From surgeries to supplements and dozens of different diets, Americans spend more than $20 billion a year trying to lose weight.
Studies show many of us try four to five weight loss plans a year. Health experts say yo-yo dieting could be dangerous in the long run, and you may want to ditch the diet and make a big change in your life instead.
Every step counts on Joshua Wetmore’s weight loss journey. “I’m like this is not good. I’m getting really big,” he says.
Like most, this isn’t his first attempt at shedding pounds. “I lost weight. I got down to 200 pounds, but I could never break the 200 pounds,” Wetmore adds. “I kind of got to a plateau, and I was like ok, I’ll do this on my own. We’ll, that didn’t work and I was back up.”
This January, he didn’t need a scale to know he needed a change.
“When I went down to check the tire, my pants ripped.”
The father of two signed up for Weight Watchers at work. He now tracks what he eats and how much he moves with his Fitbit. “It says how many steps you’ve taken. I’ve taken 4,616, so who knows if I’ll get to 10,000 today.”
He’s down 33 pounds in three months and is determined to keep going and keep it off this time. “This is the 2nd time I’ve paid to lose weight. I’m sticking with it,” he says.
From magazines to television, we’re constantly bombarded with ways to lose weight. It can be tough weeding through all that information. But, dietitians say there are a few signs a diet may be bad in the long run.
“Yo-yo dieting, especially with these people attempting diet after diet is very hard on their heart because you’re at risk for cardiac arrest for one and also at risk for diabetes,” Registered Dietitian and Iowa State University Instructor Alison St. Germain says.
St. Germain says diets sounding too good to be true probably are. She says watch out for plans promising quick weight loss in a short amount of time. Diets low in calories or carbs can actually slow your metabolism, those cutting out entire food groups can be a problem and she says juice or detox diets can be dangerous.
The trouble is when people can’t maintain the weight loss. “With each unsuccessful diet, it’s harder and harder to lose that weight because of the sluggish metabolism is part of it,” St. Germain says.
Her advice: ditch the diet and change your motive. Focus on healthy habits instead of what you weigh.
“The goal is doing the things to feel good and healthy and the result is weight loss. So, it’s really a change in mindset,” she says.
She recommends you start by eating more fruits or vegetables. Strive for five to nine servings a day. Next, take more steps throughout the day. Around 10,000 is often the recommendation. And, stop stepping on the scale.
“People spend too much time worrying about the number on the scale, versus just how they are feeling because you can tell if you’ve gained just by how your clothes fit,” she says.
Wetmore likes the positive changes he’s made.
“I feel like I’m not going to rip my pants anymore. That’s a positive right there.” He knows his healthy journey isn’t over, but every step brings him closer.
St. Germain says you should also research the person promoting a diet. Celebs are often paid big bucks to back plans, and health or life coaches might make money by selling products.
She says Registered Dietitians pass a national exam after graduating and completing a six month internship. You can find them at hospital outpatient clinics and many grocery stores. And, they can help come up with healthy meal plans.
She also recommends the following evidence based resources to get you started: