5 things to consider before starting a diet


Diets are the most discussed topics of our times. Just by googling “diet” milliards of results pop up. Years ago, when people had nothing to say, they used to talk about the weather. Now you can talk about nutrition.

On a regular basis, I am asked: “is it true that ‘fill this space with a random food’ is good for you?”, “is it true that ‘fill this space with a random food’ will help you with loosing weight?”, “my dietician gave me this diet, what do you think?”

I am not a dietician, neither a nutritionist. OK, I have a master and a doctorate in scientific disciplines, but I am not a dietician. I am not an expert in nutrition. Nutrition is a complex topic, where we find a few certainties and many doubts (and, please, remember, calories do count!!!).

Anyway, I eventually developed myst critical thinking on how to face a diet. And when I talk about diet, I mean hypocaloric diets, meant to loose weight. I am not going to address diets to control pathological situations as high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and so on.

Why do we need to take a few things into consideration prior to starting a diet? Because the mindset we use to face a diet is almost as important as the diet itself.

Here, the 5 points to consider to me, prior to starting a diet.

  1. Try to understand what you are doing wrong.

    If you gained 10 kg, there is something wrong with the way you eat or with your lifestyle or both). Understanding the problem is the first step to find the solution. Don’t blame the metabolism (very slow metabolism is a rare condition). Get to the root of the problem. If you really suspect that your metabolism is moving at the speed of a tired snail, talk to your doctor, he/she might prescribe specific tests to verify that.

  2. Seek professional help.

    Forget self-made diets and those found on social media or in the web. Forget who promises you miracle products. Seek for a serious professionist (a dietitian, a nutritionist…) who can follow you and help you with solving your problem. Be honest and tell how it is your current diet and your lifestyle (active or not). The more honest you will be, the better the professionist can nail down the problem and help you. Maybe, he/she will have to teach you how to eat properly, perhaps you have changed your lifestyle, or again, your problem could be nervous hunger that might require some psychological support.

  3. Carefully select the person that will follow you.

    This is tricky. Usually we tend to go by referrals. Asking around is fine, but you should also do your own research. Don’t choose a specialist just because he/she helped your friend with loosing 10 kg in 2 months. I heard authoritative pros suggesting to add salt during the cooking step, so “it evaporates” (salt does not evaporate, sigh :(), or recommending to use fructose instead of the “damnable” glucose, becase “it is a complex sugar” (no! fructose is a simple sugar!!! sigh, sigh, sigh). I can write pages about all the scientific hoaxes my poor hears had to listen to…your specialist (nutritionist or dietitian) should stay up to date with the scientific studies, in particular in a field as nutrition where there are continuous discoveries and denials. Do no hesitate to ask questions to your specialist, try to understand who he/she works, it’s your right to know. After all, it’s your money, correct? Therefore, try to understand if the investment is worth it. If you are not convinced, change, look for another person.

  4. Avoid weird diets.

    Please, please, please…avoid weird diets. We always think that our situation is a bit special and only an original remedy might solve our problem. If you love having breakfast with latte and almond croissant, and they replace that with fried egg whites and nori algae, how long do you think you can last? A few weeks or a few months, and probably you might also loose weight for real. But then frustration will take over and you will indulge yourself with the first chocolate pudding you run into. A diet should also take in consideration your personal tastes, or it’s gonna be hard to keep going with that. And most importantly, there is no such a thing as a damnable/miracle food. Nutrition should be considered into its entirety.

  5. Don’t rush.

    Be patient. Remember that the idea of a diet is to learn how to eat correctly. The key is getting rid of bad eating habits and replace them with good ones. And maintain them. This takes time. A lot of people think that the diet is just a parenthesis of a few months, maximum one year. After that, they get back to the old (bad) nutritional habits, gaining back the lost weight. Many nutritionist/dieticians start prescribing hypocaloric diets (1200-1500 kcal per day), to allow a quick lost in weight and give the patient tangible immediate results (actually, it would be possible to start with a less restrictive diet, comparable to the persons’ caloric requirements. The only issue is that the patient will take months to loose 3-4 kg, with frustration, lost of motivation and consequent abandonment of the diet). Then, we usually move to a maintaining diet (e.g. 2000 kcal per day), so that the person can maintain the weight. Unfortunately, the maintaining diet is often taken too lightly (I lost my overweight right? It’s done!) and is followed just for a few weeks. On the other hand, we must always keep an eye on how we eat. And our lifestyle. Always.

I know, I didn’t bring any good news. But I hope that this post could be a bit useful. Do you agree with what I say? Let me know in the comments!