There's been a lot of focus on restrictive dieting in the media lately, mainly because it's a seemingly effective weight loss "hack." Restrictive dieting is just what it sounds like — it can mean cutting certain foods or nutrients out of your diet, or it could even mean intermittent fasting.
The question is: How safe is restrictive dieting? Can it be sustained long-term? Most nutritionists will say no. As the certified nutritionist and personal trainer behind Pancakes and Push Ups Sloane Davis says, "restrictive dieting very often sets people up for failure" because as soon as we know we can't have a certain food or food group, it's all our brains think about.
"What usually happens is people are 'good' all week and then blow their diet on the weekends because they crave certain foods and binge, hence gaining back whatever they lost during the week," Davis told Womanista.
Think about it this way: It's 3 p.m. and that healthy breakfast and lunch you ate are paling in comparison to the birthday cake someone left in the break room. You think "What the hell, I've been good all week," and go for a small slice. Later that night when you get home you think, "What the hell, I've already ruined my diet for the day," and dial up pizza for dinner... and maybe a scoop of ice cream for dessert?
Living with that mindset of having off-limit foods forces your brain to rationalize when you want to indulge. The thing is, you don't have to rationalize! Simply building out a healthy diet with room for the occasional splurge is all you need to do. Davis says eating healthy 85 percent of the time is the goal.
"You must look at the big picture overall," Davis says. "It’s not one meal or one night that sets results off. If you are consistent with healthy eating 85-90 percent of the time you will still see results. There is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or dessert — just don’t make it a daily habit."
In fact, Davis tells her clients to try flexible dieting instead, assigning them a macronutrient (proteins, carbs, fats) budget they must fulfill every day. "While [flexible dieting] is restricted in the sense that you need to budget your food, it is not restrictive in that you can have any foods you like," she said. As long as it fits your macro budget for the day, no food is off limits!
Putting it in even simpler terms, "a successful diet is one that you can sustain long term," Davis says. "The longer one can hold on to any diet plan the more results they will see. Consistency is key to any weight loss plan."
There's a simple reason restrictive dieting doesn't work in the long run: Sure, you'll see some initial weight loss. You're eating fewer calories, so obviously you'll see some results. But eventually, you will splurge, gaining back the weight you worked so hard to lose and then some.
Sounds to us like keeping your diet clean most of the time, with a small percentage available for splurging, is still (and always will be) the best way to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
And if you're working out, eating right and still not seeing results? Davis says to double check your calorie count.
"You can never out-train a bad diet," she says. "So don’t think that just because you're exercising means you're going to lose weight. If you think you're eating healthy and not losing weight, you're probably eating too much. Most people have no idea how much they are actually consuming."
She suggests keeping a log and tracking what you eat. "It’s an education each time my clients plug in what they are eating and see it all add up," Davis says. "If you see whatever you are eating is not working, you simply need to eat less!"
As for those macros, Davis says the most important one to fit in when you're trying to lose weight is protein. "The only macro that is an absolute must [for weight loss] is protein, since it is the building blocks of maintaining or building muscle. One can play around with their fats and carbs if they have a bit of weight to lose," she says.
Check out these healthy high-protein recipes to help you reach your weight loss goals!
Southwestern Hasselback Chicken (28g protein)
Southwest Hasselback Chicken is a fun way to switch up a boring skinless chicken breast. And at only 210 calories per chicken breast, you won't even feel guilty indulging! The slits in the chicken breasts ensure that the toppings stay in place, fitting into the grooves to keep the chicken juicy and flavorful. Add some brown rice for some healthy carbs! Check it out here.
Spicy Buffalo Chicken Wraps With Avocado (50g protein)
These easy-to-make Spicy Buffalo Chicken Wraps will be a new fave in your home! All the flavor and spices of hot wings in a light and easy to eat wrap! Our Light Blue Cheese Dressing makes the perfect complementary dipping sauce. Don't forget to add in some diced or sliced avocado for those healthy fats! Here's the recipe.
Skinny Bleu Cheese-Stuffed Buffalo Burgers (29g protein)
Get that "buffalo wings" flavor in your lean ground beef or turkey burger. Pair this with your favorite classic burger toppings like crisp iceberg lettuce, a juicy tomato and grilled onions and you have a winner! Click here for the recipe.
Chicken Teriyaki With Brown Rice (41g protein)
The sweet and tangy marinade envelops the chicken and seeps into the brown rice, proving that healthy recipes don't have to taste bland or boring. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top for an authentic feel and enjoy your homemade Chinese takeout! Here's the recipe.
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