Most of us have been seduced at some time in our life by the glossy magazine diets promising maximum weight loss for minimal effort. It is hard to resist their allure, but do quick-fix diets deliver the results we really need? Fad diets are designed for short-term weight loss, that is why so many of us end up trying so many of them. Any of these sound familiar?
• Popular French diet
• High protein, low fat, low carb
• Based on proteins and vegetables
• Eat ‘as much as you like’ of 100 different prescribed foods
The good – Four different phases, with the goal of eventually including all food groups
The bad – You have to get through the first 2 low-carb phases first, which can cause low-energy levels and constipation….hardly sustainable.
Raw Food Diet
• Based on the belief that cooking destroys nutrients and enzymes in food
• Claims various health benefits from eating raw
The good – Get back to nature and avoid processed food.
The bad – Miss out on important nutrients, particularly protein. Cooking actually enhances absorption of nutrients for some foods.
• Includes hunter-gatherer staples such as meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds
• High protein, minimal carbohydrate
• No cultivated or processed foods
The good – Most of us eat too much sugar and carbohydrate anyway, and need to eat more protein .
The bad – Omits important foods such as dairy, and may exclude legumes and some grains
5 & 2 Diet
• Normal eating for 5 days per week, semi-fast for 2 non-consecutive days.
The good – No food omissions, more likely to meet nutrition needs .
The bad – Feasting on 5 days could lead to over-eating of poor quality foods and fasting days could lead to fatigue, irritability, dizziness and constipation.
IIFYM (If it fits your macros)
• Idea is to eat all meals in accordance to a certain prescribed intake of ‘proteins’, ‘fats’ and carbohydrates daily
• Every meal and snack is calculated, pre-meditated, and planned according to desired ratios
• Entirely calorie controlled, but does not specify quality of calorie source
• All food groups can be incorporated into equation
• Popular with bodybuilders, very aesthetics based
The good – It may ensure the individual is eating enough food overall to match their energy outputs (if training vigorously).
The bad – it fails to take into consideration the source, quality and bioavailability of the calories within the food in question (ie an avocado vs a mars bar), also ignoring the nutritional status of the food overall. It can also breed restrictive, compulsive and unhealthy food behaviours. We were not designed to weigh, calculate and measure every meal and snack! A better idea would be to enjoy a variety of foods, focussing on the quality and health benefits of the meal overall.
Could fad diets work for me?
Ask yourself a few questions:
• Could you only sustain the diet short-term?
• Does the diet cut out complete food groups?
• Is it expensive and time-consuming?
• Is it boring and restrictive?
• Is it difficult to eat socially?
• Does it produce side-effects such as fatigue and constipation?
If yes, this type of diet has the potential to turn you into a ‘yo-yo’, gradually gaining weight over time, rather achieving successive loss (not to mention the side-effects of fatigue, moodiness and potential poor health).
The best strategy to reach a healthy weight – enjoy nutritious foods and exercise that are sustainable and suit your lifestyle.