“There is no magic product or system. There is getting off your ass and putting in the work”

Is it me or does the Christmas season come earlier every year? I used to feel bad for Thanksgiving being swallowed up by the Christmas season but now it’s like Halloween doesn’t even get its day anymore.

Winter-Running

Burton’s reaction to diet & weight loss gimmicks

Another thing I’ve noticed coming earlier every year is the diet/weight loss/New Year’s Resolution explosion. A couple weeks ago, I was on the treadmill at the gym for 50 minutes and, during that time, I saw at least five commercials for some sort of weight loss or diet miracle. And in each commercial, I saw Red Flags. Those phrases or implications that totally discredit the company or product; those phrases the untrained eye may not notice as red flags and fool the viewer into thinking they’re true.

I’ve outlined the Top 5 Diet Red Flags so you can be on the lookout, especially this time of year when the industry is pouncing on New Year’s Resolutions and the people who desperately want to keep theirs this time.

Red Flag: It’s FAST!
In the weight loss world, there’s a naughty, four-letter word that everyone wants to hear but should know better than to believe: Fast.

Any diet or weight loss program that touts “Fast” weight loss is a big red flag. Other cleverly-disguised words include quick, rapid, speedy, incredible, astonishing – you get the idea.

Run-With-Dogs

Blitz demonstrates when “fast” is a good thing.

Healthy, sustainable weight loss is NOT fast. In fact, it’s probably painfully or annoyingly slow. Too slow for most people, which is why most give up trying. Few people have patience or are willing to put in the time and effort, most are looking for the quick answer. But those who keep at it and trust the process are the ones who will see the long-term results. Just ask my friend and woman I constantly put on the healthy weight loss pedestal, Kjsfitmomma (130 pounds lost in nearly two years and she’s keeping it up).

As a rule of thumb, the only time words like fast, quick or speedy are good in the health and fitness world is for runners, swimmers, triathletes, those types of athletes looking to improve speed. Also acceptable is for circuit or bootcamp-based workouts or weight lifters doing a lighter weight/more reps workout.

Red Flag: It’s EASY!
Another equally-naughty four-letter word: Easy.

Nothing worthwhile is easy. If you want quality, long-term results, you have to put in quality, long-term work. Period.

Is it easy to choose oatmeal for breakfast instead of a doughnut? At first, no.
Is it easy to make a sweet potato, eggs and veggies for dinner instead of hitting the drive-thru? At first, no.
While it’s not easy to make the changes, once you start and keep sticking with them, it gets better – not easier per se, but better. The mindset starts to shift, and food choices become about nourishing the body, fueling workouts and aiding in recovery.

Trying to eat well and stay balanced is a daily process. It’s definitely never easy but it does become part of life.

Red Flag: It Boasts NO EXERCISE!
Eating right is great. If you want to lose weight, eating healthier is a way to get there. But losing weight shouldn’t be the only goal; healthy should be the goal. And you can’t be your healthiest without exercise.

When I talk exercise, I’m not necessarily talking running or heavy weight lifting (though I think both are great). What I mean is simply being active and maybe only sitting on your ass 23 hours a day as opposed to 24. A 30-minute walk. A beginner’s yoga sesh. A bodyweight circuit class.

No good, quality company or product should discourage exercise or worse, position it as something you get to avoid.

Red Flag: It Requires PRODUCTS!
Whether body wraps that promise to tighten and tone (WTF, seriously?), pills that “block the fat and calories” you eat (again, WTF, seriously?), metabolism boosters or anything of that nature, avoid it.

“Tightening” and “toning” is worthless if it’s just on the surface. It’s not going to last, and building and strengthening muscle is what’s important, not the vanity of how it looks. Needing to block the fat and calories you eat is ridiculous. Your body needs fat and calories. And if you’re eating fat and calories in such excess you feel the need to take pills to block them, maybe that’s a sign that simply cleaning up your diet is probably the better path to take. As for metabolism boosters, there are tons of proven ways to naturally increase ones metabolism, from lifting weights to drinking coffee or green tea. So you don’t really need artificial metabolism boosters. Plus, some of them (even over-the-counter ones that seem safe) can be dangerous.

In general, there are two possible outcomes from using products:

Unlikely Scenario: The product actually works – but only temporarily and you’re now chained to this expensive crutch forever. Stop with the products, the results go away too.

Likely Scenario: The product doesn’t work – you’re wasting money and wasting efforts/focus that could be going towards tried-and-true methods.

A note of clarification: This does NOT include supplements. I will never knock quality supplements because I’ve seen firsthand the good they can do when taken appropriately. What I would caution is just keeping your goals in mind. Most people who take supplements are athletes looking to further their performance; they’re not people who are overweight and looking for something that will instantly make them healthy. If you want to push your lifts to the max or achieve a long-term goal like running a fast marathon, the right supplements and combinations will help you get there. I had a great experience this past marathon season when I went for my Boston Qualifier. The owner of our local nutrition shop, H&I Nutrition (Fargo-Moorhead friends, go there – it’s the best) advised me on what I should take, and even threw in some bonus eating tips for me too. Did it help? No question, it was a key component to my success. Thanks, Ryan!

In summary:
Supplements when used appropriately to achieve a fitness goal: GOOD!
Products used to cut corners or cheat: BAD!

Breakfast-For-Lunch

Of course I don’t eat waffles every day. But I’m happy knowing I can have one when I want one!

Red Flag: It Allows UNLIMITED Food – or Severely RESTRICTS Food
Eating too many vegetables isn’t a good thing. Never again allowing yourself to eat a candy bar, cupcake, bag of chips, whatever is your favorite treat, isn’t a good thing. Too many eating programs out there are too restricted. You may be allowed to eat as many of one type of food as you want but that’s not a good strategy towards long-term health.

Sure, you can eat all the celery, broccoli and kale you want – but is that any way to live? Are you going to get all the nutrition you need? And are those foods going to properly fuel your workout or simple daily life? No chance.

And diets that go the opposite way – same issues.

Restricting calories or types of food isn’t good, mentally. It leads to bouts of hangry and sadness.
Restricting calories or types of food isn’t good, physically. It leads to weakness, poor athletic performance and the compulsion to binge.

For the best long-term success and happiness, strive for an eating plan that focuses on balance, adequate nutrition and fueling.

Navigating the diet and weight loss world, especially this time of year, can be tricky. Sexy headlines and shortcuts often beat out sensibility and ongoing effort but, deep down, I think we all know better. Stay strong and stay smart!

Are there more diet Red Flags out there? Comment if you’ve experienced one firsthand – good or bad experience, please share it! Or, as always, connect with me on Twitter @runlikeagirl311.

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