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Weight Loss and Fad Diets

27th October 2019

Fad diets. Most of us have tried at least one. The keto diet, lemon detox, Atkins, paleo… the list is as long your arm.

Many of us are time poor and any shortcut can seem like an attractive option. Especially with promises of fast results just by cutting out certain food groups, all endorsed by a celebrity (with a team of nutritionists and exercise physiologists at their disposal!).

When the kilos creep on, working out how to get rid of them again can seem like a daunting task. And, it is daunting. Any possible advantage from some fad diet is worth exploring, right?

The simple fact is the quick fix of a fad diet is easier than making the effort to lose weight through long-term changes to your eating and exercise habits.

However, Fad diets are notoriously difficult to maintain. And when we are done with them, the weight comes straight back on, and sometimes with a vengeance.

The high percentage of Australians who are overweight shows that many people find losing weight - and keeping it off - very challenging.

In 2014–15, 63 percent of Australian adults were classified as overweight or obese. That makes us the third most overweight country in the western world.

Sadly, not all “diets” are created equal and many can do more harm than good. We’ve taken a look at some of the biggest fad diets around to see if they’ll help you meet your long-term weight loss goals (spoiler – they probably won’t).

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic, or keto diet, is one of the “trendier” diets around at the moment. It involves eating a diet that’s high in fat and protein, and very low in carbohydrate.

People following this diet are usually restricted to the carb equivalent of two slices of bread and a banana per day.

When following this diet, your body starts to burn body fat more effectively - a process known as ketosis.

The keto diet can cause rapid weight loss. However, its detractors say it’s a hard diet to stick to long-term (meaning the weight will likely come back on again).

The keto diet also comes with a range of side effects including fatigue and headaches, particularly as your body adjusts to having fewer carbs.

The keto diet has been prescribed to people with neurological diseases such as epilepsy. However, there is little evidence to recommend the keto diet as a long-term weight loss solution for healthy people.

Baby Food Diet

This diet was started by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson and quickly gained a cultish following about a decade ago, apparently including some celebrities. The idea of the diet is to replace meals or snacks (or both) with baby food.

A full day’s worth of meals is replaced with 14 jars of baby food, or you can replace fewer meals or snacks only.

While some argue for the convenience of this diet option, others point out that it’s unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss.

After all, there was a reason you stopped eating bland, pureed food as your palate matured while growing up. Do you really want to go back to eating that muck again, especially forever?

Lemon Detox Diet

This detox diet fad involves replacing food with a sugary lemon drink for 10+ days, apparently to cleanse the body.

While refraining from food for 10 days will no doubt result in weight loss, you’re likely to put it all back on (and more) once you start eating again.

This diet has earned a reputation as one of the worst diets around for a reason. It’s not recommended, and any results are likely to be very short-lived. Not to mention being completely nutritionally deficient and unbalanced.

Fasting Diets

Fasting diets come in a range of forms requiring varying levels of deprivation. A current one gaining in prominence is the 16:8 diet, requiring fasting for 16 hours and just eating for 8.

While depriving your body of nutrition will result in short-term weight loss, our bodies have a tendency just to put all this weight back on (and then some) when we go back to our normal eating habits.

Fasting is generally not a sustainable long-term way to keep weight off.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet was developed in the 1960s and is one of the most widely known low carbohydrate diets. The Atkins Diet says that you don't need to avoid fatty cuts of meat or cheese. Rather, controlling carbs is what's important.

The Atkins Diet holds that eating too many carbohydrates — especially sugar, white flour and other refined carbs — leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and cardiovascular problems.

There aren’t many significant differences from the Keto diet, although they allow for different portions of protein.

Again, detractors say the Atkins Diet is hard to stick to, and rarely offers long-term weight-loss results.

The Paleo Diet

The paleo diet involves eating foods that would have been eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors during the Paleolithic era, which was approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

Eating a paleo diet involves eating lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. While avoiding processed foods, dairy products, salt, and legumes.

Paleo has the components of a recommended healthy diet, but the absence of whole grains and legumes means people on the diet miss a great source of fibre, vitamins and nutrients.

Cookie Diet

This diet rose in popularity about 10 years ago, and many reportedly still use it. It involves eating specially prepared cookies in place of meals.

These low-calorie cookies are meant to suppress appetite, offering quick weight-loss. While most forms of calorie-restriction will lead to weight loss, results are unlikely to be long-lasting.

Fad diets keep coming and going (and then coming back again) because people are looking for short-cuts and easy solutions to get the kilos off. Many of them will achieve that aim in the short-term, but unless bad habits are replaced with healthier ones, most people are likely to put weight back on again once they come off a diet.

A balanced eating plan

A healthy lifestyle can be easier than you think. Forget about the fads and diets. A balanced eating plan combined with moderate physical activity is recommended.

With a balanced eating plan, it's what you leave in that counts.

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Consume a variety of cereals including breads, rice, pasta and noodles (preferably wholegrain)

  • Include lean meat, fish, poultry or alternatives

  • Include milk, yoghurts, cheeses or alternatives

  • Limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake

  • Choose foods low in salt

  • Limit your alcohol intake, if you choose to drink

  • Limit food and drinks containing added sugars

If you’re struggling to understand how to get started on your weight-loss journey or would like more advice please book in a free consultation today. Dr Phil Lockie’s multidisciplinary team provides long-term dietitian and psychology support to improve weight loss outcomes for our patients.

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