Fad Diets Slash Calories

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The other day a newspaper article featured the rise in fad diets.  I can attest to this, when I pick up a magazine I’m almost always bombarded by diets promoting massive weight loss.  It’s easy, they tell me, all I have to do is drastically slash calories while at the same time restricting or eliminating whole categories of foods.  If I follow their regime they promise I’ll lose 6 inches off my waist or I’ll lose 12 lbs in just 10 days, these are just a few of the ludicrous promises I read this week.

Fad diets feed off our desire for the quick fix, to turn our current selves into the sexy, desirous and happy beings we know we are deep inside, all contingent on losing just a few pounds or kilos.  Sure who doesn’t want to be those things, I know I want to be all of them, but following a radical deprivation diet is not likely to get me there.  If it does, I’ll likely not be able to sustain it without putting my health at serious risk.

If the magazine isn’t promoting a diet it promotes love yourself and encourages the reader to embrace their size.  I take issue with both schools of thought 1) says you’re not good enough unless you’re something other than who you are and the other 2) says your good enough just as you are and therefore there is no need to change.  The fundamental downfall of both views is they don’t address the real issue, being healthy.  News flash, you can be very healthy and carry a few extra pounds or you can be unhealthy and be super skinny.  Size, contrary to what we’re taught, is not the focus. 

Health is the focus or at least it should be.  Think about it, if you take foods away from your healthy food choice options you are taking away nutrients, nutrients that are necessary for growth and cellular repair.   

Some diets reduce you to eating only parsley while others load your plate with fat and protein and eliminate carbohydrates.  I have no doubt you will lose weight on these, but will you be healthy or happy?  I know few who are happy when they’re starving and a high protein diet will tax your kidneys while a high fat diet will increase the bad cholesterol in your system putting you at risk of cardiovascular disease.

If the focus should be on health, why don’t all these brilliant marketers sell us a healthy diet?  It’s simple really; attaining and maintaining a healthy diet isn’t sexy, quick or easy.  Imagine the headline ‘ lose 6 lbs in 6 weeks’ with a tag line ‘eat a high carbohydrate, high-fiber diet that is low in fat, limit your portions sizes and do a moderate amount of daily exercise.  What do you think, would you buy the magazine? 

I challenge you to change your mind set and look at weight loss promises from an educated perspective.  Learn about food and how it impacts on your health.  Use this knowledge to analyze the information received from the diet industry.  Do you know why a diet of 800-1200 calories is bad for you?  Because a very low calorie diet starves your body– of course, you’ll likely lose weight, but you’ll also depriving it of vital nutrients required for proper organ function and slow down your metabolism. 

Do you know how many calories you need to meet your daily energy requirements and to get adequate nutrients and phytonutrient to support a healthy body? If not, do yourself a favor.  Before you take up any diet other than a high carbohydrate, high-fiber, low in fat diet, find out how many calories you need. This will vary depending on your age, your activity level and your goals i.e. maintain your current weight, gain or lose.

Knowledge is power.  Power is empowering, it enables you to make healthy decisions that will positively impact on your health and life.  I implore you to stop fad diets and to learn about a healthy diet, which isn’t a diet at all it’s a lifestyle and a habit.

Next week’s posts will focus on how many calories you really need and how you can maximize your nutrient intake within this calorie threshold.  I’ll teach you a calorie – is not calorie.

Like Vic said I hate fad diets, join our mailing list to stay connected.

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4 thoughts on “Fad Diets Slash Calories

  1. knowledge is power and power is empowering… that! Nice to be reminded we need to apply common sense to everything we read.

    • Hi Jen,
      Yes, a little common sense and knowledge will take us far in life. I hope I am helping out with the knowledge bit.

  2. So as a reader of these kinds of magazines (actually a subscriber) I was interested to read your points of view. Out of the gate I’ll say I absolutely agree (also with Jennifer’s comment) that above all the importance is to educate yourself, not just follow any one path believing it’s the holy grail of health and wellbeing. But specifically on the fad diet thing, I think it’s worth recognising the different challenges people face. There is a lot to know in order to get beyond ‘eat less and exercise more’ and you need to start figuring it out from somewhere.

    Before a person gets to the change of lifestyle that you have been rightly advocating in many of your posts, sometimes they need a little help in the right direction. Sometimes that little push might just be losing a pound or two on the scales, because feeling a little better can help them onto the path to the longer term change in lifestyle, and keep them there. And sometimes a couple of days of ‘fad dieting’ can be that little push.

    I don’t actually believe that readers of the kinds of magazines you’re talking about take any of these diets at face value. They will have been around the block a few times and seen that the diets don’t work, or at least they recognise the fad nature of them (From Wikipedia: “The behavior will normally fade quickly once the perception of novelty is gone”). And yet, they will learn a little something from each one of those articles, and perhaps take away one nutritional tip. It’s all useful self-education.

    Personally I don’t like the restrictive nature of the kinds of diets you point to, and but even I need a little push from time to time. Old-fashioned calorie counting for a day or two keeps me honest (yes you even have to log the wine my friends!).

    Cheers Ali!

  3. Hi Annelise,
    It’s nice to hear your perspective. I agree with you, a little push to get out the gate is helpful, unfortunately where fad diets fall down is that the little push can be a rather damaging one. Only today I was discussing one such diet that requires eating only protein for 5 days followed by only veg for 5 days. The person who was on the diet was so dizzy on day two that she had to pull off the highway so as to not cause an accident.

    When we had a bit of a chat about the diet it turned out she didn’t know what purpose carbohydrates serve, ie provide glycogen to fuel our brains.

    You rightly say it’s about education I hope I can provide this so people can make educated choices about the diets they choose to follow. I’m not of the illusion that fad diets will cease to exist nor that all are bad, but if people understand the basics of nutrition they will be able to make the right choices for them. This is the basis of Your Life, Your choice.

    Thanks again for your comments, on this I think we will have to agree to disagree:)

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