When it comes to colds, there are two types of people, says Shanna Levine, M.D., of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “The ones who come in 48 hours after their cough starts to request antibiotics because they want it gone… and the ones who ignore it and just say they have something in their throat.”

It can be tempting to assume any old cough is “just a cold, nothing serious!” and try to push through without seeing a doctor. A 2015 ZocDoc survey even found 43 percent of respondents would rather diagnose and treat themselves than see a doctor if they’re feeling sick. But no matter how many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy you’ve seen, your self-diagnosis skills might be lacking.

That’s why we asked M.D.s to point out the signs that indicate you should probably get that “cold” checked out by someone other than Dr. Google. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)

Alyssa Zolna

Even though three weeks sounds like a long time, Levine says that it’s highly normal for a cold to last up to 21 days. “It’s coughs that last more than three weeks that tend to be concerning,” she says, warning that these prolonged symptoms could be signs of asthma, pneumonia, or a different type of lung pathology. And over the course of those three weeks, Levine says, “You want to see your symptoms not only remaining stable but improving.”

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Related: The Right Way to Get Rid of Earwax

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Sometimes you’ll start to feel better—only to rebound and get much worse. “There are some emergency signs that require immediate medical care,” says Cary Sennett, M.D., Ph.D., the president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Flu-like symptoms that seem to improve but return with a worse fever and cough is one of them, he says. According to the Mayo Clinic, you might have a “secondary infection,” which could be anything from bronchitis to pneumonia. Whatever it is, you should have your doctor take a look.

Alyssa Zolna

It’s common to have thickened saliva in a cold, but if your phlegm is a strange color, then something weird is going on in your body. “It’s white blood cells trying to fight infection,” says Levine. “So if you see colors like yellow, brown, green, or even blood, then that’s concerning.”

Related: ‘I Drank a Gallon of Water Every Day for a Month—Here’s What Happened’

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If you’re tearing up nonstop—and there isn’t an adorable puppy in sight—then there’s a chance you could have allergies rather than a common cold. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference, Sennett says. “There are more than a hundred strains of cold viruses. Each tends to become widespread at certain times of the year, which is why you may mistake a cold for a seasonal allergy.” Other signs of allergic reactions can include hives, tongue swelling, feeling lightheaded, stomach cramps, and more, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Alyssa Zolna

As inspired as The Devil Wears Prada is, being one “cold” away from your goal weight isn’t a thing. “If you’re not eating, it’s one thing,” says Levine. “But if you’re actively losing weight while eating that could be concerning.” Unexplained weight loss paired with cold-like symptoms could be a sign of hyperthyroidism, a malignancy (a.k.a. cancer), a bacterial infection, or even HIV, Levine says.

Related: The Surprising Reason Most People Get Cancer

Alyssa Zolna

“While coughing is a common symptom of a cold, if your cough is accompanied by wheezing or chest tightness, you may actually in fact be experiencing an asthma attack,” says Sennett. During asthma attacks, your airway linings swell and become inflamed, get clogged by mucus, and then become constricted due to tightening muscles. “Breathing then becomes difficult, and resembles the feeling of trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton,” says Sennet. Speak with a doctor if you are suffering from these symptoms.

Watch a hot doc explain what can aggravate asthma:

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You should also be wary if you’re experiencing pain or pressure in one specific part of your body. For example, strep throat will obviously cause pain in your throat. Sinus infections can hurt your nasal passages or even your teeth. And of course there are ear infections. According to Levine, if you’re experiencing any “hearing loss, severe pain in the ear (like it hurts to touch), and if there’s any kind of discharge coming out of the ear, those are definitely good reasons to see the doctor.”

Help! I’m Sick: 4 Strategies To Handle Being Sick While Losing Weight

You’ve been losing weight like a boss, working out every day like a machine, and then you wake up one day and something is just not right.

Uh oh…

Fast-forward a couple of hours and you have a full-blown cold-from-hell, the flu, you’re nauseated, or you’re visiting the restroom like it’s the hottest new hang-out spot in town.

You’re officially sick.

And you’re not the only one.

I’ve had a ton of questions lately about what to do when you’re in the process of losing weight and you find yourself sick, feeling like absolute shit. Yesterday I, too, woke up to find that I was coming down with a cold.

“Fucking great. I’m getting sick. This is such bullshit!”

Today, as I surround myself with a moat of dirty kleenex and my voice sounds disturbingly similar to Donald Duck, I’m going to address this untimely event that will happen to all of us at some point in our weight loss journey: getting sick while on the journey to lose weight.

What are we going to do??? Is it possible to stay on track to weight loss while you’re sick?

Yes, it is!

Rule Number One: DON’T PANIC!

(Good life advice for almost any situation)

When you’re super motivated to lose weight and you’re putting in the hard work in the kitchen and extra effort at the gym, it can be heartbreakingly disappointing to get sick because of what we fear it’s going to mean.

We can quickly fall into the trap of thinking that if we don’t religiously stick to our diet and exercise routine during the 1-7 days of sickness, it means that we’re failures and we’re never going to make it to our goals. Whether this is a rational fear or not; we’re afraid of falling off the wagon.

Let’s say you’re like the average person who gets sick with at least a cold twice a year. That’s roughly two weeks a year that you’ll be sick. Those two weeks are not going to make the difference between achieving your goals or falling off the wagon. It is OK to take those two weeks off.

I’ll repeat: It is OK to take time off from your weight loss plan when you’re sick!

You have to remember that no matter how much space your body fills, YOU are always the most important thing. Taking care of yourself during an illness trumps losing weight every single time.

You deserve to rest and recover when you’re sick without guilt or shame.

You do not need to suffer through an intense workout while you have a fever or can’t breathe out of your nose. It’s not necessary. I understand the desire to lose the weight as fast as possible, but losing weight and keeping it off is a long-term commitment to yourself. No one needs to suffer more while they’re sick.

