It can be tempting to go for a quick-fix diet, especially at this time of year with the weather finally warming up. But research shows again and again that fad diets are not only ineffective but can be downright dangerous.
How to tell if it’s a fad diet
- Does it promise a quick fix, especially an easy one with no exercise? Like with most things in life, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is…
- Does someone stand to make lots of money from it e.g. meal replacement manufacturers?
- Is the approach supported by proper research? If not, be wary.
What’s the down side?
- most fad diets are extremely restrictive (think cabbage soup or grapefruit diets), which means that you risk missing out on nutrients, especially in the longer term
- because they are so restrictive, you often feel hungry and spend your day thinking about food, especially the food you can’t eat
- with very low-calorie diets, you will lose muscle, which is what helps your body to burn calories in the first place. When you go back to eating normally, you will put on the weight lost and more. 90% of dieters who lose weight gain back more than they originally lost
- can lead to disordered eating and eating disorders
- The real issue is that they don’t address unhealthy eating habits in the long term, so when you get bored with the diet, you just revert to the habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place.
What does actually work?
- It’s not very exciting, but making gradual change to your eating habits, with slow, sustainable weight loss of ½ – 2 pounds per week is the only way to lose weight in the long term and keep it off
- Any good weight loss programme will also include exercise, to help build muscle and support metabolism
Two ways of eating that actually support healthy weight loss
- Mediterranean diet – one of the most widely researched diets, with proven health benefits, this diet focuses on eating heart healthy fats in moderation (from fish, nuts and olive oil) together with pulses, vegetables, fruits and wholegrains. Like the low glycemic index diet, the Mediterranean restricts sugar and refined carbs and focuses on eating a wide variety of wholefoods. Expect gradual weight loss and be prepared to stick to this way of eating for good.
- Intermittent fasting – where you reduce your calorie intake some of the time. Two popular versions include where you don’t eat for between 12 and 16 hours per day and the 5:2 diet, where you eat 500 calories for 2 days per week. Research currently shows that intermittent is effective for weight and fat loss and can also help to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, help reduce fatty liver, may protect the brain….. It is also reasonably easy to follow and helps educate about hidden calories in your regular meals. However, you need to be prepared to stay on a maintenance version of this for life. It’s also not suitable if you are very stressed (fasting puts your body under additional stress), have hormonal issues or are trying to conceive or pregnant or if you are diabetic. Find out more and get a 2 day intermittent fasting menu here.
Both need to be combined with regular exercise to succeed in the long term.
Our top tips
- Rapid weight loss is not sustainable. Slow and steady wins the race
- Focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t
- Chose a plan you can follow long term
- Get support
- Set realistic short and long-term goals
Avoid any diet plan
- that promises a quick fix
- that focuses on one food or food group
- that you can’t maintain
- that is not based on real food
- that does not include exercise
So forget about fad diets. Contact us on 01 4020777 if you need help to get your food and lifestyle on track for good.