IT’S a minefield. You’ve made the decision to shed those festive pounds, you’re committed to the cause, BUT with so many diets promising the earth, which one can you trust?
It’s estimated that the average person consumes an extra 500 calories per day over the festive period – equating to a possible 5lb weight gain – so it’s no wonder this is the time of year when most people jump on the dieting bandwagon.
But don’t be fooled by “fad” diets – if they sound too good to be true, they probably are.
And even worse, some of them can actually be damaging to your health.
Sian Porter, consultant dietician for the British Dietetic Association, says it has received numerous inquiries about different diets this year, ranging from the weird to the dangerous – such as the Breatharian Diet, which asks people to live on fresh air and sunlight alone.
“It seems we’re constantly on the search for that ‘magic bullet’ approach to losing weight, wanting a quick fix to give us the bodies we so often see on TV, in magazines and adorning billboards,” she says. “Quite often, the fad diets come at a price. An eating pattern for life should be one you can stick to, and include enjoyment, a rich variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes, and moderation. Go for the marathon approach rather than the sprint finish.
“Many people will be making New Year resolutions to lose weight. Make the difference this time by losing it in a safe, robust and sustainable way.”
The BDA believes that simple, realistic steps are the best way to lose weight – and keep it off – and has pinpointed a few fad diets which should be avoided.
The Paleo Diet: Miley Cyrus and Matthew McConaughey have reportedly tried the paleo plan, also known as the Paleolithic, Caveman and Stone Age Diet. Only foods thought to be available to Neanderthals in the prehistoric era are allowed, and all other foods – like dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, and drinks like coffee and alcohol – are excluded. However, the BDA says that while eating fewer processed foods and less sugar and salt is a good idea, there’s no need to cut any food group out of your diet entirely, unless advised to do so for medical reasons. In fact, cutting dairy completely without very careful substitution, the experts warn, could compromise bone health.
“An unbalanced, time-consuming, socially isolating diet, which this could easily be, is a sure-fire way to develop nutrient deficiencies which can compromise health and your relationship with food,” explains Sian.
The VB6 Diet: Beyoncé has reportedly tried this diet, so-named because it’s about being vegan before 6pm. But after 6pm, nothing, within reason, is off limits.
The BDA says that while it’s good that VB6 dieters eat fewer processed foods, and more plant-based foods like beans, pulses, wholegrains, nuts, fruit and vegetables, being vegan doesn’t automatically translate into eating healthily.
Sian says: “The danger is that post-6pm becomes a window of opportunity to hoover up a myriad of foods high in calories, saturated fat and packed with added salt and sugar, undoing your earlier healthier choices.
“The reality is, eating different food groups at different times of the day doesn’t matter – in terms of your health, it’s nutritional balance that’s important.”
However Hannah Sutter, author of Big Fat Lie and chief executive and founder of the Natural Ketosis Company in Edinburgh, believes she has the perfect diet which will help people “stay slimmer forever”. Hannah’s programme is all about restricting sugar and starch intake, with followers given a supply of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks to make the transition as easy as possible.
“I don’t believe in calorie counting at all,” explains Hannah, a former lawyer who quit as a partner with McGrigor Donald to set up her weight loss business. Any diet which is either measuring food by calories or promotes high or normal sugar levels is bonkers – but that’s what most diets are. We recommend a diet which is rich in good fats and high or normal in protein.” Hannah admits that her approach was once considered “weird” but says more and more people – including some celebrities – are now following it, while the company is also working with Epilepsy Scotland.
• The Natural Ketosis Company is offering readers a special deal of ready-made meals and snacks for 14 days for £99, designed to lose half a stone and detox your body. For more information, visit www.naturalketosis.co.uk