Diets. Chances are you’ve been on one (or many), especially if you’re female. Whether is was in search of the perfect body or just a quick fix ahead of a special event, there are more diets on the market than you can shake a carrot stick at. The problem is partly in the word “diet” itself. Although this can just refer to general overall eating habits (I often refer to “getting your diet right”), the connotations are now rather more negative with people hearing the word “diet” and automatically associating it with hunger, deprivation, counting calories, and assigning points to everything that passes their lips.
If you’ve tried every diet going (I don’t need to mention specific names here), joined a gym and still failed to get lasting results, then this little article will shed some light on how to make some positive, lasting changes. The kind of changes you can expect to find after following my “Cleanse” nutrition plan (as featured in www.4weekfatattack.com). Yes, to the untrained eye this plan could be regarded as a “diet”, but it really isn’t. My plan simply advises you to eat nutritious, tasty food, cut the crap and essentially reprograms your eating habits. It really is as easy as that, and the Four Week Fat Attack program incorporates all of the action points below.
Here’s why diets suck, why eating clean rules, and why many “diet” foods are often the worst offenders when it comes to weight loss.
1. Most diets promote “low fat” and “fat free” alternatives.
Fat is NOT your enemy. On the contrary your body needs fat to metabolise certain fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K), to manage cravings (yes, really) and to balance your mood. Without enough good fats coming into the body, it’s unlikely that you’ll shed the fat that’s already stored in all those unwanted places. Not to mention the fact that any excess carbohydrates that you consume will be stored as… you guessed it… FAT!
“Low fat” or “fat free” items (think yoghurts, biscuits, even ice cream) are absolutely riddled with added sugar. If you take something out (fat) something else has to replace it (usually sugar). I’m not suggesting you all go out and down a pint of extra thick double cream, but it’s worth bearing in mind that having the fat-free version doesn’t necessarily make it any healthier.
The kind of fats you want to avoid at all costs are hydrogenated fats (e.g. margarine) and trans fats (e.g. cakes).
ACTION: Include plenty of good fats in your diet. My favourite sources are:
– Avocado (I have them daily in my greens drink, but they are great in salads too, or whipped up into homemade guacamole).
– Coconut oil (perfect for cooking with as it doesn’t denature at high temperatures).
Don’t believe that steaming is the healthiest way to eat! Saute your veggies in some coconut oil, season with some chilli flakes, ginger and a squeeze of lime and I promise it will taste 100 times better than steamed cabbage.
– Olive oil (I use this drizzled over salads, rather than for use in cooking).
2. Most diets focus on calories.
In my opinion, calories are not the be all and end all of weight loss. Of course they play a part, but there are simply way too many other factors to be considered when it comes to the human body (hormone balance, sleep levels, hydration levels, genetics to name but a few) to simply take a calorie at face value. Everybody’s metabolic rate will be different due to the aforementioned reasons, so you can’t say that a 100kcal biscuit will have the same impact on every individual who eats it. Besides, heavily restricted diets tend to further slow metabolic rate, thus making weight loss harder still. Double drat!
We’re always being told that you just need to “eat less and move more”, and that cutting calories will lead to weight loss. In some cases, a calorie-restricted diet can lead to short term weight loss. But why then do some people eat very little, take plenty of exercise and yet still gain weight? And other people barely move at all, save from reaching across to the next slice of pizza and yet they remain skinny? Seems a tad unfair, but we’ve all seen it happen. If calories in versus calories out were all it boiled down to, then everyone who cut calories would lose weight and keep it off, so long as their calorific input didn’t start exceeding their output.
I’m not saying that calories are totally irrelevant. I agree, to a certain extent, that people do simply eat too much, but that’s usually because they’re permanently hungry, as they’re not actually getting adequate nutrition from all the junk they eat. I am perpetually amazed when I look at other people’s shopping trolleys full of microwave meals, cereals, crisps, muffins, ready made sauces and so on. Where is the actual FOOD? You know, the stuff that occurs naturally rather than the pretend “food” which is made in a lab and contains 20+ ingredients that you can’t even pronounce!
ACTION: Focus on the quality of your food rather than the quantity.
– Eat food in its natural state (organic meat, eggs, a variety of vegetables, pulses etc).
– Eliminate all processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, homogenised dairy and wheat.
Try doing this for 28 days and you will notice a HUGE improvement in not only your waistline, but your mood, energy levels, hair, skin. Once you’ve cut the rubbish out and retrained your eating habits, you won’t crave the rubbish anymore and you’ll see how easy it is to eat clean long term.
3. Most diets recommend eating lots of fruit.
Ok, don’t get me wrong here. I am not about to say that fruit is bad for you Of course it’s not. Fruits are full of vitamins and minerals and are certainly a better option than stuffing your face with chocolate. However, fruit is still sugar, albeit in its natural form. So where many diets tell you to replace all your “naughty” snacks with fruit, you might end up eating 10 pieces of fruit a day, and no matter what way you look at it, that’s a lot of sugar.
ACTION: Look to vegetables for a wide range of nutrients.
– Let me stress again, fruit is still very beneficial and has its place in your diet, but if fat loss is your ultimate goal then fruit is not always your friend. I recommend keeping to two portions of fruit per day if you’re looking to shed bodyfat.
– Berries tend to be lower in fructose (the natural sugar found in fruit) so opt for whatever berries are in season.
Sadly the obsession with “low calorie” has meant that many consumers think they’re making healthy choices if they opt for zero sugar or diet versions of drinks. However, all these “diet”, “zero”, “light” versions of colas and lemonades are packed full of artificial sweetners, the most damaging of which is aspartame. A Google search on aspartame will quickly fill you in on its dnagers.
Artificial sweeteners have been positively linked to weight gain, as aopposed to weight loss. There is research which shows that our brains can tell the difference between real and artificial sugar – not only are artificial sugars less satisfying at a cellular level, they also increase cravings for the real thing! So diet soda really must be avoided if you don’t want to fuel sugar cravings.
ACTION: Embrace H2O in all its glory!
– Hydrate with plenty of water. It really is the only way to truly quench your thirst.
– If you want more flavour then there are loads of different herbal teas (naturally caffeine free) which taste great. It’s worth trying various flavours until you find one that does it for you, but good old peppermint is fairly failsafe.
5. Most diets make you feel deprived.
When you’re told what you CAN’T eat, you immediately want it… more than anything! It therefore makes sense to focus on the things you CAN have and get creative in the kitchen. Eating clean doesn’t mean eating rabbit food and dust. On the contrary meals on my Four Week Fat Attack might include scrambled egg and smoked salmon, steak with sweet potato wedges and salad, thai chicken curry to name but a few.
As discussed in point #2, many diets are low calorie, meaning you might still be able to eat all sorts of food that doesn’t nourish you at all, which ultimately leaves you feeling hungry, and that in turn leads to binging on all those things you’re missing. But if you fuel your body with a good balance of proteins, veg, pulses etc, you’re far more likely to feel full.
ACTION: Eat intuitively.
– Only eat when you’re actually hungry. Sounds obvious but actually nowadays food is in such plentiful supply that we tend to eat for the sake of it, or just because it’s a certain time of day. Try listening to your body.
– Wait 15 minutes before going back for second helpings. Often when we finish a meal we want more of it, which invariably involves going out to the kitchen to load our plates back up. But give it 15 minutes and by then our brains have received the signal that we’re no longer hungry. If, after 15 minutes, you still genuinely feel hungry then be my guest.
So there you go. Five reasons why you ditch the diet and five ways you can change your habits for the long term.