By: Madeleine Ortiz
I could spend an entire day inside of a bookstore, running my finger across spines, staring at the glossy covers, thumbing through the pages, and especially, imagining my life inside any of the thousands of stories contained on the shelves. Which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that my kitchen at home contains a collection of diet and recipe books that would rival many small libraries.
I have books about veganism, and books about keto, and books about ways to cook meat, and books about how to eliminate meat all together, and books about foods that make you look younger (among many, many other things). So many books that enticed me with their pictures of perfectly plated food and people smiling more in the grocery store than most kids smile at an amusement park. It was easy for me to see one of these books and imagine that all I had to do was buy it, read a few chapters, and then be transformed into a happier, healthier me. Easy to imagine, yes, but not so easy to execute.
In order to help others avoid the same path I’ve been down many times before, I’ve devised a list of questions to consider before purchasing their next diet book, or online program, or any other nutrition regimen that feels like it’ll be the answer to all their health dreams.
1) Can I afford this?
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had more than one fantasy about having my own private chef to whip up perfectly nutritious and portioned meals at my every whim. But I can definitely not afford this. I can’t even afford to shop at the high end grocery store in my city for anything other than special treat items. So I always ask myself if what I’m signing up for is within my means. If it’s not, I have to pass. The stress of worrying about finances will outweigh any of the benefits a diet or meal plan might offer.
2) Do I have time for this?
Time is a precious commodity. I have things on my DVR from 3 years ago I still haven’t found the time to watch, so I’m sure that if a diet has meals that take longer than about 20 minutes to prepare I 100% will not stick to it. There are people who are retired or who love to dedicate time to meal prep that might have a wider range of things that will work for them. But scheduling is personal so I always make sure whatever I do works for me, and that applies to my day job, my social schedule, and my sleep!
3) Will the other people I cook for be able to make this work for them?
My husband works longer hours than me and that means I am usually the one that makes dinner. I love having the control over what gets prepared and he’s not picky so this works super well for us. But I have a feeling that if I started a diet that only allowed me to eat things that were the color green he’d start asking some questions about his evening meal. I’d prefer we’d not prep two separate meals for time and dirty dish purposes so I stick to things that we’ll both enjoy. If someone plays a similar role in their family they should think about how “modifiable” the meals are for pickier eaters (spouses and kids) or how willing those people would be to prepare their own food.
4) Will this make me feel good?
I’m sure drinking nothing but lemon water for a week would help me shed some pounds, but I’m also sure that I’d be pretty miserable doing something like that. I’d be hungry and grumpy and tired and it might be one of the worst weeks of my life. And sometimes feeling good on a diet doesn’t just mean physically. If all my friends are at a party and enjoying a slice of birthday cake and I can’t, I’m going to feel pretty bummed and left out. It’s best to pick a diet that supports feeling good in every sense of the word.
5) Can I do this forever?
Forever can be a scary word, but it’s definitely a word I think about when I’m thinking about my health habits. Sugar is not something that adds nutrients to a diet, but it is something I know I could never break up with forever – so when I’m picking a diet I pick one that allows the occasional treat. Others might love bacon too much to spend the rest of their life as a vegetarian. It doesn’t really matter what the non-negotiable is, what matters is that it’s there to throw a person off track if they pick a diet that’s too harsh or strict. And it’ll usually lead to doing more harm than good in the long run. So I always find meal plans that’ll work for me. I feel more confident knowing I can commit without “cheating,” and the “forever” becomes a lot less daunting.
For more information…
Obesity Canada has a fantastic checklist that will help you evaluate any weight management program with ten simple questions… https://obesitycanada.ca/public-resources/weight-information-checklist/
To find a weight management physician in the United States near you, click here.
To find a weight management physician in Canada near you, click here.