Towards the end of last year, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) published their annual list of ‘celebrity diets to avoid’ in 2017. Among the frontrunners were ‘clean eating’ followed by Jessica Alba and Miranda Kerr, Britney Spears' favourite ‘teatoxing’ and the ‘6:1 diet’ made famous by Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
These are just the latest in a long list of fad diets that you’d be best placed to avoid. The main problem as we see it, is that they continue to feed the notion that there’s a magic bullet to weight loss.
Of course the idea of a ‘magic bullet’ is an attractive prospect if you’re looking to lose weight, the harsh reality however is that it doesn’t exist.
Weight loss, in its simplest form, boils down to easy maths – calories in vs. calories out. If you eat more calories than you use you will put weight on. If you use more calories than you eat you will lose weight. So any ‘diet’ that reduces your overall calorie intake will work in the short term, the key to success however is long-term maintenance and that’s where most of these will fail miserably.
You have to be clever though about how you restrict calories and there’s two main reasons why:
1) Target fat loss - The first is that weight can be lost from either fat or lean tissue stores. For successful weight loss that you can keep off for good, you need to lose fat NOT lean tissue. Most fad diets will result in lean tissue loss and this is bad news for long-term maintenance and for overall health too. Instead, follow a healthy balanced diet with regular meals and snacks and only a small daily reduction in calories and you will encourage your body to let go of surplus fat stores.
2) Develop healthy habits for good - The second reason is that in order to maintain your new balanced weight you need to stick to a healthy diet and lifestyle for the rest of your life. It takes time to develop a healthy diet and lifestyle and that’s where fad diets fail. Fad diets are often a side step out of normal life for a limited time only. What happens when the diet is over and you go back to old habits is that the weight soon starts to creep back on. The best way to approach a weight loss goal is to start with small positive changes that you are going to keep for good; as well as losing weight you will develop a whole raft of new healthy habits along the way.
The message is loud and clear – avoid fad diets! Instead, start this year with a commitment to change your diet and lifestyle for good – and that begins with one small, achievable step.
Choose just one of these healthy swaps to get you started:
• Swap your morning tea / coffee for a mug of hot water & a slice of lemon
• Swap your lunchtime sandwich for a homemade soup or salad (without bread)
• Swap white potato for sweet potato
• Swap crackers for veggie sticks (cucumber, celery, pepper)
• Swap a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal for chopped fruit & live yoghurt topped with pumpkin & sunflower seeds
• Swap round the proportions on your plate – a typical ‘Western’ plate has a standard portion of protein (i.e. meat / chicken / fish / legumes), huge pile of grainy carbohydrates (pasta / bread / rice) and a token serving of vegetables. Switch the proportions round to include more protein, less grainy carbohydrates & more vegetables.
• Swap a packet of crisps for a handful of plain nuts
• Swap a biscuit / chocolate bar for a piece of fruit
• Swap a bacon / sausage butty for an omelette