Remember, two weeks off your diet and exercise plan to take care of yourself while you’re sick will not ruin your progress. Give yourself permission to relax on your weight loss plan while you are sick. Take care of yourself. You can and will get back on track as soon as you are well. Notice a theme here yet?

Now that you’ve given yourself permission to relax a bit when you’re sick, what should you be eating anyway?

On no, I’m sick!

“I’m sick with a cold/flu/stomach-bug. So… what can I eat?”

I’m partial to soups and oatmeal when I’m not feeling well, but you should eat what you like. If you’re following the type of weight loss plan I recommend (a reasonable calorie deficit), which does not restrict any particular food groups or items, you can continue eating all the things you normally eat.

The quantity and specific choices of exactly what to eat or drink should be based more on how you feel. Every time I get sick, I feel a little bit different. I have had colds during which I felt perfectly fine, as long as I had a box of tissues nearby. I’ve also had colds that knocked me on my ass and wiped me out completely for a full week.

Make the decision to follow one of the following strategies based on how you feel.

Four strategies for how to eat while navigating illness during your weight loss journey:
1) You feel kinda low but you’re still feeling well enough to function at work:

(i.e. You’re starting to feel a cold/flu coming on, or you’ve almost recovered from an illness)

Change nothing. Continue to track your food intake at your usual calorie deficit. Reduce your exercise if your energy is low.

2) You don’t feel good at all but you can handle a reduced work-load at your job or around the house:

(i.e. Mild colds)

Continue to track your food intake but reduce your calorie deficit. For my calorie needs (maintenance at 2000-2100 calories/day), I might eat around 1750-1800 calories a day instead of my usual deficit at 1500-1600. The extra calories make it easier to have tea with honey for a sore throat, cough drops, extra fruits for Vitamin C, and not worry about using the calories to take care of myself. Reduce your exercise if your energy is low.

3) If you feel pretty shitty all over but are able to think, browse facebook, or hold a conversation while laying in bed:

(i.e. Severe colds)

Continue to track your food intake, but eat at your maintenance calorie level instead of at a deficit. For example, my maintenance is around 2000-2100 calories per day, and I lose about a pound a week at the 1500-1600 intake level. If I’m sick and need to have the energy to recover, I’ll eat around 2000 calories for the days that I’m sick. When I’m feeling better and my energy is returning, I’ll drop back down to 1500-1600 and continue on my merry way. Do not attempt to exercise when you’re at this level; you can return to your exercise routine when you’re feeling better.

4) If you feel completely miserable and can’t fathom moving from the bed-crater you’ve been hibernating in:

(i.e. Flu, Stomach bugs, etc.)

Eat whatever you want, because your appetite is almost certainly gone and the idea of eating anything makes you gag a little anyway. Eat whatever you can keep down. Don’t track your food at all. Rest. Recover. Do not attempt to work out at all. Focus all your energy on getting better. You can get back to your calorie deficit and exercise routine when you’re feeling better.

Take care of yourselves and get well soon!

What’s your favorite strategy to use when you get sick while on a weight loss journey?

If you enjoyed this writing, share it with a friend or two and leave a comment below – As a writer, it means the world!

The journey toward losing weight inevitably comes with a lot of ups and downs. Some days, you feel like the queen of the gym. Others, you feel like the scale is never going to budge. In case you were doubting your ability to reach your goal—spoiler alert, you can totally do it!—we asked Women’s Health Facebook followers and other women we know what it felt like when they hit their weight-loss goals. Read on to get all the motivation you need to keep at it:

“By the time I reached my goal weight, I was mostly stepping on the scale out of habit. At first it didn’t even register that the magic number was the magic number because I’d been so focused on celebrating the fact that my weight hadn’t fluctuated upward in a significant way for several weeks—and I was busy celebrating how much more energy I had from my new, whole Foods-friendly diet. When I realized I’d hit my goal weight after months of trying, it was gratifying for sure. But my happiness with my body and what it could do had already improved so much that the number on the scale was just icing—icing on a really, really delicious, healthy cake.” —Iris X.

“The day I stepped on that scale and saw that number I’ve been wanting to see was one of the best feelings ever. Complete satisfaction and pride rolled into one!” —Michele C.

“I actually did my happy dance when I found out.” —Jasmine A.

“I had tossed out my scale to concentrate on non-scale victories, so when I went in for a routine checkup at the doctor and saw just how much weight I’d lost, I cried. Happy tears! Sometimes, when things get tough and you feel like giving up, you lose perspective. It’s hard. But when I saw just how far I had come, I knew that it was all worth it. I was so proud.” —Lily M.

“I was a huge narcissist for, like, a week! I couldn’t stop staring in the mirror like, ‘Damn, girl.'” —Elizabeth B.

“Hitting your goal is awesome, but the feeling of being able to maintain your success is comparable to actually getting the weight off. Proving to yourself you are worth it is the best feeling ever.” —Sarah M.

“It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve stalled a few times, but each accomplishment gives me the confidence to keep going.” —Angela S.

More From Women’s Health:
How to Pick a Realistic Goal Weight
9 Diet Changes Real Women Made to Lose More Than 50 Pounds
7 Celebrity Weight-Loss Secrets We Totally Approve Of

Here’s a familiar scene: You find a weight-loss program that promises to zap your love handles in eight weeks. So you go through the grueling effort—usually restrictive, impossible-to-sustain methods that involve lots of protein—and, after the eight weeks, you feel disappointed that you don’t look like Chris Evans from Captain America yet.

Proper management of these kind of expectations, and what you have control over, is important for you to stick to weight loss methods that work in the long term. (I.e. how you get actual results.) Unrealistic expectations of your abilities, left unchecked, can otherwise do a lot of harm in a couple of ways.

