Leaving the Year of the Snake behind has been a welcome release – I’m sure everyone let out a big sigh of relief last weekend as we moved forward in a lighter mood – and it actually stopped raining for a couple of days!
The diet industry kicked off this year with its usual confusing and conflicting messages about how to become fit and healthy. And right on cue, the usual suspects raised their heads – the fad diet crew! They never fail to amaze me, with the same old irresponsible dross dressed up and reeled out year after year. We are offered unimaginative solutions and health plans to ‘sort out’ our exploding, lifestyle-generated health problems.
The main offerings this year are the starvation (5:2/4:3) or the sugar/fat-free diets – both of which I classify as fads. You may cry, ‘My friend has lost so much weight on it!’ But, for as far back as I can remember, starvation and exclusion diets have always been frowned upon and actually set up a block to healthy eating in the long term, because they are extreme diets that tend to promote bad eating habits. Yes, some are used as a kick-start before moving on to a balanced healthy eating plan, but I’ve seen few people make this transition. More people tend to start, get excited by losing weight then slip back into the very poor eating pattern that caused them to start the crash diet in the first place.
Our bodies need energy from carbohydrates or sugar to work effectively and without the right amount of slow-release carbs/sugar to do this, our bodies will break down lean muscle tissue for energy. Those people on 5:2 and sugar diets will lose fat, but will also lose the very tissue they require to speed up their metabolic rate. With reduced fat-free tissue – ie. muscle – in the body, they are actually making themselves fatter in the long term. Some people may look thin on the outside, but inside they carry high fat-to-muscle ratios.
Likewise, as with all exclusion diets, incorrect amounts or a lack of either fat or sugar can lead to long-term health problems. For instance, if your body is not getting enough carbs, its ability to process sugar through the insulin system can lead to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Some research suggests that people who eat a fair bit of sugar are not only those prone to diabetes, but also those on high fat/protein diets.
A fuller discussion on fad diets can be found in my book Your Health is Your Wealth. The solution to becoming more healthy this year may be complex, due to the changing nature of the way we live, but you won’t put yourself off course by eating a healthy, natural diet containing all the food groups appropriate for your lifestyle, coupled with regular exercise … Boring, I know, but true.
This advice is not going to make headlines. You won’t see a celebrity extolling its virtues in any weekly magazine or see those who manage to achieve this sensible dietary balance on any awards list. However, if you want to make a stable and sustainable change to your eating habits this really is the winning eating plan!
Next time, I’ll take a look at the new exercise regimes and whether these can really help you to change your body.
Bye for now,