Do Diets Work
Keto, the Atkins, intermittent fasting, Noom; there’s no shortage of weight-loss diets fighting for our attention. It’s no wonder the dieting industry in the UK is worth a staggering £2 billion a year. But do diets even work? And which, if any, can you trust?
Dieting is something the vast majority of us will have experienced at one point or another. Research has even suggested that over two-thirds of the UK are on some sort of diet at any given time.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight or just be a little healthier, new and creative ways to change your eating habits continue to crop up left, right and centre. From diets that eliminate all carbs to programmes that promise to change your entire attitude towards food, there’s no shortage of diets to try – and try we have.
However, as anyone who’s been on a diet will tell you, they’re not as simple as they seem. Not only are they notoriously hard to stick to (because let’s face it, cutting out carbs for the rest of your life just isn’t sustainable), it can be equally hard to maintain a healthy weight once you’ve reached your goal. However, the really hard pill to swallow is that some diets aren’t even that good for you in the first place. After all, just because a diet makes you lose weight, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
So how can you tell the good diets from the bad ones, and how effective are the good ones anyway?
Good diets versus bad diets
When you’re on a mission to shed pounds for an upcoming wedding or long-awaited holiday, it is often counterintuitive to stop and think: “Is this diet actually good for me?” Often we become so focused on the number on the scales, we forget to give our bodies what they need to function and thrive.
Juice diets are a good example. These ultra-low calorie fads lure people in with fast results and buzz words such as ‘detoxifying’ and ‘cleansing’. First off, your body is designed to detoxify itself. In fact, liquid diets such as these have been known to cause fatigue, headaches and poor concentration, which isn’t surprising given that they don’t provide your body with the sustenance it needs. What’s more, any weight you lose probably won’t last, as super-restrictive diets such as these are virtually impossible to stick to.
Diets aren’t all bad, however. Long-term programmes such as Weight Watchers promote a sustainable approach to dieting without restricting you to a single food group. It instead uses a points-based system that assigns different foods and beverages a value depending on their calorie, fat and fibre content. Newer diet programmes are also entering the sphere, such as app-based Noom, which focuses on education, healthy habits and behavioural changes to help dieters lose weight – and keep it off.
The key to an effective diet
While not every diet will work for everyone, the most important word to consider when dieting is balance. Anything extreme and restrictive simply won’t last, and has the potential to lead to an endless cycle of what’s known as ‘yo-yo dieting’.
It’s also important to consider your activity levels when choosing a diet. We often assume that every woman can consume 2,000 calories a day, and every man 2,500 without gaining weight – but this isn’t necessarily true. Someone who exercises five times a week will need far more calories than someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle. Getting a wearable fitness device is an accurate way of working out how much energy you burn, and thus how many calories you can eat per day to reach your end goal.
But how do you keep the weight off? After all, calorie counting is a time-consuming and tedious task to maintain in the long run. Planning your meals in advance can be a huge help. Stocking your kitchen with healthy, nutritious foods and creating structured meal plans will help you stick to your new healthy diet, and keep any unwanted weight gain at bay.
Regular exercise, whether that’s a 30-minute walk or a 10k run, also has numerous benefits for both your physical and mental health. Moving more can increase your metabolism, which in turn can help you burn more calories. This is because the more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn daily. All in all, however, if a diet is to work long-term, it has to be a complete lifestyle change, not just a quick fix. So take it slowly, eat mindfully and be kind to yourself.