We are so used to seeing and reading about truncated timelines for looking a certain way that our expectations of what’s realistic can feel like science fiction. Think about all the things that color your weight-loss experience, from “before” and “after” photos in ads to surreal TV shows like The Biggest Loser. If you expected to lose five pounds in three months, losing four seems okay. If you expected to lose 20 pounds instead, a mere four pounds seems like horseshit.

While weight loss can happen quickly, it really shouldn’t. Steady weight loss happens at a rate of half a pound to a pound per week. Even then, that depends on your genetics and starting weight: the more overweight you are, the “faster” you might lose a few pounds initially; and the closer you are to your ideal weight, the slower the process becomes.

We also tend to be, as Tali Sharot explained in her TED talk, awfully optimistic about achieving undiluted awesomeness in whatever we choose to do—and that includes losing weight. We’re predisposed for extremes. Beer and chicken wings? No, thanks, just boiled chicken breast and steamed vegetables please. Hit the gym six days per week? Sure! For a few weeks, at least. This optimism gets you into trouble when you slip up and decide that beer and chicken wings with your coworkers on Tuesday sounded like a great idea, after all. And afterward, man, does the guilt of “failing your diet” feel soul-crushing.

A paper in the International Journal of Obesity termed this “false hope syndrome” to describe your disappointment when your reality doesn’t live up to your expectations. The author explains that it leads you to ignore your successes, but worse yet, you hyperfocus on your setbacks, blaming yourself and lack of willpower, and then feel guilty and hopeless about ever changing your ways. I remember when I lost 13 pounds over eight months, and even though I’d lost weight, I felt like I’d actually failed that I didn’t look the way I expected. I ignored all my other successes and hard work, and it hurt my motivation and outlook for future attempts.

But how can you tell you have unrealistic fitness expectations?

If you feel like you have to temporarily turn your whole life upside down to lose or keep weight off, you’ve likely mis-calibrated realistic expectations with what you could possibly do with the time, energy, and resources you have.

According to Dr. Arya Sharma, MD, professor and chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta, a reasonable amount of weight loss that people can actually keep off with a reasonable amount of effort is around 5 percent of their total weight. It’s nothing sexy, but if after five years and you’re still down 5 percent, you’ve actually done better than the average, says Dr. Sharma.

For Many People, Especially Women — Weight Loss Is Not a Happy Ending

Share on PinterestIllustration by Brittany England

From diet plans, pills, fitness packages, and juice cleanses, Americans spend millions of dollars on weight loss products each year.

Unfortunately, our culture’s pervasive message that a smaller body shape and size can make us happier, more attractive, and more confident causes many of us to romanticize the upsides of weight loss. People often imagine that by losing weight, they’ll magically transform their lives.

But, believe it or not, research suggests there’s a dark side to dieting.

Individuals who lost 5 percent of their body weight over the course of four years were more likely to feel depressed.

One 2013 study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University, found that when one partner lost weight, the relationship suffered. The researchers discovered that a partner’s weight loss could make the non-dieting partner feel jealous and more insecure about the partnership.

They also found that when partners’ weight loss goals did not align, the dieting partner became frustrated, feeling like their significant other was not dedicated to shedding the weight.

Other studies caution that weight loss can dampen people’s moods. A study, cited by Business Insider, discovered that individuals who lost 5 percent of their body weight over the course of four years were more likely to feel depressed than those who maintained their weight during that same timeframe.

For years, Selby tried numerous weight loss plans, but as the pounds melted off, she felt worse, not better.

“The pursuit of weight loss is more damaging than high weight itself,” says Linda Bacon, PhD, associate nutritionist at the University of California, Davis, and author of the book, “Health at Every Size.”

According to Bacon, losing weight requires people to stop trusting their bodies, which results in ill health. “We have a great regulatory system that can guide us in how to eat well, and dieting shuts down that system,” she points out.

Dieting can make you feel worse about your body

Years of dieting only worsened how Elijah Selby, 49, a feminist transformational coach in San Francisco, California, felt about her body. Selby tried many diets before she realized that the cause of her unhappiness stemmed from not feeling good enough about herself.

Dieting limits the happy chemicals in our brain, which can affect our mood.

“My journey to love my body has been a struggle,” she reflects. For years, Selby tried numerous weight loss plans, but as the pounds melted off, she felt worse, not better.

“I’d diet, lose weight and then feel terrible about myself, again. It was exhausting.” Like millions of men and women, Selby believed that losing weight would raise her feelings of self-worth: “I placed my value as a human in the world on the size of my body.”

It wasn’t until her son was born that she decided to make a lifestyle change.

Instead of focusing on weight loss, Selby began to concentrate on wellness. “I realized that I had to start accepting my body and learning to love it. I shifted my intention, focusing on eating well to feel good about myself and to have more energy.”

It took several years for Selby learned to how to love and accept herself, and she acknowledges the barriers our culture has, barriers which damage and shame women.

“Society gives us the message that we are not okay as we are. It’s hard to recognize these messages because it’s the cultural water we swim in, which makes us believe it’s the truth,” she says.

“I received lurid stares and sexual comments about my body. Walking down the street, I’d hear men whistling or say, ‘I’d like a piece of that,’ as if I wasn’t a human but some object to be had.”

Pursuing weight loss can change your brain chemicals

Kelsey Latimer, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Discovery, an inpatient and outpatient treatment program for eating disorders recovery, says that solely focusing on weight loss can damage our well-being.

“On a psychological level, there’s a certain feeling of ‘success’ that our culture sets us up to feel when we see the number on the scale go down. Unfortunately, no one tells us what to do when that stops, which can create a vicious cycle of not feeling good enough,” she says.

Latimer adds that most people aren’t aware that dieting limits the happy chemicals in our brain, which can affect our mood. And for some individuals, losing weight becomes an obsession or an addiction, straining one’s personal relationships and psychological health.

