“Diet.” We all have a love-hate relationship with that word. And if your last one ended with an act of diving headfirst into a bag of chips or two slices of cake don’t worry—sometimes, it’s not you, it’s the diet. That’s right. No diet is the end-all, be-all on the road to healthiness. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association proved two things: (1) the best diet is the one you’ll actually stick with, and (2) so many people are pretty bad at choosing a specific diet that they’ll be able to actually maintain.
So how do you know if the diet you’re trying right now won’t work for you long before you waste your time (and a whole lot of money) on it? Keep reading for a checklist of warning signs.
1. You’re always hungry.
If you feel like you’re hungry enough to eat paper two hours after a meal, something is wrong with your diet. Chances are, your food is very low in fat. A very low fat diet is almost always refined, and it’s void of nutrition. If you buy a lot of “low fat” commercial food, such as fat-free cereal with fat-free milk or fat-free toast and fat-free yogurt, you’ll send your body on a blood glucose frenzy, which makes you crave for sugary food even more than you usually would.
2. It eliminates whole food groups.
Don’t think about liempo and rice. Now what are you thinking about? Liempo and rice, right? The same thing happens when you try to forgo a certain food. If you’re going for a no-rice diet, it will work—maybe for a week or a month—but all the weight you’ll lose might just come back to you double. You’ll just be setting yourself up for binge-eating. Besides that, the food pyramid is a nutrition basic for a reason; taking out a chunk of it may result in certain deficiencies that can affect your health later on.
3. It cuts too many calories.
Any diet that restricts you to less than 1,200 calories per day—and especially a 1K-a-day diet—is not a good idea, according the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Most women actually need to eat at least 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day even if they’re trying to lose weight to avoid feeling hungry and exhausted all the time. Eating too few calories puts your body into starvation mode, too, so you burn more muscle and less fat. In addition, cutting way too many calories will always make you feel cold as your body undergoes a decrease in thermogenesis.
4. It doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
If you have a wildly insane schedule, a diet that requires you to do lots of meal preparation can make you feel overwhelmed. If you love to go out and eat with your co-workers or friends, a diet that puts limits on your ability to eat out won’t be successful, either. Remember that your everyday life is a big factor in choosing a diet plan. You want to feel like you’re making a healthier choice for the good of your body, not that you’re on deprivation mode.
5. You feel weak.
The scale is budging—but you’re also dragging, getting sick, and are generally unwell. Remember, there is a big difference between being thin and being healthy! Instead of eating a lot of so-called “low-fat” or “fat-free” commercial diet foods, start eating whole and unrefined foods—chances are, they contain nutrients that would actually keep you slim and healthy. It’s very important to listen to what your body is telling you. If you can barely function, and this has been true ever since you started dieting, it’s a good sign that diet is a bust.
6. It leaves no room for the food you love.
Everyone likes a treat every now and then, and that is completely okay. If your diet doesn’t allow you to eat sweets or teach you how to include a treat, then it probably won’t be sustainable for long. So if you love rice, but are doing a no-rice diet, say hello to failure. Be warned, though. We all have cheat days, and that’s okay—but stick to them. If you eat garbage during your cheat day just because you never have it, your diet could really backfire. The trick, as we’ve already said, is to reset your way of thinking so that you feel you’re making healthy choices, not depriving yourself of life’s pleasures.
7. You’re gaining weight.
Give your diet a month. If you’re not seeing any real progress after a month, that diet is not for you. Another possibility is that you’re not exercising right. For instance, if you’re doing slow and steady exercises, you could be training your body to maintain fat. Try interval training instead. There are no hard and fast rules to coming up with a diet and exercise regimen, but if the effects of your current routine are the opposite of what you want to happen, you need to stop and reassess.
If you mentally check most of the things on this list, try changing your diet and look for something you’ll actually stick with. After all, you want to be the girl who ate healthier, worked out hard, felt great, and lost a few pounds—not the girl who lost all sorts of weight last year, but gained it all back and now feel like crap.
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Dyan is a 25-year-old writer with a sense of humor of a prepubescent male. On weekends, she hibernates.