It can be hard to sift through weight-loss advice and the latest trends to find a healthy eating plan that is enjoyable and will work for life. In fact, even RDs hear tips they find misguided and unsustainable. Here, several nutrition experts discuss six common pieces of advice they believe do more harm than good.
Weight loss is not a mentality and it’s not about who has the most self-control, says Tamar Samuels, RD. Focusing on self-discipline alone means you might blame yourself for failing to stick with a diet (usually a fad one) when in reality it was the diet that failed you. Focus on all-around wellness, not on what you think you need to deprive yourself of. That means filling your plate with a variety of unprocessed, whole foods and drinking plenty of water, but also clocking 7–8 hours of sleep each night. Incorporating a mindfulness practice into your everyday routine can also be a beneficial step in changing your behavior for the better, adds Samuels.
Beans are commonly cut out of many popular diets since they are deemed too high in carbs or even labeled as “toxic,” says Andrea Conner, RD. “Beans are actually one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They have a wonderful combination of high-quality, fiber-rich carbohydrates and protein,” she says. Unless you have a severe allergy, they’re not toxic and can be a great low-cost option to use for soups and stews as part of meal prep.
“You’re likely having cravings in the first place because your current weight-loss efforts are too strict. When foods are off-limits, you naturally want them more,” explains Emily Ranucci, RD. A better approach: “Begin a weight-loss journey by prioritizing your health and happiness,” she says. Creating a lasting healthy lifestyle means being able to indulge without guilt.
“There are so many reasons why people struggle to lose weight and it’s not as clear-cut as creating a calorie deficit,” says Samuels. “It’s important to acknowledge that weight loss takes an individualized nutrition, exercise and stress-management approach, which includes strategies and tools for managing obstacles.” If your doctor tells you that you need to lose weight and then gives the above advice, push back and ask for specifics on how or for a referral to a professional (like a registered dietitian) who can help create a personalized plan.
“We know these types of foods are not health-enhancing, but trying to exclude them entirely can backfire,” says Conner. The key, she says, is avoiding regular overconsumption of these foods. Enjoy a piece of cake at a party (no, you didn’t “blow it”), and then balance it out with good-for-you foods the rest of the day.
If you swap your breakfast or lunch with a shake (or a similar meal replacement), you might find it works to help you lose weight in the short-term. However, “they can eventually get boring or difficult to keep up with if you travel for work or have frequent social obligations,” says Joey Gochnour, RD. If you don’t know how and what to eat when on your own or after you stop drinking the shakes, it’ll be tough to keep off any weight you’ve lost. That’s where consulting a registered dietitian specializing in weight loss can be helpful for creating a sustainable long-term plan.