“The pursuit of weight loss is more damaging than high weight itself.” – Linda Bacon, PhD

When Lianda Ludwig, 66 of San Diego, California, was in her 20s, she fell into the trap of reaching for the ‘thin ideal.’

“Seeing images of the thin model Twiggy convinced me that I needed to be thinner in order to feel attractive,” she says.

She began starving herself, eating only yogurt for breakfast and lunch, and increased her daily exercise routine by adding an aerobics class. However, weight loss didn’t make Ludwig feel like a beautiful model; it made her miserable.

“I was caught in a cycle of thinking something was wrong with me,” Ludwig recalls.

Messages of weight loss are so heavily woven into our culture; we often think of the scale as a sign of success.

“The pursuit of thinness hurts our culture because it instills the idea that the size of one’s body is what makes them valuable, which distracts us from finding and pursuing our true potential in life,” says Jenna Doak, a certified personal trainer who promotes body positive fitness on her Instagram page.

This culture can cause us to lavish with praise when a loved one drops a few pounds.

On weight loss and harassment

Cindy’s* weight had always fluctuated, but in college, she unintentionally lost 20 pounds. Friends and family members complimented her on the weight loss, which made it seem like it was an achievement. “It made me feel like my entire worth came down to my waist size,” she says. *Name changed at request of the interviewee to protect her identity.

Her weight loss also brought a lot of unwanted attention from men.

“I experienced street harassment multiple times a day,” she says. The harassment was so awful that Cindy became incredibly anxious and feared going outside or attending social gatherings.

“I received lurid stares and sexual comments about my body. Walking down the street, I’d hear men whistling or say, ‘I’d like a piece of that,’ as if I wasn’t a human but some object to be had.”

To cope with the unwanted attention and the anxiety that came with it, Cindy began dressing in baggier clothes so that she wouldn’t show too much skin. While she confided in friends about the harassment, she never saw a therapist.

“Sometimes, I used food and alcohol as a way to stuff down my fears and anxieties. But eventually, gaining back the weight seemed to be the only trick that worked. It was a way to keep myself ‘safe’ from unwanted sexual attention.”

The pressure of weight loss can also affect men

Despite what many of us believe, dieting isn’t something that only hurts women: it also impacts men. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association at some point in their lives, as many as 10 million American men suffer from an eating disorder.

Studies also show that men have body image insecurities and may feel badly about themselves after viewing images of the “stereotypical” fit and muscular male on television.

Ten years ago, Bill Fish, 40, a certified sleep science coach in Cincinnati, Ohio, struggled with depression. An antidepressant caused him to gain a few pounds.

“The medication hurt my metabolism. Looking at old photos of myself, I knew it was time to make a change,” says Fish.

Like many people who embark on a weight loss plan, he enjoyed the challenge of being able to lose weight and fit into his old clothes.

Fish’s weight had affected his self-confidence and he imagined that by losing weight, he’d feel more confident spending time at the swimming pool and wouldn’t avoid seeing a doctor for his yearly physical. He eventually lost weight, although his experience post-weight loss sheds a light to Selby’s point about the pressure, mistreatment, and expectations society places on women.

For Fish, his weight loss affected his golf game with his sons and took him of the bonding moment.

“With my game struggling, my tendency is to focus on that negative aspect instead of cherishing the time with my sons,” he says. “I’ve learned to absorb more needling from my 12-year-old after a bad shot.”

Supporters of the movement Health at Every Size (HAES) focus on loving and accepting their bodies and exercising for joy, not weight loss.

However, the post-effects of weight loss do still detrimentally affect men.

In 2016, actor Matt McGorry wrote an essay for “Today” opening up about his body insecurities, even during his body-building period.

Matt McGorry on body image

  • When I was training for those competitions, I was miserable. One of the big draws for me was that this misery allowed me to test my will and self-determination. And yet, when I stopped competing, I couldn’t help but separate my misery from what I looked like.
  • Logically, I understood that in order to look like what I used to look like, I’d have to do things I never wanted to do again. But I couldn’t help but mourn not looking like that.

We have the power to change the cultural narrative around weight loss

Even though dieting has many downsides, there’s a lot society can do to support healthier mindsets around weight loss. In order to flip the script on how we view health, wellness, and body weight, we need to speak out against these damaging beliefs.

To help create a supportive community, Bacon started a movement called Health at Every Size (HAES), with a website where people can sign a pledge declaring their commitment to honoring HAES values of respect, critical awareness, and compassionate self-care. HAES supporters also focus on loving and accepting their bodies and exercising for joy, not weight loss.

Individuals who live by these principles seek to celebrate, not shame, body diversity. They also challenge the “thin ideal” and other inaccurate messages about weight and body image.

“We need to offer cultural support and bonding over how difficult it is to live in a world of judgment,” says Bacon. She adds, “The more we can recognize this cultural problem, the less dependent we become on how those messages define us.”

Juli Fraga is a licensed psychologist based in San Francisco, California. She graduated with a PsyD from University of Northern Colorado and attended a postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley. Passionate about women’s health, she approaches all her sessions with warmth, honesty, and compassion. See what she’s up to on Twitter.

One of the great mysteries of life is why doing things that are good for us often feels so very bad. Yet every year, we embark upon such self-improvement efforts to tame the beasts within us for allegedly better, more optimal living.

Case in point: Among the top resolution for most people in the New Year?Getting in shape in some form or fashion — which often means eating better to lose some pounds (aka dieting). And yet, take to the internet’s health forums, and time and time again people on diets ask: If I’m eating so great, why do I feel so terrible?

