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Navigating Through the Diet and Fitness Resolution Confusion

In the next few weeks, whether you’re actively searching for it or trying to avoid the resolution hoopla, you’ll be bombarded with tons of eating and exercise tips guiding you to become a whole new, better, thinner you for 2009.

No doubt the majority of us will be making some kind of dieting or workout resolution, hoping to get healthier and in shape in the New Year. But how can you tell if you’re receiving genuinely healthy, sound advice or truly detrimental information?

Here’s a selection of resources to help you navigate this year’s often confounding and confusing food and fitness tips.

Recognizing Fad Diets

In today’s culture, we’ve become programmed to think that we must be on a diet and a quick-fix will fix everything: we’ll be slimmer, happier and more attractive. You can’t say quick-fix without talking about fad diets.

According to WebMD :

“Fad diets take form in many ways: low-fat, low-carbohydrates, high-protein, or focusing on one particular food item such as grapefruit. These diets lack major nutrients such as dietary fiber and carbohydrates, as well as selected vitamins, minerals, and protective phytochemicals, such as antioxidants (substances found in vegetables, which are protective against disease). Over the long term, by not receiving the proper amounts of these nutrients, you may develop serious health problems later in life.”

Here’s how to tell when a seemingly “healthy” eating plan really is nothing more than a hyped, hurtful fad diet.

  • The Diet Blog reveals the seven signs that a diet is dubious:
    1. It promises a quick fix
    2. It revolves around a particular food
    3. It doesn’t advocate exercise or undermines it
    4. It provides a simple explanation for obesity
    5. It says it’s scientifically sound, but there’s no peer-reviewed research
    6. It includes a list of “forbidden foods” (e.g., good vs. bad foods)
    7. It prohibits eating certain foods in combination
  • According to Health Castle, it’s a fad diet if it:
    • Doesn’t advise talking with a doctor or registered dietician
    • Advocates eliminating food groups (e.g., grains)
    • Has strict food plans without considering your “likes, dislikes and lifestyle.”
    • Promotes eating an unhealthy number of calories
    • Goes against the advice of trusted health professionals
    • Relies on buying supplements or special products
    • Promises miraculous results
    • Excludes scientific evidence, focusing exclusively on testimonials and anecdotes

Diet and Fitness Myths

Along with fad diets, you’ll also run across a wide array of myths about eating and exercise. Here are several resources that tell the truth.

  • Real Simple lists 10 diet myths, including: don’t eat after 8 p.m.; avoid pasta at all costs; coffee helps you lose weight; always diet to shed pounds; and always choose diet foods.
  • WebMD discusses five dieting scams that always keep coming back. With all of them, one thing’s for certain: all five are based on “bad science.”
    1. “Metabolism-boosting” pills based on herbal ingredients
    2. Fat- and carb-blocking pills
    3. Herbal weight loss teas
    4. Diet patches, jewelry, or other products worn on the body
    5. Body wraps or ‘slim suits’”

    WebMD also features nine fitness myths, including: running on a treadmill is better for your knees than running outdoors; sweating indicates a good workout; swimming is great for weight-loss; and the ever-popular “no pain, no gain.”

Healthy Resources

Check out these sources that offer healthy advice for a healthy lifestyle. If you have a favorite Web site or article, please share it below.

  • The New York Times recently included an article on several eating plans that are backed by sound scientific evidence: Weight-Loss Guides Without Gimmicks. But remember always to consult a doctor before you try any new plan.
  • dLife is a resource devoted to healthy eating for people with diabetes. But it has many tips and recipes that are really helpful for anyone.
  • Using Google technology, the Food Blog Search lets you search over 2,600 food blogs for recipes. It’s a great way to add variety and spice up everyday meals.
  • Cooking Light includes tips for healthy eating and a wide, delicious array of recipes. It shows that eating a wholesome diet can be flavorful and include favorites like pecan pie, cheesecake and lasagna.
  • Eating Well is another Web site with healthy recipes and advice.
  • Reviewed by experts, Harvard University’s Nutrition Source provides evidence-based information on eating and exercise. In addition to tips on achieving a healthy weight and staying active, you’ll find a new food pyramid, the “Healthy Eating Pyramid,” created by the university’s Department of Nutrition.

What Healthy Eating and Exercise Aren’t

As you figure out the best way to approach your food and fitness resolutions, remember that a healthy, active lifestyle is not:

  • Quick and easy. You’ve heard it time and time again, but it still stands: losing and maintaining your weight and leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy. Let go of quick-fix, dangerous diets and grueling workout regimens.
  • About willpower. Willpower is always viewed as virtuous, but a healthy lifestyle has nothing to do with the willpower to resist a cookie or the willpower to work out every day. Instead, it takes planning and a healthy perspective.
  • Or perfection. You’ll have days you feel like working out and days you don’t; days when your body is exhausted; and days when you’d like to have some pizza. The goal shouldn’t be to strive for perfection but to strive for progress.
  • Or punishing yourself. Forcing yourself into a punishing workout or one-day fast after consuming a “forbidden food” doesn’t help your healthy lifestyle; it hurts your body and becomes a gateway to dangerous habits.

Being active and eating well isn’t a punishment, penalty or chore; it’s a good, exciting thing. So, enjoy feeling better and having more endurance and energy, because these goals aren’t an end. They’re a means to a healthy life.

Navigating Through the Diet and Fitness Resolution Confusion

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Navigating Through the Diet and Fitness Resolution Confusion. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 10 Jan 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.