Every January without fail we will be bombarded with advertisements promising to help us shed the excess pounds after Christmas. With well over 100 diets out there it is very easy to get sucked in and end up doing more harm than good when it comes to your weight loss goals and to your long term health. I'd like to help you avoid falling prey to the clever marketing and empty promises by sharing a few home truths.
Ok so where will I start.... Oh of course Low fat diets:
Low fat diets have been around for more than 30 years. They became the big thing in the late 70's early 80's when fat was demonised as the main culprit for causing high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity. The science behind this link is so shaky it makes jelly on a plate look solid enough to stand on. This is a hard fact to get your head around as we have quite literally been force fed this line for decades. We were told fats are bad, fat clog your arteries, eating fat makes you fat..etc etc etc....The truth of the matter is fat is not our problem. The more popular low fat diets have become the fatter we have become as a nation. Lets face it if "low fat" was the answer we'd all be slim by now and wouldn't have a problem staying that way. You can quite literally buy every product in a low fat form so why is it then that we can't maintain our weight long term. Basically because low fat processed products are generally very high in sugar. When the fat is taken out they don't taste too good so sugar is added to make the food more palatable. The problem with this is two fold. One, without the fat you won't feel as full so you'll probably end up eating more. Two, sugar is empty calories. Sugar is just for energy. If you don't burn it you'll store it as fat. Fat on the other hand is a raw material for the body. Every cell in your body has a lipid bilayer made of... yes you guessed it...fat. Your nerves need fat, your brain is made from fat, your hormones are made from fat. So believe me when I say you're better off with the full fat version over the low fat = high sugar version. Think full fat natural yogurt over low fat or 0% fat fruit yogurts. Think full fat mayo over light mayo. Start looking at the labels. Avoid foods with added sugar and you're well on your way to avoiding this long running fad diet.
Next lets take a look at low calorie diets:
Again these diets have been around for quite some time. They focus on the "eat less move more" equation for losing weight. Do you know what?...these diets do work... but not for long. You will lose weight but most of what you lose on a low calorie diet is lean tissue as you body starts to slow down your metabolism to cope with the reduced energy intake. Muscle is our most metabolically active tissue and so as you significantly reduce your energy intake your body tries to slow down your energy needs by eating into our muscle. For every pound of muscle you lose you will also lose a couple of pounds of water. So after a week of starving yourself on a low calorie diet you stand on the scales and smile to see you've lost 5lb. But sadly unbeknown to you that 5lb isn't fat. In fact your % fat has probably increased as you've reduced your muscle mass. Long term this means you now have a slower metabolism so when you go back to eating normally again, which you will ultimately do as low cal diets aren't sustainable, you will regain that 5lbs quicker than you can say "does my bum look smaller yet". The worst part of all is when you regain the 5lb's you don't just regain muscle and water it goes back on as fat. This is why low calorie diets actually make you fatter in the long run.
Finally lets have a quick look at the no carb solution which is no doubt jumping out at you from the pages of your glossy magazine. Now this one is tricky because there is some truth in the fact that reducing your carbohydrate intake can help you lose weight and more importantly lose fat rather than just muscle and water. The problem with no carbs is it generally means no whole grains, very few fruits and vegetables and no fibre. This is just not good for your health on so many levels. The fact of the matter is we need carbohydrates. They are the bodies main source of fuel. Our brain requires a steady supply of glucose to help us concentrate and carry out our daily tasks and we get glucose from fruits, vegetables, grains and sugar. Starving our body of its main source of fuel is not a sustainable option. You can guarantee you wont be operating at your best without carbohydrates and in todays demanding world we need to be on top form be it at work, at home or at school. You wont feel too good when constipation sets in either.
So what is the answer? How can we lose weight without damaging our health or slowing down our metabolism? Believe me when I say I searched high and low for this answer. I yo yo dieted for years. Often wishing I'd never started worrying about my weight as every diet I went on only made me fatter long term. This is why I really want to help you avoid these pit falls and look forward to a 2016 where finally you get this right and no longer have to worry about fad diets again. Amongst all the diets out there, there are a few universal truths and they are:
Eat whole grains (they are slower releasing which means they won't spike your blood sugar and cause fat storing episodes followed by blood sugar crashes which cause your cravings to kick in again).
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients these will help fight disease and help keep you healthy.
Choose lean sources of protein like lean meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds.
If you'd like to learn more then please join one of our Zest4life Nutrition and weight loss classes at the Performance Clinic, Celbridge every Tuesday evening at 7pm. We aim to motivate and educate you to help you reach your goals and understand how to manage your weight and health long term. We will give you the life skills and nutritional tools to end a lifetime of yo yo dieting once and for all.
Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach