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Are you choosing a diet for disaster?

Friday 29 May, 2015 by Alison

Cutlery with a tape measure wrapped around itCleanse! Detox! Shed kilos fast! We've all heard the promises that many diets tend to make, but in reality most popular diets are destined to fail.

Despite this, new research has found that many of us are getting sucked in by fad diet claims.

A LiveLighter survey found that more than 80% of Victorian dieters aged 25–49 are choosing popular or fad diets over more sustainable, evidence-based, methods of achieving a healthy weight.

The less-sexy sensible approach of eating a healthy balanced diet and doing regular exercise is losing out to diets that force us to cut out fat or sugar, fast for two days a week or eat like cavemen.

The survey also found that 55% of Victorians who were currently on a diet or who had been on a diet in the past, said they were ‘always' or ‘often' on a diet.

So how do you break the cycle of fad diets and give yourself the best chance of reaching a healthy weight?

Knowing how to spot a fad diet can help. Fad diets usually have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • promise a quick fix
  • promote 'magic' foods or combinations of foods,
  • imply that food can change body chemistry,
  • exclude or severely restrict food groups or nutrients (such as carbohydrates or fat),
  • have rigid rules that focus on weight loss and/or make claims based on a single study or testimonials only.

So before you start your next diet ask yourself these questions. They could help you avoid disappointment and reach your healthy weight goals sooner:

  1. Does your diet teach you to eat healthily?
    If you follow a diet and don't learn how to eat healthy in the long run, you won't be better off in the end. If you do use a diet to lose weight, try and pick one that teaches you about what foods contain, and gives you the flexibility to choose what you eat. A diet that gives you advice around portion sizes is also a great option.
  2. Are some foods or food groups forbidden?
    If the diet is very restrictive or bans certain foods, it is likely to fail. When we're told we can't have something we end up craving it, even if it wasn't desired in the first place. Avoid this by steering clear of plans or diets with lots of restrictions. You might lose weight in the first few weeks, but then put it back on when the limitations become hard to stick to.
  3. Does it promise rapid weight loss?
    If a diet promises fast weight loss, steer clear. Losing more than 1-2kg per week is hard to sustain because you need to eat very small amounts to lose weight that quickly. You'll also miss out on important nutrients. Avoid diets where you can only drink but not eat, or where expensive herbal medicine, diet pills or supplements are required, as these will be hard to maintain.
  4. Are there rigid meal plans?
    Sticking to a list of specific meals is boring and doesn't allow for creativity or flexibility. For example if you have a birthday party to attend, does the meal plan give advice for what to eat on that day, or does it insist you stick to the meal plan? Think about if you really want to eat the same soup every day for a month or have eggs three times a day?

Regardless of what diet is doing the rounds, a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and watching your portion sizes is always the healthiest and most effective way to get all your nutrients and achieve your healthy weight – and keeping the weight off.

To learn more check out these resources from LiveLighter:

Alison Ginn is the LiveLighter Program Manager and an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

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