Why diets don’t work, from a nutritional therapy point of view
In this blog post Becky Davies-Downes of Ilkley Nutrition talks us through the main nutritional reason why diets are not the best way to lose weight.
Dieting to achieve sustained weight loss often fails even before you start – whatever plan you intend to follow. Why? In part, because diets fail to take into account the many and different individual and specific physiological reasons why you put on weight.
- psychological factors such as depression, anxiety & eating disorders
- behavioural factors such as poor portion control, fast food consumption & learnt eating habits from childhood
- endocrine disorders including hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, Cushing’s Syndrome
- factors affecting leptin synthesis, a hormone that appears to tell your body how much fat you have stored, thus regulating hunger
- poor glucose handling
Instead of looking for the physiological reasons behind an increasing waistline the easiest answer is to turn to a number of familiar generic ‘truisms’ about weight loss. Consequently, you end up tackling the symptom, the weight gain, not the cause. In some lucky cases, this is sufficient. Unfortunately, for most people, it isn’t.
One of the best known weight loss methods is calorie counting; used not only on its own but also as the basis of many commercial diet plans. The belief that ‘calories in versus calories out’ is the magic equation to answer all your problems, sadly, is not true.
- it’s time consuming
- you need to keep a track of where you are at
- cut your calories and your body can start to store fat – evidence now clearly demonstrates that the body gets “stingier” in its use of calories after each fad diet
- low-calorie foods may be less satisfying, leaving you feeling hungry more quickly
My biggest problem with calorie counting, however, is that it is entirely possible to cut your calorie intake yet still be eating all the wrong types of food and still gaining weight.
Eat more calories than your body knows what to do with and you will eventually gain weight. Fair point. But does cutting your calories mean you are getting a balanced diet with the variety of nutrients that will set you on the path to optimum health, wellbeing and your ideal weight? Not necessarily. Take the example of a can of diet cola versus an avocado. One has no calories whilst the other has a high calorific value. Which one has the greater range of nutrients and is ultimately healthier? You guessed it, the avocado. With calorie counting, it’s all too easy to ignore the nutritional value of foods.
Another of my favourite dieting myths is that all fat is bad for you. Not so, well not all fat anyway. Some fat is essential. Take Omega 3 for example, an essential fatty acid (the word essential should really give us a clue here 😉 ). This is thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease, promote healthy skin and when used along with diet and exercise to help lower levels of certain blood fat and to raise levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). Not the credentials of something that is bad for you. Yet myth and relentless advertising has us all tripping over ourselves to eat low-fat this and that. Have you ever stopped to consider if they take the fat out, what they replace it with? Again, it’s all too easy to ignore true nutritional value.
Becky and I are running workshops together in West and North Yorkshire. To register for more information about those workshops visit http://ilkleynutrition.beautifulswans.com