This is a topic that I’ve seen talked about a lot in the last week or so, so I thought I’d chip in.
As those of you who have read these blogs before may have guessed, my answer is a straight forward one…
That answer is no, but also yes.
Let me explain.
The argument against
Those who say dieting doesn’t need to be sustainable do so because they believe that dieting is something that is done in the short term.
You set a goal weight.
You diet until you hit that goal.
You stop dieting.
The idea, through this line of thinking, is that the diet only has to be sustainable over the timeframe of the diet.
They are, of course, correct. Sort of.
The goal of the diet is never to get used to living off 1200 calories and doing cardio every day. Those are both tools you may need to use in the short term, but once the diet is done you want to get away from there as quickly as possible.
The argument for
The argument for a sustainable diet is a very simple one also.
In that last example, what happens after you complete that successful diet if nothing you were doing was sustainable?
Unfortunately, we know the answer.
Most diets fail.
This is not an opinion, it’s a fact.
Most people who set out to lose weight do not.
Those that do, regain that weight often with extra on top within a short time frame.
You do what you need to do, restrict when you need to restrict and then once you get to your end goal you ‘go back to normal’ and steadily, or not so steadily, regain every pound that you lost.
Then you book another holiday and the cycle starts again.
Coaches pockets lined, people like the way your arse and abs look on your holiday pictures and another yo-yo dieter is born.
As always, the solution is in the middle ground (I’m starting to get sick of typing that sentence).
There are parts of a diet that DO need to be sustainable and parts that do not.
The calories are obviously the key thing here, both in and out. The calories you diet on only need to be sustainable for the amount of time you are dieting and you should be looking to increase them in a controlled way once the diet is done. This doesn’t mean a celebratory ‘the diet is done’ binge. But a systematic increase over the period of 4-8 weeks, while holding your bodyweight roughly where it is, would be a good move for most.
Cardio fits into this as well. You may end up doing regular cardio while dieting. While it’s a good idea to keep enough cardio in to maintain a level of fitness, you might be able to decrease your cardio post diet.
Daily tracking is potentially a controversial one, but I don’t believe that someone who is just maintaining their weight has to keep tracking forever, provided they look after the next bit that is…
The things you want to hold on to are the habits you build along the way.
Eating at set(ish) times - This helps you keep on top of your hunger signals and helps to stop the desire for between meal snacking.
Building a ‘healthy’ meal - A protein source and 1 or 2 servings of veg, salad or fruit.
Consistent training - This is the bit I hate the most, if you stop training when your diets done, you’ve got some work to do.
Being active outside of training - There’s no point hitting that step target every day of your diet if you’re going to go back to moving as little as possible once you’re done. Your step target might be lower when you’re maintaining, but it shouldn’t disappear altogether.
Letting these things go is what results in people having post-diet rebounds.
The habits that you build should mostly be sustainable, that way you can more easily maintain what you worked so hard to achieve in the long run and avoid being back where you started.
So, back to the short answer for the original question…
Does your diet need to be sustainable?
No, but also yes.
Hope that helps.