In short, because your body is going into full-scale revolt from withdrawal — not just from caffeine, fat, sugar and/or salt, but from the missing dopamine that came with eating it. It can suck so badly to start eating super well if you’re used to eating badly that nutrition experts liken it to quitting smoking. Though it’s impossible to remember a pizza ever tasting bad, they argue that just as you coughed when you first tried to smoke, your body protested when you ate pizza, too. Trouble is, now it’s been so long you can’t remember, and your body thinks eating badly is normal.

Of course, you know eating better feels good in the long-term or you wouldn’t be forcing down a plate of uncooked lima beans. But eating like shit always feels better in the moment. How shitty you feel when you start eating lima beans by the bucket, though, mostly depends on two things: how big the dietary changes are and how quickly you make them.

On the vegan forum on Reddit, a commenter asks if it’s “normal to feel like shit when first starting out as a vegan?” But a quick look at the person’s dietary shift illuminates exactly why: In 48 hours, the person immediately cut out all animal products including meat, ice cream, and holy cripes, energy drinks. The commenters correctly deduce the redditor is very likely suffering from a nasty caffeine withdrawal.

Moderation is key here. If you just want to cut out red meat in an otherwise healthy eating schedule, you might find yourself craving it a lot, but it’s not like you’re going to break down shouting at strangers those first few days if you’re getting good protein from other sources.

But if you replace the junk food with just broccoli and water?

Look the fuck out friends and family — this one’s coming in bloated and pissed.

“Although reducing your intake of salt, refined sugar, fat and caffeine will undoubtedly be good for you in the long run, a drastic change in diet can lead to short-term discomfort — think grinding headaches, leaden sluggishness, embarrassing bloating and a hangry temper,” nutritionist and dietician Andrea D’Ambrosio tells The Globe and Mail about new diet side effects.

The reason, D’Ambrosio explains, is that eating tasty shit food releases dopamine, which we know is basically the body’s favorite natural high. Take that away, and you’re basically dealing with a slightly more civilized junkie. This can leave you feeling pissy or just outright sad, which is why you’re supposed to try getting off the junk the same way you would real junk—slowly and incorporating better foods over time. That means maybe just eating a high-fiber breakfast with protein, she says, or snacking on things like bananas or peanut butter and apples to thwart cravings.

Then, it cannot be overstated, drink lots of water (but not like, a crazy amount) to keep everything flushing through.

Another drastic diet rookie mistake: mainlining too much fiber. Suddenly piling on the broccoli, kale and other fruits and vegetables can lead to major constipation, or what I like to call the “hot farts,” or the fun other end of the spectrum—straight-up, no-holds-barred, shut-it-all-down, end-of-the-day, going-home-early-from-work diarrhea. Again, moderation is your friend: Only increase fiber at a steady uptick.

“The number one thing I always hear about transitioning to a healthier diet is bloating, gas and having an upset stomach,” nutritionist Jaclyn London told Good Housekeeping recently about the initial side effects of eating well. Part of that, she explains, is that you’ve lost the “instantaneous uppers,” of sugar and caffeine and fat, and now you’re crashing hard. “When you eat healthier, your body will slowly give off more sustained energy over time,” London says.

London also recommends, unsurprisingly, to double your water intake and hurry up and wait. “After a few weeks,” she advises, “you’ll feel better overall.”

While eating tons more fiber or taking away large amounts of sugar are extreme in their own way, there are also the really extreme diets in general, the kind that make reducing sugar look like a cakewalk.

That diet du jour is probably the keto diet, which is a lot like the carb-restrictive Atkins Diet, but for people who think that the Atkins Diet is for fucking wimps. It’s almost all the fat you want in exchange for none of the carbs, which causes the body to go into a state of ketogenesis. You stop eating carbs, which deprives your brain of glucose, which makes your body kick over to other sources to make its own sugars. That creates something called ketones, and more of those burns more fat. At Men’s Health they liken it to a hybrid car that drains the gas and then flips over to run on electricity. To do so, 60 to 80 percent of your diet would come from fat, 10 to 15 percent protein and 10 percent from carbs, which they note is about half a bagel.

But dropping carbs that fast comes at very high price: There’s feeling like general shit, but there’s also something called “keto flu” or the “low carb blues,” which nutritionist Yoni Freedhoff tells Globe and Mail, feels like, well, the flu: nausea, fatigue, mental fog and even dehydration — for weeks. Probably the real culprit is you’re just literally starving, so Freedhoff, like all these experts, recommends slowing it down and instead just making “realistic” changes.

Other so-called elimination diets — e.g., deciding all of the sudden to go gluten-free (especially when you don’t actually have Celiac’s disease), or eliminating all processed foods or dairy—can also cause a host of fast side effects: bloating/farts, constipation or diarrhea are typical. A good rule to follow is that the quicker the fix, the shittier the side effects. If you’re going to only consume 800 calories, can you really get mad when you get dizzy and have bad breath, and then later on, pick up some osteoporosis?

Use common sense people.

Then there’s another annoying side effect: You actually get through eating all this healthy shit, and then, boom, you get a cold. Research shows calorie restriction can lower your immune system.

Even worse? You manage to conquer a major diet change, but then you actually RUIN junk food for yourself forever. Say you finish a Whole 30 diet, eating only whole foods for a month, then proudly treat yourself to something from your old life like ice cream, a slice of pizza or a Big Mac. Only instead of being in carb/fat/sugar/salt heaven, you feel like utter shit. This happens to some people every time they have a cheat meal. Nutritionists warn that returning to the old eating habits can not only derail all the progress, but also just feel bad, giving you a “Charlie Sheen” style hangover on par with the same one you got withdrawing from those foods in the first place.

Pretty cool huh?

Of course, let’s not fail to mention what happens when you stick with a good plan for optimal eating: More consistent energy, greater health, weight loss, looking better, feeling better and actually being healthier.

