you’re eating
No matter what you’re eating, work on the act of eating. This includes eating sitting down, in a relaxed way and without distractions. Say you always eat your lunch in a hurry while checking emails, find that it is over before you know it and feel tired afterward. Make it your goal to turn away from your computer, sit in another room, or sit with a coworker while you eat your lunch. Chances are you’ll enjoy your meal more, eat the right amount for you and feel better once you’re done eating.
And if you’re celebrating by indulging, don’t feel guilty! Instead, savor the experience. Occasional indulgences are part of a healthy diet.
why small changes work better than drastic diets
your likely experience with a drastic diet:
- you find it extremely challenging to follow
- you skip socializing to avoid temptation
- if you eat a “bad” food, you feel bad about yourself
- you don’t eat enough because you’re so restricted
- when you stop the diet, you quickly gain weight
- your old habits come back much more quickly than you’d hoped
- you develop unhealthy relationships to food
- you don’t learn any helpful skills toward eating healthy for the long-term
your likely experience with incremental diet changes:
- you find tackling small changes one at a time totally doable
- you socialize while still sticking to your plan
- you learn how to enjoy occasional indulgences
- you have plenty of food options and never go hungry
- the weight you lose stays off
- your new habits become simply your way of life
- you have a healthy, joyful relationship with food
- you learn plenty of healthy-eating skills that actually work with your lifestyle