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:

  1. The food a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
  2. A particular selection of food to which a person restricts themselves for medical or health reasons.
  3. Describe food and drink for its nutrient qualities, composition, and its effects on health.
  4. 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:

  1. Part of treatment for a (diagnosed) health condition e.g. insulin resistance or type-2-diabetes.
  2. A health strategy to redress intolerance/sensitivity to food e.g. salicylates.
  3. It is part of our cultural heritage.
  4. To eat eat healthier.
  5. To lose weight.
  6. Its the latest diet on trend or in vogue e.g. Paleo, Sugar Free or the Atkins Diet.
  7. It is part of our routine, we may have been dieting on and off since we were a teenager.
  8. Beliefs we hold about certain foods e.g. we believe carbs are bad for us.

I could go on …

Why diets do not work

  1. They are solutions seeking to deliver fast unrealistic results.
  2. They are highly restrictive.
  3. They pick one measure of success, generally how much you weight.
  4. They do not include habit and lifestyle change.
  5. They do not explain what role food plays in your physical and emotional health.
  6. They are not supported by advice and guidance.
  7. They do not promote the concept of integrated / whole body health.
  8. The strategy to effect change is a gimmick.
  9. They are not designed to support appetite, energy and hormone mechanisms within your body.
  10. 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:

  1. It is well designed, planned and supported by an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
  2. Has both short and long-term goals.
  3. Incorporates integrated health / whole body health.
  4. Embrace the concept of mindful healthy eating and living.
  5. Is tailored to you – your health status, age, sex, familial health history, goals, lifestyle etc.
  6. Is based on an understanding of the body’s physiology, how it manages appetite, energy, sleep, hormone balance etc.
  7. Is based on an understanding of how we create and embed new health habits and routines.
  8. 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:

  1. Long-term change take commitment, persistence and effort over time.
  2. Changing eating and dietary habits can be challenging.
  3. To make personal change, you need self awareness, understanding and insight.
  4. Focussing on small small changes that over time become big changes is most effective.

take care

ciao Jan