Our resident nutritionist, Alex Dobbs, lays bare the truth about fad diets and why they won’t work.
A new year is a new chance to meet your health and wellness goals. And if you, like many, have a weight loss goal in mind you may be drawn to the latest, popular, fashionable or fad diet.
And whilst I am a big fan of fashionable shoes, clothes and interiors, I am in strong disagreement with “fashionable” diets. You may have heard of or even tried some of these such as the paleo, keto, volumetric, vegan diets to name a few.
Unfortunately, the only thing these diets have in common -aside from being rigid and trendy – is that sooner or later they will fail you. Our bodies enjoy having a regular pattern of mealtimes and foods. They crave nutrition and by limiting certain foods, you can actually do your health more harm than good.
What is a “diet” anyway? Most fad diets we hear of concern themselves not with “eating well” or “staying healthy”, but rather with losing weight and slimming down. Admittedly, many of us need this type of support. However, it is not healthy to focus on this one aspect of a healthy diet alone – a healthy diet should maintain a “healthy” weight (not necessarily a slim body) whilst nourishing our body and being enjoyable to keep up.
The art of eating and “diet” is so much more than just food intake. The Irish in particular are good at getting together and preparing wonderful meals to mark meaningful occasions. We eat to be together, to celebrate, to be social, and to enjoy family.
Diet is so much more than simply trying to do our very best with eating the right foods all the time. Diet is enjoyment, nourishment, healthy and fun. All at the once. No one diet fits us all. The concept of “biochemical individuality” in modern medicine also extends to how each body needs to be fed. One body may be happy never eating meat, whilst another body absolutely requires meat for energy. I never judge my clients on which types of foods they prefer no include or exclude, but I always try to open their minds to all food available to us.
Happy Body, Happy Mind
In fact, eating well not only affects our physical health, it also has a big impact on our happiness. A study from the University of Konstanz in Germany found that consuming vegetables led to a higher level of happiness over time than sugar or unhealthy food. The study included 14 different food categories and eating vegetables “contributed the largest share to eating happiness” measured over eight days. And on average, sweets only provided “induced eating happiness” in comparison to an overall healthy diet. Thus, the findings supported the notion that fruit and vegetable consumption has beneficial effects on different indicators of well-being, such as happiness or general life satisfaction, across a broad range of time spans.
Sustainable Weight Loss
My best advice is to follow some simple rules when it comes to weight loss. Here are some top tips:
- Eat nutrient-dense foods from every food group. Don’t deny yourself any one food group and have your glass of wine or sweet treat.
- Snack on healthy food. Think mixed nuts, greek yoghurt with berries, apple slices with peanut butter and veggie sticks instead of high-sugar treats to curb your hunger until dinner time.
- Drink more water. The body needs a lot of water to function well, do drink at least 1 litre of clean water daily, more if exercising, drinking coffee or being in hot weather.
- Look after your gut. A healthy gut equals a healthy body, so look after your microbiome well. There are countless ways of doing so, first and foremost eat your vegetables! Never skimp on veggies. Make them part of at least two of your daily meals.
- Enjoy your food. Indulge from time to time, enjoy your glass of wine or sweet treat without the guilt. It’s about making your basic meals nutrient-rich so you can enjoy your indulgences.