What’s the fuss on fad diets?
Now that we are past the middle of what can only be described as a crazy year, it is a great time to discuss diets and which ones we should embrace and which ones we should avoid. As many of us would have set health goals for 2020, Covid and other chaos this year has brought, may have haltered our diet plans. However, don’t worry, “summer bodies are made in winter”, a phrase my clients are all too glad to hear during the colder months!
So, now is a perfect time to discuss some fad diets and what we can learn from them…
Some of my tips on fad diets…
When it comes to diets, there are so many to consider these days. Just look at the cover of a women’s magazine and there is bound to be another diet advertised to ‘lose weight quickly’ or Google ‘fad diets’ and the weight loss choices are overwhelming. As a Nutritionist, I don’t particularly like the phrase ‘diet’, and prefer referring to ‘making healthier lifestyle changes’. But unfortunately, this isn’t what people are normally after, so I will do my best to guide you through the confusion and flaws of fad diets.
When it comes to dieting, most people want a quick fix, so they can drop the kg’s in no time at all. However, the success we get from ‘quick fixes’ doesn’t usually last long as they are typically difficult to sustain and, ultimately, they deprive us of the essential nutrients that only balanced eating can offer. It is then common for people to put the weight on that they initially lost from the ‘said diet’ and yo-yo back and forth between fad diets. I’m sure if you have ever tried a ‘quick fix’ diet you may have dropped the weight initially, however, you may have also struggled to maintain this weight loss, and actually ended up putting on more weight than you started with? Don’t worry if this sounds like something you have gone through, you are not alone.
With that said, there are certain lifestyle changes (diets) that are proven to be beneficial for our health and can have the desired long-term weight loss effect. I have listed my top picks below.
The Mediterranean diet is based around traditional foods eaten by those in countries like Greece and Italy. Researches have shown that people in these parts of the world are typically healthier with lower risks of chronic disease than other countries. This diet is based on heart-healthy foods, such as healthy fats and Omega-3 fatty acids. It promotes the intake of seafood, nuts, vegetables, fruits, wholegrain, spices and extra-virgin olive oil. It limits intake of red meats, processed meats, refined cooking oils, and sugary products. It also suggests limiting alcohol intake and promotes that water should be the drink of choice.
Basically, it encourages eating ‘real foods’ and lots of healthy fats, while eliminating the ‘bad stuff’. It is no wonder studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet can help with weight management, reduce the risk of stroke, heart attacks and type-2 diabetes.
THE DASH DIET
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is designed to help prevent and manage high blood pressure (hypertension) and is suggested to be a ‘lifestyle change’, rather than a quick fix. It promotes the intake of vegetables, fruits, wholegrain, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and vegetable oils. It suggests limiting the intake of saturated fats (processed meats, full-fat dairy produces), high sodium foods, palm oils and sugary products.
Studies have shown the DASH diet has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and blood pressure in those following the guidelines.
This is a bit controversial for me to say, as I live on a beef and lamb farm, however, research has shown positive results in people who lower their meat intake, especially if the meat they are consuming isn’t high quality.
Flexitarian is a loose term for a meatless vegetarian diet, but occasionally includes meat or fish into a diet. The Flexitarian diet promotes plenty of whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, fruit, vegetables and nuts. It has been associated with helping lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and can be helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.
So, what about the ones we should avoid…
The ‘diets’ and ‘lifestyle choices’ I have mentioned above, as you would have already picked up on, have many things in common. They all promote the intake of fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits, wholegrain products, legumes and healthy fats. It is no wonder they are considered to be the best options when looking at long-term wellbeing and maintenance of healthy weight and improving and minimising chronic illness.
However, there are hundreds of fad diets out there that are often sold as the ‘quick fix’ and result in rapid weight loss. Sounds ‘sexier’ and more appealing than making lifestyle changes, right? Countless celebrities also endorse these diets and promote an unrealistic body image to make us believe they actually work. We forget the lack of science behind them and trade this in for the easier, quicker weight loss option, which 9 times out of 10 won’t work.
Ever heard of the Carnivore diet, where in its extreme form all you consume is meat and water and eliminate vegetables and fruit? Or the Fruitarianism diets, where you just eat fruit? Or what about the Baby Food diet, yes, you literally replace normal whole foods with multiple servings of pureed options, designed for babies.
These are just a few of the fad diets that have very little (if any) science-based research behind them and are a drastic and dangerous weight loss approach. Some fad diets even go as far as eating tapeworms to drastically lose weight. People are so desperate to drop the kgs that they will voluntarily give their bodies a parasite that eats food right out of their intestines, which experts say can have horrible side effects – and potentially can be fatal.
I could go on and list many more drastic approaches to weight loss, however I’m sure you get the picture. At the end of the day, ‘fad diets’ can do more harm than good and 9 times out of 10, won’t work long-term. Although making healthier lifestyle choices over time and eating the right foods that we know will benefit our health doesn’t sound as exciting, it works, and we know it works! Trust the experts and be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you!
Your OSM Everyday Nutritionist – Abby Shaw