But to do that, you don’t need any diet. BuzzFeed just reported on an increasing number of nutritionists and dietitians who increasingly choose to fully reject dieting as the gospel for achieving health. They avoid elimination diets for their clients unless directly related to food allergies, and otherwise focus entirely on promoting positive relationships with food and health that have almost nothing to do with your weight.

Not that it’s bad to lose weight, of course, if that’s what you want. It’s just, before you go nuts on a crazy new diet, consider that, these days, making slow, positive, incremental changes to how you eat — without even cutting out anything you really love eating — will do exactly the same thing, without all the shitty side effects.

Tracy Moore

Tracy Moore is a staff writer at MEL. She covers all the soft sciences like psychology, sex, relationships and parenting, but since this is a men’s magazine, occasionally the hard ones. Formerly at Jezebel.

In the spirit of CARE, let’s start this conversation by having you envision a single cell in your body.

Cells look a lot like a pin cushion. Their surfaces aren’t smooth at all, but rather, are full of individual receptors (the pins). These receptors are critical to influencing how that cell behaves.

Depending on what the receptor communicates to the cell, that cell could start making more of something, it could start making less, it could speed up or slow down – and your overall health, risk of disease, and how you just plain feel that day depends on this activity.

So what determines what the receptor will communicate to the cell?

This includes, but is not limited to, what chemical nestles right onto the top of the receptor or how much of different chemicals are available in your blood.

These chemicals can include good-for-us substances like:

  • nutrients
  • hormones
  • and neurotransmitters

Or they can be not-good-for-us substances like:

  • nicotine
  • excess caffeine and alcohol
  • food additives and colorings (like MSG)
  • or excess sodium or glucose/sugar

Every minute of every day your cells try to make the best decision based on the ‘information’ or tools that you provide them.

Overconsumption, excess intake of food chemicals and drugs, and high stress all contribute to lots of not-good-for-us substances available in the blood. These substances wreak havoc on the information available to those receptors.

The old saying of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ applies here. When you only give your cells garbage to work with, you feel like garbage.

But interestingly, over time you start to build a tolerance to how this dysfunction feels.

In this ironic twist, eating too much and too many chemically-based ‘foods’ actually does make you feel better.

This is no different than a smoker. The first time a smoker puffs on a cigarette, the reaction from the body is severe. There is violent coughing, immediate lightheadedness, some GI discomfort. But by that third or fourth day, those selfless receptors have adapted to being bullied by nicotine nestling right on top of it. Having nicotine there (even though harmful) becomes its new normal. It creates workarounds and compromises ideal functioning, but you now interpret this as ‘feeling good’.

That cigarette no longer makes you cough, it makes you feel pleasure.

Until you remove it…

This picks up the story with our subject of why we temporarily feel worse when starting to eat healthy.

You (meaning your receptors and cells) have adapted to higher amounts of not-good-for-you substances in chemical-based foods and overconsumption. This has become your new normal.

You, in that ironic twist, feel better here.

Until you remove them…

Just like the smoker, your receptors adjusted to dysfunction.

Their normal is now defined by access to these substances. When you remove them, you change the information available to them again altering how each cell responds. Initially, that feels bad – even though it is good.

How long it takes for those receptors and cells (and ultimately you) to recover depends on so many factors (genetics, nutritional status, environment, social and physical stress, how many changes you made at once), but on average in as little as three to four days you will start to feel better from eating healthier.

Let’s Recap

Timeline of what happens and why you feel worse when starting to eat healthy:

  • Removing chemical ‘foods’ and overconsumption means that your cell receptors no longer have access to those not-good-for-you substances.
  • Many of these chemicals stimulated cells (like with MSG) or amplified the releases of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This alone will affect mood, energy levels, and sleep.
  • Increased circulation from more activity and better hydration (which increases the availability of oxygen and nutrients) combined with the removal of excess chemicals in the blood (like glucose and sodium) can create vascular changes (even if good for you) that can result in a headache.
  • Healthy changes also decrease the total stress burden on the body. Your efforts to increase physical activity and decrease chemicals, including caffeine and alcohol, will result in decreased circulating stress hormones, like cortisol, which is a natural steroid that has anti-inflammatory properties (just like the prescription). Short-term, good for us. Long-term, bad for us. Bringing stress hormone levels down will initially alter the immune system which you could experience as getting a cold or just feeling lousy. This happens often when people go on vacation – they finally reduce their stress levels and then get sick right away.
    • The liver, kidneys, and skin are all involved in and responsible for the natural detoxification of all these changes to hormone levels (like cortisol and insulin) and other chemicals. And as this post by the American Acne Foundation points out, the liver, kidneys, and skin respond leading to breakouts or skin rashes, which can be assuaged with creams for a time.

The Great News

The great news with lifestyle changes, like increased nutrient-richness, increased activity, and increased stress management and recovery, is that these changes are the foundation needed to make more challenging healthy changes (like quitting smoking). Our cells thrive quickly when we remove chemicals and give them tools to heal versus harm.

  • Receptors will become more sensitive to things like insulin, sodium, and hormones which over time will regulate blood glucose and blood pressure.
  • As blood glucose is better regulated and consumption moderated, metabolism gets more efficient at utilizing stored adipose tissue (fat) for energy.
  • The decreased burden on the liver results in better regulation of lipids (like cholesterol) and sex hormones.
  • The increased circulation and vascular changes move from causing headaches to decreasing risk of heart disease and improving cognition.

So how do you make it through (temporarily) feeling worse to feeling good?

Use this time to increase awareness of your body; increase mindfulness.

