The first thing to remember about fad diets, is that they are commercially driven. They are designed to sell you a product – it may be a book, food products, drinks, shakes, meal replacements, juices or whatever, but the primary concern is to make a profit, not your health.
In order to attract you, these diets try to be as alluring as possible, promising dramatic weight loss with little effort or sacrifice. This perpetuates the myth that there is a short-cut, easy way to lose weight. Think of the Atkins diet for example, where people were sold the idea that they could eat a fry-up every day for breakfast and still lose weight.
In reality, health professionals know that the only way to lose weight successfully and to keep it off long-term, is to make permanent, lasting changes that you incorporate into your lifestyle forever! This means being realistic, making changes gradually and making healthy choices you actually enjoy!
There is a simple equation when it comes to weight loss; calories in must be less than calories out. However, this calorie deficit should only be small and should be achieved by a slight reduction in overall food intake in combination with becoming more active – not by cutting out certain foods or entire food groups. In fact, the main reason fad diets do lead to some initial weight loss, is simply because when you cut out certain foods/food groups, you end up reducing your overall calorie intake – it is nothing to do with any ‘magic’ formula of food combining or avoiding.
One of the problems is that when we overly restrict calorie intake, it results in loss of lean body tissue (muscle) as well as fat. In the long term, this will actually hinder our weight-loss efforts, as well as being bad for health. Muscle is an active tissue, meaning that it burns calories even when we are resting, so the more you have the more calories you burn each day.
For successful weight loss that you can keep off for good, you need to lose fat not lean tissue. This is achieved by a healthy balanced diet, regular meals and snacks and only a small calorie deficit.
Severe calorie restriction and going for long periods without eating can also have the effect of directly slowing down your metabolic rate – the rate at which the body burns calories. In addition, it will increase hunger signals in the body and stimulate the release of hormones that tell you to eat more.
To maintain a healthy weight, you will need to stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle for the rest of your life. It takes time to develop new healthy habits and some effort initially. Unlike the false promises of fad diets, this is not something you can do in a couple of weeks or a month. Making small, gradual, achievable changes over time is the way to adopt new habits that you will keep in your life for good. And remember these changes should be about being healthy as well as losing weight.
The message is clear – avoid fad diets! Instead, make a commitment to change your diet and lifestyle for good – and that begins with one small, achievable step.
Here are some ideas:-
- Switch cow’s milk to a plant-based milk such as almond milk
- Upgrade your carbs – swap white bread for wholemeal or rye bread, white rice for wholegrain rice or quinoa and white pasta for wholemeal, spelt or brown rice pasta
- Swap your afternoon coffee for a green tea
- Swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes
- Swap sugary cereals for porridge with fruit
- Swap a packet of crisps for some raw, unsalted nuts
- Swap a chocolate bar for a few squares of good quality 80% dark chocolate
- Swap a steak for a salmon fillet
- Swap chips with your meal for salad/veg
- Swap taking the lift or escalator for walking up the stairs