The SUN IS OUT. The benefits are tempting. Rapid results. Effortless. Just watch that fat melt away! Restore your energy and youth. No more bloat, just look at those before and after photos! Bring on the shorts and sleeveless tops! Why wouldn't you want some of that?
If you are happy with your weight, don't read this. You have every right to be any shape or size you choose. For many however, excess weight has so many negative associations. Feeling unhappy, self conscious, embarrassed and demotivated, it is hugely personal, yet mostly driven by comparison to the unrealistic or impossible. And this is what the billion pound diet industry preys on; it exploits our emotions for profit.
The diet industry continues to boom and it's not going anywhere soon. We have moved on from Atkins and the Cabbage Soup Diet (although they still hold their ground) to intermittent fastin, Paleo or following the alkaline diet. I can hardly keep up!
Starting a new diet can be overwhelming; there are so many to choose from! It's important to know that not every diet will suit everyone and despite the claims made to improve health and combat disease some are very unhealthy, even dangerous. We all have different DNA, metabolic rates, digestive systems, routines and levels of commitment but the convincing dialogue promises success to all. Here's the wake up call if you are looking to begin a new diet: watch out for the fads.............
Don't believe everything you read! Many diets will be endorsed (apparently) by singers, actresses or models. Photo's can be airbrushed, testimonials fabricated. In fact I've just received an email from Dr. Goglia (nutritionist to the stars he says). He tells me his G-Plan diet will transform my physique (no exercise plan by the way). Out of curiosity I completed the online multiple choice questions and have since been told his personalised plan will help me lose weight (I DON'T WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT!!!), just like the hundreds of other people he sees each week. Oh and "he will unlock the fat burning power within me so my fat will melt like butter on a hot skillet." **ALARM BELLS** Which brings me to Doctors - not all Doctors are the same and having a PhD or being a medical specialist does NOT mean they know their right hand from their left when it comes to nutrition.
They use all the right buzz words to pray on your vulnerabilities, the descriptions are designed to tap into your emotions - be wary! The 'proof' you are looking for that something will work appeals to you feelings rather than logic. When you want something that much, logic goes out the window.
Whether it be following a very low calorie diet (usually 800 Cal or less a day) or having to prepare and eat 8 mini meals a day, ask yourself if it's something you can stick to, for the long term. A diet plan that is demanding and dramatically different to your normal way of eating is going to be exceptionally hard to follow. Falling off the wagon is pretty much guaranteed.
A diet that means you can't enjoy food with your family and friends will simply isolate you and make it doubly hard to maintain motivation. Unnecessarily restricted or limited diets are not much fun when you have to do them or eat on your own.
Promote obsessive behaviour
Following a very prescriptive plan, counting calories or weighing out foods doesn't necessarily teach you about nutrition, health or appetite control. Encouragement to weigh or exercise excessively is also a worry. Overly restricted diets will also leave you hungry so you so all you can think about is food - not exactly helpful if you are trying to lose weight!
Certain diet plans are not particularly good at explaining why you are following said plan - what the food choices will do to your metabolism or energy levels. It's seeing terms like melt, blitz or banish that make me sigh. 20 years of teaching nutrition and I have never described fat loss using any of these words! Support is crucial when following a diet too. Using an app or following a book that oversimplifies the messages will not necessarily empower you with knowledge or any real understanding of what you are doing!
I would never recommend excluding food groups from a diet unless there were medical reasons to do so: it has to be determined for each individual. Going dairy free, gluten, sugar free or avoiding carbs is (a) often unnecessary (b) hard for you to do unless you are fully coached on the alternatives (c) have not been shown to help with long term weight loss and (d) will probably leave you feeling more tired and moody.
Just because you see some amazing results from following certain diets (and yes, they do happen) it does not mean that you will too. The harmful cycle of yo yo dieting results from switching from failed diet to failed diet. You end up frustrated and disheartened, with less motivation and self esteem, on the look out for the right solution and unfortunately open to further exploitation.
Potentially harmful and dangerous
Following very low calorie diets without supervision, excluding food groups without knowing why and consuming particular 'detox' agents can leave you malnourished and at risk of serious health problems. Dehydration, headaches, fatigue, wind, dizziness, bad breath and ready to bite someone's head off are just the beginning. Your health is too precious to play around with.
Yes there are certain diets that I will slate (Dukan, New Atkins and Paleo) but to be honest if a diet works for you, then do it! New diets will continue to emerge and interestingly, more research is showing some potential benefits of a 2 day diet BUT there are so many versions of the 5:2, it's easy to follow it incorrectly so it definitely won't work.
In the short term, a quick fix may give you the result you want. Is it worth it? If you have a beach holiday or wedding coming up, maybe but I'll bet you won't stick with it for long. I'm not being arrogant, it's just the reality of what I've seen over the last 20 years.
Yes I am cynical, but you should be too: if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is! Be honest, is losing weight just about a number on the scales on on your clothes?
If you have any questions about a particular diet you are following or are looking into, pop it in the comments below or drop me an email at email@example.com. I'll happily help you make sense of it :-)
Thanks for your question Nigel, the Mediterranean diet does tick lots of boxes when it comes to improving health. You are right, consuming more of the above should certainly provide more positive effects on heart health and blood sugars etc. and the evidence suggests this is the best diet type to follow. This has to be in conjunction with watching alcohol intake and taking regular exercise too – achieving good health is very much a lifestyle.
It’s interesting to read the recent research about saturated fat and it’s link to heart disease. Certainly not all saturated fats are the same and the likes of yoghurt and milk are showing promising benefits to health but I’d still go for olive oil over butter. We do seem to be eating less meat in general but there’s lots of scope to improve our fish intake in the UK. A good opportunity to dust off the BBQ and try cooking things other than sausages and burgers now the weather is so fantastic – oh no, but we aren’t supposed to burn our food!!
Whenever I talk to my doctor(s) about diets they recommend the Mediterranean diet. This is for its health benefits rather than weight loss. As I understand it this means less red meat (or even meat), more fish and vegetables and fibre. Olive oil rather than butter. Have I understood this correctly? Is this really the ideal daily diet for health?