  • Continue eliminating the not-good-for-you substances
  • Continue eating a nutrient-rich, whole foods, produce-based diet – one balanced and portioned to support your health goals; get help from a program if you need guidance (our free program option introduces a balanced plate and therapeutic checklist to help you get started)
  • Continue moving
  • Stay hydrated
  • Have a plan so you can consistently do these things; find internal versus external motivation this time
  • Spend time finding a lifestyle that really fits you like a glove this time; get off the exhausting hamster wheel of ‘being on a diet’ or ‘being off a diet’; there really is a middle ground to be enjoyed

Appreciate the calming feeling of these lifestyle choices that we often misinterpret as sluggish or low energy. We are a society that spends billions of dollars to override our natural cues to rest. Our right hand spends billions for stimulants while our left spends billions for relaxation and sleep aides. We can’t even distinguish between the two anymore when we remove all chemicals and overconsumption.

This time, appreciate the calm.

Appreciate that you feel sluggish because your body is finally putting resources into healing. Finally, let your body rest and heal. You will be rewarded with greater strength than you thought possible.

Warmly,

Teri Rose, CARE Nutritionist and Program Director

What Happens to Your Body When You Begin Eating Healthy

Let’s talk about results.

When you make the decision to change your eating habits, it can become frustrating when you don’t see immediate results. It may even be tempting to give up. “Well, I’m not getting anywhere,” you might say. “What’s the use?”

The thing is, results don’t come all at once, and they don’t look the same to all people. Some of your biggest results will be in how you feel … not just in how you look.

Weight Loss Results Differ from Person to Person

As you probably know, your weight fluctuates from day to day — and even throughout the day. You may drop water weight quickly, but unfortunately, losing water weight is not the same as losing fat. If you have hormone issues, you may lose weight more slowly than a person without issues. Men can sometimes lose weight faster than women. And many of us know the feeling of our metabolism slowing down a little as we age.

Luckily, that’s not the whole story.

As you exercise, you’re getting stronger and adding muscle. As you choose healthy foods over carb-heavy meals and empty calories, you’re improving your gut health, brain function, and energy levels! It takes a little faith. We encourage you to trust in the program you’re following and the good it will ultimately do to your body.

Here’s some information about what’s really happening to you over time as you change your eating habits.

Immediate Changes to Your Body: Results in as Little as One Day

You may not see a difference on the scale after eating one healthy meal, but – believe it or not – even one day of better choices makes a difference.

You’ll begin healing your gut … and your brain! That means that good bacteria will begin to replace bad bacteria in your digestive track, and you’ll reduce inflammation, which positively impacts your brain function.

You’ll also reduce your levels of hunger because you’re not eating junk carbohydrates that make you hungry again sooner. Instead, you’ll be fueling your body with slow-burning energy sources such as protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. It all boils down to fewer cravings … and that’s something we all want.

What You Can Expect in One Week

Within a week of eating healthier, you’ll notice that your energy level has gone up. You’ll be getting better sleep and managing all the activities of the day like a pro.

Chances are, you won’t feel quite as bloated. In fact, all of your digestive functions may be feeling a lot better. You may also lose some water weight, and your clothes may feel looser on your body even if you’re not going down a size quite yet.

Within the body, your hormones can begin to stabilize on a healthy diet, and your brain health will improve right along with them. This can translate to a more stable and more positive mood. For those who suffer from occasional depression or anxiety, this is great news.

What Can Change Within One Month

The first thing you’ll notice after a month is that your skin looks great! The skin, the largest organ in the body, can smooth out and simply glow once you begin feeding yourself with healthy foods.

Your metabolism will begin to go up, ever so slightly, the longer you eat healthy. A metabolism that’s humming along smoothly will pay dividends as you continue making your lifestyle change.

Maybe the best change of all? Eating healthier will start to be more habitual … it will start to feel normal. You’ll know how to plan your meals, prepare for going out, drink enough water, and swap out unhealthy foods for healthier choices. Won’t it be great when you can do all this – and feel like yourself?

At the Six Month Mark, Things Really Get Interesting

Get this: your sex life may improve! Energy + a better mood + feeling proud of your healthier body = va-va-voom.

Your health levels overall, including blood pressure and blood glucose, will improve. As you’re undoubtedly aware, this will translate to better health in the future. Your bones will get stronger, too, thanks to the healthy choices you are making.

After One Year, You’ll Be So Proud of Yourself

You may reach your goal weight after a year (or a little less) of eating right. This alone is an accomplishment, but think about all the other gifts you’ll have given yourself …

You’ll know how to indulge wisely. You’ll be aging more slowly. You’ll have fewer medical problems. Weight management will feel more effortless. You’ll simply be happier than you are today.

What Are You Waiting For! Let’s Begin Today …

If you’ve been waiting for the right moment, or the right group of people to support you, you’re here. At Cooking Healthy Academy, we cook together, laugh together, and truly change our lives together. We’d love to meet you. Reach out!

Oh, have you tried eating more meat and less carbs? You should just eat according to your blood type. Calories in, calories out; that’s the only way. Have you tried the latest juice detox? Exercise a lot and stop eating pasta. Well, I lost weight by simply giving up sugar; you should try that, it’s easy! I knew this guy who lost 30kg by walking around the block each night and not drinking beer anymore. Have you tried the latest raw food smoothie, complete with blueberries, almond milk, and kale (they’re all superfoods, don’t you know)? Latest research shows that butter and full-fat dairy products are good for you. I gave up meat and I lost 15kg! Have you tried fermented foods yet?

Maybe it’s the timing? Have you tried eating like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch, and a pauper at dinner? Well, the latest research shows that you should have 5-6 smaller meals a day. My cousin’s sister-in-law lost 30kg by simply skipping breakfast. Have you tried the 5:2? Apparently eating the French way is best: 3 full meals a day and no snacking. Fasting is the way of the future, after all.

Take a walk every day for 30 minutes at least four times a week. Climb mountains and jog for three hours each evening. Oh no, don’t you know that the latest research says that too much exercise is actually bad for you? Yoga worked for my girlfriend. I lost 20kg simply by taking up white water rafting on the weekends.

