To Diet or Not to Diet—THAT is the Question! What is the dietitian’s take?

Virginia Cancer Specialists Practice Blog

December 27, 2018
Virginia Cancer Specialists » VCS Practice News » Blog Post » To Diet or Not to Diet—THAT is the Question! What is the dietitian’s take?

Does it seem like everyone around you is on a diet? Does it feel like you are always either on or off a diet? Well, you are not alone! According to the International Food Information Council Food and Health Survey, more than 1 in 3 adults in the US reported following a “specific diet or eating pattern” in 2018. The top 3 reasons were to lose weight, feel better/have more energy, and protect long-term health.1

So, what diets are all the rage? Based on 2018 online trends, as well as consumer reporting, we know that the top diets include keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, Whole30, low-carb, high-protein, and alkaline diet. The extent to which these are practiced varies widely by source.

What is the dietitian take on all these diets?

There are many different, and manageable, ways that individuals can strive to eat better, be active, and achieve a healthy weight each and every day—and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution, just as there is no one reason for deciding to switch up one’s diet. You may decide to try one of the trendy diets out there or you may decide to join 36% of adults who reported to be following “their own diet” in 2018.2 The key is determining what will work, and what you are willing to do, long-term.

Before changing your diet, here are two questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is the diet I am following “healthy”?
  2. Am I interested in eating this way for the long haul?

Why these two questions? We intuitively know the importance of giving our body the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Deciding whether the diet you are getting
ready to follow is “healthy” does not have to involve hours of Internet searching, extensive math, or an advanced degree. Rather, listen to your gut to determine if you are getting a balance of foods between and within all the food groups.

Further, understanding whether you are willing to change your eating habits for the duration is key to achieving long-term success, no matter your goal. We are socialized from an early age to go “on” and “off” diets. But, this approach does not set us up to lose weight and keep it off, particularly in the case of restrictive, crash diets. Losing weight just for the here and now and gaining back more in the end is counterproductive when it comes to achieving long-term health goals.

Hint: if a diet plan claims to be effective because of its removal of or reliance on a specific food or food group, it’s probably a “fad diet” and not healthy or worth your time in the long run.

What can we learn from successful long-term dieters?

The Internet affords us the opportunity to get a lot of information. But whether the information is accurate or supportive of your long-term goals is debatable. The reason is this—you can find people doing almost every diet and singing its praises. What is a little bit tougher to determine is the extent of long-term success and health they have achieved and whether their experience is applicable to you and others.

That’s why we love the National Weight Control Registry, a research study that seeks to gather information from people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. All who are included in this registry have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept the weight off for at least a year—in many cases way longer.

Here are some interesting findings regarding those who have lost this weight and kept it off!3
  • 45% lost weight on their own and 55% lost weight on a “program.”
  • 98% modified their food intake to lose weight.
  • 94% increased their physical activity (walking most popular).
  • Most report following a low calorie, low fat diet and participating in high levels of physical activity.
  • Here are some top behaviors:
    • 78% eat breakfast every day.
    • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
    • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
    • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Our top “do’s” and “don’ts” for eating for health and weight management long-term!

DO: Make consistent improvements over time to build long-term healthy habits; Watch how much you eat; Choose a variety of foods from all the food groups; Keep a food journal; Find fun ways to increase your physical activity; Enlist a buddy to help you stay on track; See a registered dietitian to formulate a plan for optimal health and/or weight loss.

DON’T: Try a diet just because it worked short-term for someone you know; Choose a diet that eliminates whole food groups; Choose strategies that you aren’t able or willing to do long-term; Go on and off a diet.

Healthy Eating Resources
– My Plate,
– American Institute for Cancer Research,
– International Food Information Council,
– Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,

1. International Food Information Council. 2018. Food and Health Survey. Accessed at:
2. The NPD Group, Inc. 2018. Consumer Trends in Nutrition. Accessed at:
3. National Weight Control Registry accessed at:

Virginia Cancer Specialists Nutrition Team

Need more specific, tailored information? Call today to schedule an appointment to see one of our dietitians: Patients are seen in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax,
Gainesville, Loudoun, and Woodbridge. Appointments can be made by calling 703-208-3155.