Diets, friend or foe?
I was standing at the check out counter I was running my eye over the magazine stand. I struggled to find a magazine not covered in a headline announcing the latest and greatest diet plan.
But will these diets work? Will you get the results or health benefit you want?
What is a diet?
A diet can mean different things. A diet can be:
- The food a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
- A particular selection of food to which a person restricts themselves for medical or health reasons.
- Describe food and drink for its nutrient qualities, composition, and its effects on health.
- A food regime followed lose weight, obtain a specific health benefit or redress unwanted symptoms.
Why do we diet?
There many reasons why we may adopt a particular diet, they include:
- Part of treatment for a (diagnosed) health condition e.g. insulin resistance or type-2-diabetes.
- A health strategy to redress intolerance/sensitivity to food e.g. salicylates.
- It is part of our cultural heritage.
- To eat eat healthier.
- To lose weight.
- Its the latest diet on trend or in vogue e.g. Paleo, Sugar Free or the Atkins Diet.
- It is part of our routine, we may have been dieting on and off since we were a teenager.
- Beliefs we hold about certain foods e.g. we believe carbs are bad for us.
I could go on …
Why diets do not work
- They are solutions seeking to deliver fast unrealistic results.
- They are highly restrictive.
- They pick one measure of success, generally how much you weight.
- They do not include habit and lifestyle change.
- They do not explain what role food plays in your physical and emotional health.
- They are not supported by advice and guidance.
- They do not promote the concept of integrated / whole body health.
- The strategy to effect change is a gimmick.
- They are not designed to support appetite, energy and hormone mechanisms within your body.
- They promote a one-size fits all solution.
Why diets do work?
For a diet to give you the best chance of success, I believe it needs to be:
- It is well designed, planned and supported by an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
- Has both short and long-term goals.
- Incorporates integrated health / whole body health.
- Embrace the concept of mindful healthy eating and living.
- Is tailored to you – your health status, age, sex, familial health history, goals, lifestyle etc.
- Is based on an understanding of the body’s physiology, how it manages appetite, energy, sleep, hormone balance etc.
- Is based on an understanding of how we create and embed new health habits and routines.
- Teaches strategies for dealing with the inevitable challenges in life that may make sticking with diet difficult.
And importantly it needs to be a sustainable way of eating.
Diets too good to be true
if a diet sounds too good to be true, it likely is. It is part of human nature to want an easy, fast and convenient solution. However:
- Long-term change take commitment, persistence and effort over time.
- Changing eating and dietary habits can be challenging.
- To make personal change, you need self awareness, understanding and insight.
- Focussing on small small changes that over time become big changes is most effective.