Why you should ditch the fad diet

We are all different, so using a one-size-fits-all weight-loss plan simply does not make sense.

17 March 2014
by Kassabaine Petersen

We all know what we have to do to lose weight: eat less, exercise more. So what is it about the allure of unrealistic goals and restrictive diet plans that makes even the most sensible among us fall for them? The Dukan diet, Atkins, the grapefruit or clear soup diet… chances are you’ve tried them all, with limited success. Life should be about living, and food by its very definition is meant to nourish and fuel you. Our lives today are so fast-paced and time deficient that we need to be replenishing our energy levels constantly, with the right nutrients, in balanced amounts. So being advised to take in certain food groups while shunning others is simply not sustainable.

“There are no short-cuts, no ‘quick fixes’ and no ‘cure alls’ that result in healthy weight loss,” says Durban-based registered dietitian Julie Peacock. “Nothing that is worth something comes fast and easy, it is a long walk to slimness and it takes focussed effort and hard work,” she says.

“Diets don’t work because they often mean unrealistic goals with empty, unattainable promises,” says Peacock. And because a deficient way of eating is unsustainable, whatever weight is lost in the short term will naturally be put back on when normal eating resumes. 

Also, overly-restrictive diets are often deficient in energy, minerals, vitamins and trace elements, meaning you’re depriving your body of the necessary goodness it needs to function daily. A nutritious, balanced meal plan should provide your body with all the “ammunition” it needs to operate optimally, advises Peacock.

A big problem when following restrictive diets is not the drastic weight loss, but the rebound after the weight loss. Behaviour modification is so seldom looked at. According to Peacock, the ABC of behaviour modification should involve: A – awareness of the triggers for overeating, including social/physical/emotional factors, B – behaviour – food ties in very strongly with emotions, and negative emotions can lead to unhealthy eating patterns, like overeating or unbalanced eating, C – consequence – there will be direct repercussions if we overindulge, period.

A healthy attitude towards nourishing yourself paired with the need to maintain or lose weight takes perseverance, varied and tasty food alternatives and the willingness to succeed. Eating healthily is a balancing act, ideally guided by a trained nutrition expert such as a registered dietitian.

What does work?

  • Fill up on fibre-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep. Researchers believe that lack of sleep puts your body under stress, and when that happens, your body holds on to fat.
  • Protein – from meats, beans and nuts – and fibre, found in wholewheat bread and fresh produce, are stay-slim staples. When you eat them together, these meal building blocks pack a powerful punch to keep you fuller for longer. So make sure all of your meals and snacks contain both fibre and protein, for example chicken with lettuce and tomato on wholewheat bread for lunch, and blueberries with non-sweetened yoghurt as an afternoon snack.

For more information, contact the Association for Dietetics in South Africa: www.adsa.org.za