Diets Are Not the Answer

05/04/2015 03:56 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2016

In a culture that places a premium on outward appearances, the latest diet fad may prove highly seductive for anyone with a weight issue.

Wellness stresses health and wholeness of mind, body and spirit. As such, wellness is about far more than weight loss. As a wellness coach, I suggest setting health as the goal, rather than weight loss. That said, it is unreasonable to expect healthy choices absent education about the virtues of nutrient-dense food, exercise and other factors contributing to a healthy body. With education, attitudes and behaviors can change.

Education can be an uphill battle though, since so many people seem to know so little about heathy eating and the impact of eating habits on the body. I often say that humans may be alone as a species in their tendency toward destructive eating habits.

Here are just three of the widely held myths that pass for conventional wisdom about weight loss.

The first myth is that diets actually work.

About 60 percent of adults in America are overweight or obese.* Over 100 million are on a diet.** In a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of 31 long-term diet studies, UCLA researchers found:

At least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years and the true number may well be significantly higher." -- American Psychologist (April 2007)

There is a saying that your waistline is directly proportional to the number of dieting books on your shelf.

Most diets involve food depravation and counting calories. Classifying and valuing food as just so many calories is a lot like valuing trees only for the size of their leaves. The macro- and micronutrients in whole fruits and veggies are indispensable for a strong immune system, healing and longevity. One hundred calories of fresh fruit or raw veggies are far superior to one hundred calories of chips.

Never, never diet. Instead, adopt changes to your lifestyle. Here's a simple but powerful wellness strategy. Make one healthy choice about your diet and stick to it -- for as long as it takes -- until that choice becomes a habit. Then repeat the process with another healthy choice.

The second myth is that exercise can make up for overeating and poor food choices.

A meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and a desert can exceed easily 1,000 calories. But an hour of moderate exercise could leave you with a surplus of 500 calories or more to burn. As a rule, it is unrealistic to believe you can just "work it off at the gym."

Furthermore, nutrient-dense foods offer distinct and essential benefits that may not be realized with exercise alone.

To be sure, no one eats healthily 100 percent of the time. The occasional serving of dessert or French fries is unlikely to sabotage your health. Still, it is important to avoid rationalizing poor choices. Healthy eating and exercise work hand-in-hand. Both are essential.

Finally, there is the myth that one must eat meat to get enough protein.

Spinach contains up to 30 percent protein. Nuts and seeds derive 15 to 25 percent of their calories from protein. Beans are another excellent source and all sources of vegetable protein are free of the steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics usually found in conventionally produced beef, pork and poultry.

In his book entitled Eat for Health, Joel Fuhrman, M.D. states, "numerous studies prove raw nuts and seeds lower cholesterol, extend lifespan, and protect against the common diseases of aging."

Animal protein offers no such benefit.

A weight problem could be an early warning signal that your health is being sacrificed on the altar of a hazardous and harmful lifestyle. But dieting is not the answer. Educate yourself about the benefits of nutrient-dense food, exercise and other healthy choices, and use this knowledge to inform your behavior.

Make health your goal. You deserve nothing less!