The ‘Diet’ Myth


I often have to bite my tongue when I hear people talking about ‘diets’.

It can be very painful. Not just due to a very sore tongue, but it does really upset me that so many unhealthy myths about weight loss are still alive and kicking. So I was really pleased to read the results of the world’s largest diet study which have recently been published. Hopefully it will help dispel some of the confusion out there about weight loss.

Researchers at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen have confirmed that the best weight loss diet is one high in proteins, with more lean meat and beans and fewer calories from refined starch such as white bread and white rice. With this diet you can also eat until you are full without counting calories and without gaining weight.

I feel angry that so many companies profit from people’s confusion by selling products or weight loss programmes, which in the long run are very unlikely to lead to sustained weight loss, and can be extremely unhealthy, leading to problems later on.

The main diet myths that make me wince?

Low fat

Popular in the 80’s the myth of the ‘low fat’ approach seems logical at first. You eat less fat, you put on less, right? Mmm.. the body really is not that simplistic. Firstly, you can’t lump all fats together, so to speak. So the fat in biscuits is different from the fat you find on meat, which again is very different from the fat you find in olive oil.

Some fats admittedly are bad for you in any amount (mainly trans-fats found in processed food), some are bad in excess – saturated fat found in cream for example, but some are actually good for you, extremely good, and can help you lose weight. That’s right, you read it correctly. The essential and unsaturated fats found in olive oil and oily fish actually assist you in burning fat.

We actually need good fats to remain healthy, and people who follow a low fat diet often eventually suffer from deficiency symptoms, from dry, itchy skin, brittle hair, inflammation and many more unpleasantness…

The food industry has really exploited this particular myth, selling ‘low fat’ products which are however really high in sugar and additives. Sugar is particularly corrosive to the body (have you seen what it does to teeth if you don’t brush them?) and ends up getting stored as fat (especially round that middle bit) if not used to produce energy. Sugar, not fat, is the big culprit when it comes to body fat.

Stop eating or eat very little (and count every single calorie)

Again, this seems straightforward, doesn’t it? Stop stuffing a cushion with wool and it will stay pretty lean (I know, sorry about the example… but you see what I mean) Mmm… again, sorry but our body operates in a slightly more complex way. Actually our body is extremely clever and has developed mechanisms to protect it. So if it senses a risk of famine (which it will if we stop giving it food, or give it less than it needs), hey presto it will press the ‘hold onto fat at any cost!’ button.

So not only are we putting up with the misery of an empty stomach, the endless thoughts of what it would be like to eat the food we crave, but it’s not really helping us in our weight loss endeavour either.

Counting calories seems like quite a scientific way of restricting what we eat and gaining some kind of control over it. The problem with this is that all food is not created equal. Far from it. It’s a bit like evaluating someone’s exercise regime in ‘minutes’ and expecting a reliable result, no matter what type of exercise, at what heart rate, etc… One person flexing their little finger for 30 minutes won’t get the same results as another person swimming vigorously for the same amount of time. Well, you know what I mean.

OK, OK, I’ll work on the examples for next time, but hopefully I will have gone some way to convincing you that dieting is not a fight against your body. Why not opt for the scientifically proven win-win: eat as much healthy food as you need, in the right balance, and say goodbye to that spare tire for good! (and keep a smile on your face).

Nutritionist Epsom WokingAbout The Author 

Angela Steel is a fully qualified Nutritionist located in Epsom, Surrey. She typically sees clients from the nearby surrounding areas.

To find out more about Angela’s work, visit her GoToSee profile page here


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