By AMBROSE CLANCY //
How’s that New Year’s diet going?
What? You’re back to Danish and bacon for breakfast, chicken nuggets for lunch and beers and pizza-with-extra-cheese (you know, with the gang) for dinner?
And who’s the evil person who left black-and-white cookies in the break room? Don’t they know you’ve become a healthy, weight-conscious person?
What happened? Simple, according to Mag Selig, writing in Psychology Today: “Diets don’t work!”
But you’re not alone in making the effort. Forty-five million Americans go on a diet every year and spend up to $33 million on magic food and other products that will supposedly make them slim.
The problem with weight is an American plague. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. It’s no wonder so many of us are trying to drop a few pounds, but the success rate is abysmal.
As Jackie Gleason (the “The Great One,” and not just for his fame) weighed in (sorry): “The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day, you’re off it.”
And for those who stick it out for two weeks or more, and then fall hard for bagels and burgers, failure can be even more discouraging.
So, why don’t diets work? Two certified and registered dietician-nutritionists, Woodbury’s Madeline Berg and North Babylon’s Rachel Ezelius, say it’s a matter of lifestyle, rather than a constant calorie count.
“Any diet will work if your goal is to lose weight for the short term,” notes Berg, an author and professional health coach with 25 years of experience. “But if your goal is to lose weight and keep it off, lifestyle changes have to be permanent. Nobody gets to keep their results unless they keep up their good habits.”
Ezelius, voted Long Island’s Best Nutritionist/Dietician in Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s 2019 Best of Long Island survey, also believes most diets are too complicated and just too difficult.
“Just like anything, when the change is too extreme, it is almost impossible to be successful,” she says, offering the example of someone who’s never seriously run suddenly entering a marathon: “It’s unlikely you can go out the next day and run 26.2 miles successfully.”
Breaking your diet doesn’t only give your self-esteem a whack, either – it can be a serious danger to your health, “especially if you’re eliminating entire food groups or are severely restricting calories,” according to Berg.
“I don’t recommend that my clients go on a diet,” she adds, noting she advises more of a “course correction that can be sustained.”
Ezelius agrees, noting that a crash diet really can lead to a crash.
“Extreme thinking can lead to extreme behavior that stops being healthy and starts hurting the body,” she says. “We all know the person who eats too little and works out too much and is always looking to lose five more pounds.
“Finding a balance is critical.”
Now that we’re all suitably depressed, our experts stress there is hope, and better than that, actual proven methods for losing weight and keeping it off.
Before embarking on a plan, you have to give yourself a good talking-to, they say, to find out what you want and accept that there will be difficult days ahead. And both nutritionists recommend professional help.
“Let’s say you had a Porsche, but it badly needed work on the engine,” Ezelius says. “I don’t think you’d YouTube it to try and fix it yourself. Same with your body, which is your most valuable possession.”
When you think you’re ready, remember this: “There will be obstacles along the way, oftentimes put there by the people closest to us,” Berg warns. “Let the people in your inner circle know how they can help you.
“Not by being your police – you have to own this,” she adds. “But by not sabotaging your efforts.”
Ezelius says she works consistently with people to establish realistic goals, noting a diet “shouldn’t be a fad, a juice cleanse, or starvation just for weight loss.”
“We all should want to achieve our most optimal health,” she says. “Nutrition can be medicine.”
And no matter what safe method dieters decide on, Berg adds, “Fitness is a choice you have to commit to every day.”
“There is no time off for good behavior, no chance of parole,” the dietician says. “I think what you have to do to be fit is definitely worth the payoff. The question is: do you?”
Ambrose Clancy is an award-winning writer/editor and veteran Long Island journalist. He currently serves as the editor of The Shelter Island Reporter.