There’s so much dietary information on the internet it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s not such a good idea. One ‘expert’ tells you to eat only green vegetables for lunch and soup for dinner while another tells you to cut out fat or only eat every other day. If you’re looking for a comparison of dieting advice and hoping to shape up a little for your summer wedding then here’s the latest information out there and a reminder that being happy, fit and healthy is far more important than being thin.
A positive beginning
Slow and steady wins the race. Start by weighing yourself and get a measurement of your BMI to find out how much body fat you have. You could also measure your bust, waist and hips. Now you know where you stand you can begin to set yourself targets for weight loss.
Try one of the online calculators to work out a program (set yourself a target goal). Don’t try to lose more than a stone a month. Not only is losing weight this rapidly bad for your health, but it also means you’ll lose muscle mass and muscle mass helps burn calories off. The result of this will be if you do lose the weight you’ll immediately put it back on again when you stop dieting.
Write down why you want to lose weight and what you hope to achieve. Negative feelings about your body are not a good place to begin a new way of eating. Nor should you consider this diet as a temporary, painful period before you get to eat what you want again.
The best diets are permanent and long term and radically change the way you approach food. You need to be happy with yourself before you can embrace that change though. Most calculators will give you a calorie range you’ll need to observe if you want to lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn off, then you’ll put weight on, if you burn more than you eat, you’ll lose weight. But counting calories can be incredibly taxing. Let’s look at the alternatives.
The main principle behind the Atkins diet is that sugar and carbohydrates are the real culprits behind weight gain. Avoid these two food groups and you can stuff yourself with everything else. Meat, eggs, dairy, fish, vegetables (with the exception of starchy vegetables like potatoes) and salads are all fair game. Rice, potatoes, bread, cereal, chocolate, cake, sweets, sugary drinks and alcohol are all off limits.
This is a fairly easy diet to stick to and the results are impressive, although it’s not to everyone’s liking and experts have various concerns over the impact it has on long term health so please do take medical advice as indeed you should before embarking on any similar drastic diet change.
“Me no eat processed complex carbohydrates. Me hunt chicken!” The Paleo diet (short for Paleolithic) involves aping the diet of our caveman ancestors and eating only what was available to prehistoric mankind: what could be hunted, foraged, fished or gathered. This means no processed meats, no rice, no potatoes, no grain, no diary, no cheese, no gluten, no sugar, no soy or legumes. It’s quite a strict and fiddly diet to maintain. You soon get tired of meat and vegetables or meat and salad. The urge to eat chocolate cake or cheese and toast gets greater and greater. If you can stick with it, it’s doubtlessly one of the healthiest and most successful diets around, but we find it too time consuming to wholeheartedly recommend.
The 5/2 diet
This diet involves eating whatever you like on five days of the week and fasting on the other two. The fast days aren’t completely food free: you’re allowed five hundred calories (a couple of bowls of soup for lunch and dinner probably) on these days. It does seem like an easier diet to stick to than others and if your fasting one day there’s always a few days of chocolates and biscuits coming to keep you motivated.
The GI diet / The South beach diet
Now you’re talking. GI stands for glycemic index, a measure of blood sugar levels following the consumption of carbohydrates. The basic principle behind the GI diet is to drastically reduce food with a high GI index like sugar and processed carbohydrates and replace them instead with items of a low GI index like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and lean meat / fish.
The result is a diet that keeps the hunger pangs at bay, but where you don’t have to obsessively watch calories or make bread out of almond flour or fast yourself to death two days a week. While the weight drops off drastically at first it does plateau and eventually you’ll lose less per week – but you’ll be healthy, happier and have more energy than ever before.
The importance of exercise
Most diets can be helped along with regular exercise: even if you haven’t time to go the gym there are many ways to burn off extra calories. Cycle to work instead of taking the bus or driving. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Jog up and down when watching the television. Take the dog for a walk. The list is endless. Finally, always consult your doctor or physician before you embark upon a dietary program, just in case. Good luck.