Why dieting may not be the answer

PUBLISHED: 13:34 13 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:34 13 January 2020

Small, staged and sustainable changes will mean you won't feel the need to ever go on a diet again

Small, staged and sustainable changes will mean you won't feel the need to ever go on a diet again


While it’s tempting to make your New Year resolution to restrict your food intake, Buckhurst Hill-based nutritional therapist Yasmin Alexander reckons it’s probably the worst thing you could do

Take a minute to think about the last time you went on a diet. Maybe it was a few years ago, maybe it was just last week, or maybe you plan to 
start tomorrow! Did it work? Or did you find yourself back to square one, or even more unhappy than when you started?

It's January, it's the season of the famous New Year's resolutions, and I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but research has shown that 80 per cent of people who make such resolutions will fail by February. Dieting is one of the top three New Year's resolutions, and whilst it's great to set goals in life, often these resolutions are not thought through, but are merely things we find ourselves jumping on at this time of year.

I don't blame you. The media and marketing companies are not on our side and are clever at making us all think they have the answer to our prayers, but we shouldn't have to feel worse in ourselves by setting ourselves up to fail. So read on for an insight into some of the reasons why faddy and restrictive diets don't work.

The mindset is temporary

When it comes to diets, we often say we are 'on' or 'off' them. This highlights the very black and white mindset diets make us adopt. When we have this mindset, we are telling ourselves that this is only for a certain period of time, after which normal service may resume. This is especially true for those of us jumping onto the diet bandwagon before a special event, a holiday or even just certain times of the year.

Weight loss can be temporary

Let's face it, diets are most often adopted as a weight loss vehicle, although sometimes I even question one's motivation to lose weight. Is it a deeply rooted desire to be more slender? Or just social pressure to conform to what size we think we should be? Well, the studies show that weight loss can not only be temporary, but often some people will put on more weight than before they even started. Indeed, one recent study showed that 60 per cent did just that.

You may enter binge-restrict cycles

Binge-restrict cycles are common for people following 'crash' or very restrictive diets. What happens when you ban yourself from eating chocolate biscuits? You can't stop thinking about those chocolate biscuits, until you reach the point that you've told yourself for so many days you can't have one, that the next day you eat a whole packet! You now feel so bad for eating the packet that you restrict yourself again… and so the cycle continues. This contributes to forming an unhealthy relationship with food.

The way food is viewed

It is easy for us to lose sight of nutrition when embarking on an energy-restricted diet. Food and nutrients slowly turn into calories and a numbers game. The nutritious value and content of foods start to matter less. My favourite example is comparing a handful of cashew nuts with a handful of dolly mixture sweets. Which one has fewer calories? The dolly mixture sweets. Which one has more nutrients and will help keep us fuller? The cashew nuts. If we only look at food in numerical terms, we may become at risk of nutrient deficiencies in the long term.

They don't address underlying causes

So many factors, other than the food we eat can affect our ability to lose, gain or maintain our weight. For example, the amount and quality of our sleep, the amount of stress we are experiencing, and underlying issues such as thyroid disorders or even infections. Some research has shown that higher levels of stress hormones can suppress satiety hormones (the ones that make us feel full), particularly after following an energy restricted weight loss programme. This highlights the double-edged sword, that stress could be the underlying cause of weight gain in the first place, but that drastic energy restricted diets can actually place more stress on the body, further perpetuating the situation.

Disrupt hormones

Energy restricted diets can affect our thyroid function (often slowing it down) and may actually do more harm than good. What's more, often energy restricted diets will be disguised as low-fat diets. Yes, fat does contain more energy per gram than protein and carbohydrates, but they are so essential to our health, especially for women. Healthy fats contribute to the building blocks that our hormones are made from, for example oestrogen, which a lot of menopausal women will appreciate is so vital when going through the life stage transition.

We are all so different!

Lastly but by no means least, all of us are so unique and biochemically individual. This means that what might work for Mrs X will not work from Mrs Y. Adopting trendy and faddy diets will almost never take this into account. We all have different jobs, levels of physical activity, food preferences and responsibilities in life, all affecting what our bodies require and how they function.

When it comes to changing dietary and lifestyle habits, you deserve care, attention and consideration - to be looked at as an individual. If you are looking to lose weight in a sustainable way, feel your best, get your mojo back, regain control over your hormones or improve your overall health, then why not see a qualified nutritionist - it really can make all the difference

Yasmin Alexander, Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons, mBANT, CNHC, DipION), The Coach House, Powell Road, Buckhurst Hill, IG9 5RD, 020 3411 7515, nutritionbyyasmin.com

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