Damn Your Dietary Dogma

Many years ago, I attended a nutrition seminar hosted by a professor who had been running some weight loss trials on clients in efforts to reduce risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and strokes.

He had seen significant success with a diet comprised of approximately 40% protein, 40% fat, and 20% carbohydrate.

I was so impressed with his results and his confident delivery that I asked several of my weight loss clients if they would be interested in experimenting with something similar to see how well it worked.

At the time, I had a fraction of the clients I do now but I did have some willing participants.

Since I don’t have a degree in dietetics, I can’t “prescribe” a plan to clients. I can offer suggestions, I help design meal templates but I can’t make any promises of what a diet can or cannot do for a client beyond weight loss and general performance.

However, at that time, I was seeing really great results with this breakdown of macronutrients.

There was just one problem.

None of my clients could sustain this diet.

All of the clients who succeeded at losing weight with this plan, regained most (if not all) of the weight back.

I put a lot of the blame on my shoulders for that. I never “taught” them how to keep the weight off. I only taught them how to lose it.

To this day, I still have some of those clients and they still talk to me about going back to it so they can succeed (or fail, depending on your viewpoint) on it again.

It would have been easy to stick to my guns with this diet. My clients saw great results, I just needed to be more proactive with the long-term view of it.

What I haven’t told you about is all the clients who didn’t succeed on the diet. That would have been over 50%. When I say, didn’t succeed, I mean they didn’t lose any significant amount of weight.

Why? Sustainability.

As the years continue to roll by and I continue to work with more and more people, I find myself inching further and further away from most diets.

You see, for as alluring as it might be to make a new weight loss client “go Keto”, I just can’t do it.

Nor can I encourage them to do intermittent fasting, or pull a dietary 180 and go vegan.

It isn’t because those diets don’t work, every diet works when you follow it.

It’s because I cannot replicate the success rate of any one diet for all of my clients and the long-term view is (almost) always suspect.

Most troubling to me, is the clients who dig their heels firmly into the dogma of whatever diet they’re seduced by despite the fact that they haven’t seen noticeable AND sustainable success on them either.

Let me clarify: I do have clients who have seen tremendous success going vegan. I have others who have seen great success on Whole30. This is truly great news. Until you fast forward 6 months down the road and many of these same people are right back where they started, just like the clients of mine who tried that diet I learned about all those years ago.

This isn’t a knock on any one diet.

Because for each diet, there is a select group who do magnificently on it. They are not the norm. They are the exceptions.

But you wouldn’t know that if you get your dietary advice from social media. It’s an echo chamber and if you need to find people who salute the Keto flag, by God, you’ll find them. They’ll be so proud that you’ll wonder how Keto could ever fail you.

Until it does fail you.

Then you’ll wonder what’s wrong with you that in trying to keep up with the KetoJoneses that you couldn’t succeed too.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with you. You may have picked the wrong tool, used it at the wrong time, or just didn’t follow it to the letter.

There is another point worth mentioning.

If you started your weight loss journey today and you decided that Whole30 was the diet you would embark on, you would likely lose an admirable amount of weight.

Maybe you’d double the time on it and stick with it for a full 60 days.

Then, the wheels start to come off, as they invariably do and you flounder for a bit. You try to go back to Whole30 but it just doesn’t do what it did before. It loses its novelty. It loses its power.

You have to make a choice. Do you cling tighter to the diet that served you so well initially or do you change course and try the next diet?

Sometimes, the tool you pick initially does not serve for the entire course of your weight loss journey and you have to realize that you need something different now.

This is okay.

Just because intermittent fasting helped you lose your first twenty pounds, doesn’t mean it will help you with the next twenty or the thirty after that.

And as you’re experimenting with the nuances of each diet, ask yourself:

What am I learning about myself?

Learn the factors that make a diet succeed for you:

-Are you eating the right amount of calories for your goal?

-Are you recovering well from your workouts, sleeping restfully and not too irritable?

-Do you feel bloated often? What foods OR combinations of foods make you feel that way?

-Are you consistently sticking to the plan you picked for yourself or are you constantly taking dietary detours?

-Does this diet plan fit within your lifestyle including work, home and social life?

-Do you feel in control of your food decisions or is your home/work environment plagued by foods that make you feel powerless?

I can tell you this, no diet can teach you how to feel when you eat. Because no diet understands feelings and many of us eat based on emotions.

No diet truly understands your life and course-corrects in real time to modify itself for your needs.

These constants remain:

To lose weight, you must be in an energy deficit.

To maintain weight, you must be eating equivalent to what you burn on a daily basis.

To gain (true) weight, you must be in an energy surplus.

The diet that you can sustain is the one you have spent the time understanding how to make it mold to your goals, your life and your particular set of challenges (we all have those).

So, if you’re frustrated when a diet that once worked (or in theory SHOULD work) but is no longer having that magical effect, it may be time to divorce yourself from it and the dogmatic beliefs that come with it.

You owe that to yourself.

“We Make Great People Greater”

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