4 Signs It's Time To Stop Dieting
Whether you're trying to lose weight, build muscle, or simply develop healthier eating habits to improve overall wellness, dieting can be a tricky game to play. Although adjusting your lifestyle down to your fitness routine and what you consume throughout the day can help you reach your goals, the pressure to stay the course over an extended period of time can sometimes prove challenging, especially if you aren't seeing your desired results fast enough or notice your initial progress suddenly begin to plateau.
The rigidness of one's routine can actually become an obstacle unto itself, and ineffective dieting practices, in particular, can become an impediment to reaching your health and wellness goals. If you're deep into your diet but have had marginal success and still do not feel your absolute best, it might be a sign to stop what you're doing and regroup with a new approach.
We spoke with Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, to get her advice on when it's the right time to stop dieting. Read on to better understand and recognize the signs for when it's time to change gears with your ongoing diet and how to best take action in response.
Your cholesterol is increasing.
Perhaps the most glaring red flag that it might be time to stop dieting is when your eating routine starts to negatively impact other aspects of your health.
For instance, Goodson explains that some challenges often associated with low-carb, high-fat, and high-protein diets stem from how they sometimes limit—if not completely eliminate—fruit and whole grains, consequently cutting out lots of dietary fiber in the process. However, your body needs soluble fiber because this helps to keep your cholesterol in check—without it, you're at greater risk of developing high cholesterol.
"If you are eating a keto diet or similar, and head to the doctor to get your lab work done and find your cholesterol is trending up—it might be time to cut out some of the saturated fat and increase your fiber intake," says Goodson.
So, if you've noticed an uptick in your cholesterol amid your current diet, consult with your doctor on the best strategies to help regulate this. Ask if pivoting your existing diet to opt for a more high-fiber one would be the best move to optimize your health, given the circumstances.
You're hungry all the time.
Having an insatiable appetite despite eating healthy-sized food portions throughout the day can be a sign that it's time to tweak your current dieting tactics. According to Goodson, no one should have to tolerate feeling hungry all the time.
"If you truly feel hungry all day long, you may not be eating enough," she explains. "While weight loss does require a reduction in calories, eating too little can make you feel miserable."
Instead, Goodson suggests logging everything you eat in an app. Use your log to determine what could be missing from your diet by comparing it to what you should take in each day. If your current diet involves eating significantly fewer calories, you might consider incorporating an extra nutrient-rich snack or some additional protein during the day to help curb your hunger.
You're always tired.
If you're inexplicably exhausted even after getting a full night of sleep, your diet may be the culprit. Making adjustments to your eating routine could be the key to solving this mystery.
"Many people don't realize that the fatigue they often feel might be from not eating the right foods or enough," Goodson says. "Many restrictive diets call for a drastic reduction in calories, leaving you feeling tired and [lacking in] energy."
If you're constantly feeling tired and think your existing diet could be the cause, Goodson suggests assessing the frequency at which you're eating because your lethargy could mean you're not eating often enough. You should also make sure you're eating carbohydrates and protein with each meal—and if not, adjust your diet accordingly to better sustain your desired energy levels.
You don't have energy during workouts.
When it comes to having a productive health and wellness journey, diet and exercise often come hand in hand. No matter what the reason is for your diet, if your lifestyle changes are driven by a strong desire to improve your overall health, exercise is a vital aspect of this equation. However, basing your eating habits on a diet that isn't appropriate for your unique body chemistry could counter your workout efforts by causing you to feel sluggish.
"If you feel like you are climbing a mountain at the gym and really have no energy to complete your workouts, you may not be providing your body with enough nutrition—specifically carbohydrates," says Goodson. "Carbohydrates help fuel activity; without them, an intense workout can seem like climbing Mount Everest."
In addition to eating an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates, Goodson recommends making sure you have enough high-quality proteins in your diet, especially if you find yourself dragging through your workout, you're not recovering quickly enough, and you're struggling to see the results of your overall efforts manifest in the mirror or on the scale. These foods will help fuel and refuel your body to carry you through your workouts and beyond.