I’m tired. I’m tired of all this utter bollocks. The diet industry, and society at large, is trying to force us to be all one shape and size; much like asking a labrador to be a chihuahua, it ain’t gonna happen. Can’t we all just accept this and move on? Obesity is a difficult beast to understand; in fact, not even science – let alone doctors, nutritionists, gym bunnies, dieticians, naturopaths, and other “health experts”, has all the answers.

I Quit Fad Dieting and Lost 50 Pounds in 11 Months

Transformation

Sick of yo-yo dieting, Dawn Fretz gave up fad dieting for more sustainable weight loss.

By Caroline Cunningham· 2/27/2018, 8:00 a.m.

Get wellness tips, workout trends, healthy eating, and more delivered right to your inbox with our Be Well newsletter.

Photographs courtesy Dawn Fretz.

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one Philadelphian’s story. Want to share your Transformation Story? Email [email protected]illymag.com.

Who: Dawn Fretz, 39, registered nurse from Berks County

Why I wanted to change: “I’ve struggled with my weight for many, many years (mainly since having my second son — he’s 13). I tried, but couldn’t really kick the last of the baby weight I put on. I’d always been around 130 to 135 pounds (I’m 5’4”) but after having him I seemed stuck at 150. I remember starting a new job in April 2010, weighing 155 pounds, wanting to lose weight and trying all kinds of tricks to do so — Body for Life, Atkins, South Beach, 21 Day fix, and so on and so on. After multiple failures, I believed the only way to lose weight was by eating a starvation diet of egg whites, plain chicken breasts, and broccoli — something I simply could not stick to, but I continued to try anyway out of desperation. In the summer of 2016 I was up to 191 pounds. I saw a story about Dr. Charlie Seltzer and one of his clients, Jessica, on the news and thought, Wow! Lose weight, no starving, just small changes…I can do that!

“I scheduled my first appointment. Shortly after, however, some family issues arose and I decided it wasn’t a good time, so I cancelled that appointment. By the end of February 2017, I had worked through those family issues and, while doing so, put on another 13 pounds. I was 204 pounds, clinically obese, and mortified! I was constantly tired, constantly frustrated, and terribly worried about my health risks due to my weight. I hated not being able to participate for long in physical games with my kids. I hated how I had to keep buying bigger clothes and how, when I sat in the seat of an airplane, my body extended beyond the borders of my seat. I didn’t like the way I looked or felt and needed to take control of my weight!”

How long it took: “I first met with Charlie at the beginning of March 2017 and have been working with him since.”

Total weight lost: 52 pounds (but I’m not done yet!)

What all changed: “I am definitely happier and have a more positive self-image. I have more energy and am not as tired all the time — partly due to Charlie’s treatment approach. He doesn’t just work on weight loss, he treats you as a whole person. In doing so he uncovered that I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and is treating me for hypothyroidism related to it. I no longer believe that you have to starve or avoid the foods you enjoy in order to lose weight, and I try to convince others of the same. I do more with my kids and have more enthusiasm for life. I look at food more as necessary for life and less of something meant as enjoyment (although I do still like to indulge in yummy treats).”

What’s left to change: “I am still working to change and think I always will in some shape or form. My goal weight is 130-135, so I have roughly 20 pounds to go. That’s sometimes still hard to believe! I also have a long way to go with my fitness goals —weight is only part of that formula. I want to be stronger. I want to be faster. I want to increase my flexibility. I also see mindfulness as part of health, so that’s one of my goals too.”

How I changed my diet: “I remember my first two weeks of tracking all my food; Charlie told me to eat the way I usually eat and not change a thing — he just wanted me to get into the habit of tracking. When I look at those two weeks…WOW! I averaged between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day, sometimes more! I ate a lot of burgers, fries, pizza, and wings. One of my lunches during those two weeks totaled over 1,800 calories all by itself! Don’t get me wrong, I still get to eat all of those things — I just don’t do it as frequently or eat as much of it. I’ve switched to turkey burgers; in fact, I use ground turkey in everything that calls for ground beef now. I shy away from pastas, especially the ones with creamy sauce. I look more to low-calorie flavor additions such as salsa, hot sauce, and spices instead of cheese or creamy sauces. I’m still not great at adding fruits and vegetables throughout the day, so I’m working on that right now.”

“You can have cake and pizza and wings if you want — if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my food journals!”

How I changed my workout routine: “Charlie started me on four-minute Tabatas three times a week, as well as five simple weight-lifting exercises (leg press, bench press, deadlifts, shoulder press, and row) 3 sets of each, three times a week. Unfortunately I’ve had a string of issues ( foot surgery, back pain) that have kept me from exercising for many months now, so I currently don’t have an exercise routine. I’m looking into yoga (never done it before), and am hoping to be cleared to go back to the routine Charlie recommended after I see a physiatrist for my back pain later this month. I see what I have accomplished in the absence of exercise and am proud but imagine what I could be and do with regular exercise — stronger, leaner, faster metabolism. I actually WANT to exercise.”

The hardest part: “I had hit what I believed to be a bit of a wall in mid-January and was stuck around 155 pounds. A lot of it was my fault as I’d started some old habits of emotional eating. I was going over my calorie limit for the day (which, by the way, is currently 1500-1600 calories per day!) and I wasn’t tracking it because I was ashamed, but I continued to eat anyway. I was honest with Charlie and told him about it on our call earlier this month. He didn’t chastise me or make me feel bad in any way. Instead, he told me simply to track it all and that the only thing I should feel bad about is NOT tracking it all. The simple step of tracking it was all I needed to get back in the game. I still sometimes eat more than my calorie allotment for the day, but not nearly as much as before, and I track it all. And I’m losing weight again!”

What I want you to know: “You DON’T have to starve or avoid the foods you love to lose weight! You can have cake and pizza and wings if you want — if you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my food journals!”

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