Can’t say I’m a big fan of diets. The evidence is against them working all that well, and in a later post, I’ll go into the science of it a bit more. But these two posts are for those of you who still wish to go on some form of diet, and want to know how to tell the good from the bad. Below you’ll find a list of 10 Essential Questions to ask about your diet, together with a helpful Evaluation Sheet you can download.
First up, before we start looking at specifics – the very first thing you should always do before making any substantial changes to your eating habits, is to go see your doctor. This is essential if you are to maintain good health. If your doctor is not particularly supportive about your weight issues – then find one who is. Having a good doctor who is on your side is a crucial part of any good living program.
Evaluating The Diet
Traditionally, diet programs are very good at selling you what you want to buy – which is a solution to your weight problem. So they promise all sorts of impossible results, knowing that you’ll buy it hoping to achieve a tenth of that. I could go into all the evil things diet advertisers get up to – but I’ll save that for another post.
Right now, you need to know the types of questions you should be asking about any diet:
- What does the diet entail? This is important because you may not actually be able to do it. If it requires you eat no meat, for example, but you know you get anaemia if you don’t consume a quantity of red meat every week, then you need to know this up front.
- Who wrote this diet program? Is he/she properly qualified to produce something like this? Have they been working in the health industry for at least a few years? Do they have qualifications in nutrition from a proper university?
- What science is it based on? Are any published studies quoted in the material? This is one of the most important elements – if they aren’t quoting the work of other scientists, then you can be fairly sure they don’t know what they’re talking about and they shouldn’t be advising you on what to eat. Ignoring the importance of science to your diet risks your health and well-being.
- Is the diet very restrictive? Obviously all diets restrict sugar and fat, carbs etc – but any diet that demands you starve yourself is going to be bad for you.
- Is the diet nutritionally balanced? Diets that completely remove any single food type, regardless of what it is, are bad for you.
- Does it make outrageous claims? One of the few things we’ve learned over the decades of research into diet and obesity is that crash diets only make you fatter. They might make you lose a few pounds up front, but after you stop, you pile on more. Plus, these claims are usually made about only one or two examples – which isn’t real evidence.
- Will it last? Is it something you can stay on for as long as you need to? Will it work in your life? Will your lifestyle allow you to maintain this diet? Making huge promises to yourself about sticking to it regardless is a foundation for failure and self-loathing. See my other posts about this very subject – Setting Yourself Up for Failure.
- Have other people succeeded on this diet? I mean real people, not the faked ‘before and after’ photos they put on their website.
- Are you required to take any drugs or supplements? This can be very important – especially if you are already taking medication for something. This is where you definitely need to talk to your doctor
- How much does it cost? Some diet programs require you to pay a lot up front, others will bill you weekly or monthly. Can you afford to pay this money? Are there any hidden costs?
One of the best things that ever happened to the internet was the creation of Google – it makes evaluating diets so much easier. There are already websites that will keep track of every diet ever invented, and sites that will provide you with any diet you could ever imagine. I will even test a few and perhaps even recommend one or two here, on BBW.
Google is also great at finding the answers to things. In particular, it’s perfect for asking a question like, “Anybody tried XX diet?”. You’ll get a million responses and it will only take you a few to get a very good idea of whether the diet is good or otherwise.
The important thing is to not just take what the advertisers say as gospel. It’s tempting, I know, but what they want is not the same thing that you want. But it’s okay to ask questions – it’s something we humans are very good at.
And to help you with your evaluation, you can download your very own Diet Evaluation Sheet PDF. Use this every time you look at a diet. If the answers you write down don’t fill you with confidence, don’t do the diet. Once you have your answers, take the Evaluation Sheet to your doctor and discuss it together.