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How to spot a fad diet

Publish date: 16/01/2014

How to spot a fad diet

Empty promises

‘There is no magic to weight loss,’ explains nutritionist Lyndel Costain. ‘Any diet that results in you consuming fewer calories than you burn will result in weight loss.’

Most fad diets promise rapid weight loss, but there’s usually a catch. 

‘Their rigid diet plans tend to be nutritionally unbalanced, impractical, scientifically unsound and, ultimately, doomed to fail as we slip from the unrealistic routine,’ says Lyndel.

Big bucks

The diet industry relies on our failure as it gives them more custom and, as a nation, we’re obsessed with slimming.

According to the All Parliamentary Group on Body Image, a group dedicated to preventing negative body images, the slimming trade is worth over £1bn in the UK.

What’s more, a recent poll by analysts Mintel showed at least one in four of us is trying to lose weight pretty much all the time and a 2012 survey by Warburtons bread revealed that by the age of 45 the average woman will have been on 61 diets.

Changing shape

While some of us do need to shed a few pounds – according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre over half of Brits are obese or overweight – perhaps the reason for our obsession is that we’re overwhelmed with images in the media of perfect bodies.

On TV or in women’s magazines you’ll see ads featuring men with toned abs and women with hourglass figures. But our body shapes have changed substantially from this “ideal”.

Women today have wider hips and far thicker waistlines than in the 1950s, according to the National Sizing Survey.

The weigh-off

Despite this we still seek the perfect body and the slimming industry has hundreds of ways for us to achieve it – from food-replacement shakes to cabbage soup, fasting and high protein diets - leaving us to decide which diet to choose.

In reality, there are no “wonder” diets or foods that cause weight loss, claims the British Nutrition Foundation.

Restricting certain foods can even be dangerous, and could give you bad breath and constipation.

Body weight is determined by the amount of energy or calories you get from food compared to the amount of energy your body is using. Any surplus energy you take in is mostly stored as fat. To lose weight, you need to make sure there is no surplus – in other words, eat less and exercise more.

Fad diets work by restricting our total calorie intake. When calories are limited weight loss will occur.

But fad diets are hard to stick to, and we often break from the diet and pile weight back on – sometimes more than before!

That can leave you feeling depressed and demoralised, and lead to yo-yo dieting – cycles of weight loss and regain.

Anyone who has lost weight – and kept some of it off – knows there is nothing quick and easy about it.

Lyndel explains: ‘Healthy and effective weight management relies on commitment, planning and developing a set of skills and strategies that allow you to “get your head straight” about food and weight, and keep making helpful food and activity choices.

‘Different approaches suit different people – research has found the most successful approach is one that is nutritionally sound and can be maintained.’

Key to success

The key to successful dieting is trying to lose weight gradually. This way, the weight is more likely to stay off.

Your target amount depends on your current weight and your sex, but as a rule of thumb the British Nutrition Foundation recommends losing 1-2 lbs (0.5-1.0kg) a week, based on using 600 calories per day more than you consume.

Why not try some of these strategies to keep you on track:

  • Keep a daily food diary to be aware of what you are eating and make better choices.
  • Eat regular, varied meals and plan any snacks, starting with breakfast.
  • Half fill your plate with veg/salad and split the other half between protein and carbs.
  • Boil, steam, grill, poach or microwave food rather than frying or roasting.
  • Build in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily.
  • Practise flexible restraint. Allow some “naughty” foods from time to time.

If you go off course remember, it’s normal! Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, get back on track.

Don’t skip meals as you will feel tired, over-hungry and could get headaches. Those with chaotic eating habits often end up eating more. 

Alcohol contains calories so be careful about how much you drink.

Get ongoing support.

And remember, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or other medical conditions seek medical advice before starting a diet.

To help kick-start your healthy eating diet why not check out our specially designed recipes of pork meatballs and beetroot and apple soup, which contain ingredients scientifically proven to help control appetite and make you feel fuller for longer.


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