It seems that every week we are being presented with a new ‘solution’ to losing weight. Paleo, The New Atkins, Eat Right for Your (blood) Type, The HCG diet, The 5:2 diet, I Quit Sugar, The Cabbage Soup diet and the list goes on. Thousands of so-called ‘diet’ books hit the shelves each year so we are certainly not short of choice.
With 63% of Australian adults and 25% of Aussie kids now overweight or obese it is not surprising that ‘diets’ sell. In fact Deakin University researchers found that Australian women spend more than $400 million each year trying to lose weight. But with studies showing that only about 20% of people who go on a diet to lose weight maintain their weight loss, these diets are clearly not working.
The main problem is that ‘diets’ don’t work, lifestyle changes do. Most diets are too restrictive which makes them unsustainable in the long term. If the diet cuts out whole food groups, makes it difficult to socialise or requires hours in the kitchen it is unlikely to last too long- and in many cases research doesn’t back up the need for such restriction. In fact, a large study comparing 4 different diets from Atkins (very low carb) to Ornish (vegetarian, low fat high carb) found that weight loss was similar on all four diets and what predicted success was cutting kilojoules and being able to stick to the diet. So unless the diet is something you can see yourself doing long-term, then it’s quite likely that you will be one of the 80% of ‘regainers.’ The key is to find an eating plan you can adopt for the long term which is good for your health and your waist.
Your new eating plan should:
- align with generally accepted healthy eating guidelines
- be adaptable to your own lifestyle and individual needs
- be something you can follow in the long-term not just for a few weeks
- be backed by evidence-based nutrition advice
- be combined with regular physical activity and other healthy lifestyle habits
Be wary of ‘diets’ that:
- Promise rapid weight loss
- Restrict entire food groups
- Focus on short-term changes to your eating habits
- Allow you to eat unlimited quantities of particular foods or recommend specific food combinations
- Encourage miracle pills, potions or supplements
- Make claims based on testimonials rather than published scientific evidence
- Say exercise is unnecessary
According to the authors of a recently published review it is not our lack of knowledge about what to eat that is a problem, but the distraction of exaggerated claims and our failure to convert what we know into what we do. The first diet change you should make is to ignore the hype.