The Difference Between Restrictive Dieting and Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

If you’ve ever tried to lose a significant amount of weight and actually keep it off, you’re likely well aware of just how difficult a feat long-term weight loss actually is. Weight loss is a billion-dollar industry in the United States alone, with trendy new diets cropping up seemingly every few months. Dieting is a big business for sure, and while that is all well and good — maintaining a healthy weight is important — many restrictive dieters seem to achieve weight loss in the short-term only to find the pounds creeping back on as time goes by. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly frustrating situation. Plus, it’s just not good for you.

One of the main reasons long-term weight loss can be such a challenge, is that many people turn to fad diets — think Whole30, Atkins, Paleo — that are difficult to maintain in the long-term because they’re so restrictive. Thankfully, restrictive dieting isn’t the only way to get healthy. Before you embark on your personal wellness journey, here are some things you should know about restrictive dieting compared to adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Super Speedy vs. Slow and Steady. People tend to lose weight quickly when they start a restrictive diet, which is why so many people do it. Eliminating entire food groups typically results in overall decreased calorie consumption as the dieter figures out what they can actually eat and anyone who burns more calories than they consume will lose weight. Plus, most people will lose a lot of water weight in the first week or so of a new diet, some of which they are bound to regain. However, that sort of rapid weight loss isn’t sustainable — and it isn’t healthy. As soon as the crash dieter starts to eat larger portions of the foods that are allowed within their diet, the weight loss will slow down or completely stall, which can lead to discouragement. A lot of people will either cheat on their diet or give up completely once the initial weight loss slows down. And let’s face it: Cravings will eventually kick in and most of us don’t have to willpower to resist our favorite foods forever. Nor should we!

Individuals who commit to healthy, sustainable lifestyle changes may lose weight more slowly, but are more likely to keep it off. Learning how to eat well and taking the time to understand appropriate portions and the science of exercise is kind of like learning to ride a bike — it may take some time, but with practice you’ll internalize information and skills that will stay with you the rest of your life ensuring that even if you fall off, you’ll know what to do to get back up and keep going. And today, there are invaluable resources at our fingertips to help keep us on track, like those offered by Noom, a wellness program that helps users build a personalized plan for learning healthy habits to achieve long-term weight loss without crash dieting or completely depriving themselves of the foods and activities they love.

Rules vs. Education. Restrictive dieting requires individuals to follow a specific set of rules regarding what they can eat and what they can’t eat. That may mean giving up carbs or fats, including healthy fats like those found in avocado or fish, attempting to never eat sweets or drink alcohol again, etc. You follow the “rules,” you lose the weight, but as soon as you stop following those rules — or even bend them a bit — you may find the weight loss reversing. And since not many people want to spend their whole lives on a diet, it’s almost certainly a recipe for long-term failure.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle involves more educating than rule following. Learning how nutrition and fitness work together to achieve a healthy body and maintain it makes it easier to shift to an intuitive eating model once you achieve your goals. That means that you won’t need to restrict food groups or count calories long-term in order to stay at or around your ideal weight. Noom has virtual coaches who are available 24/7 to help educate users whenever they need an assist.

Weight Loss vs. Health. A lot of restrictive diets focus on the aesthetic benefits of weight loss rather than the health benefits. When you cut out entire food groups or restrict calories too much, your body may not get enough of a number of essential nutrients and too much of others, which can result in things like headaches, fatigue, depression or even lead to more serious health conditions. So even though you look good, you might not feel so good. Plus, there is no one “perfect” weight. Every body is different, so every person’s healthy weight is completely personal to them!

But if you commit to a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle, your nutrition and exercise will work together to help your body function at its best. A healthy lifestyle plan is all about achieving a sustainable balance that allows you to fuel your body to meet the demands of your life, build strength and achieve a physical appearance that you feel good about it. No crashing necessary.