New year, new diet? Not again!

Make lifestyle changes you can sustain

Welcome to January, aka ‘diet season’, when New Year nutrition and exercise resolutions are made after overindulgence throughout the festive season. Bad habits are thrown out the window and promises are made to oneself that this time it will be different. The latest Hollywood fad diets engulf magazines and newspapers, and we grasp onto a glimmer of hope that one of these might just work this time.

Shaking their heads in despair, our Go Grains Health & Nutrition Accredited Practising Dietitian’s (APD’s) have already summed up some of the crazy diet plans for 2010. Here is the low down why they are not worth your time (and money) and how they can be worse off for you in the long-term.

  • The ‘Morning Banana Diet’ – there are no surprises here! You will lose weight if you eat only a banana for breakfast, don’t eat after 8pm, avoid all alcohol and sweets, and get adequate rest plus daily exercise. This is a mix of ‘diet hype’ and sensible advice. You might lose weight in the short term since you will probably be eating far fewer kilojoules than usual but lack of variety and your grumbling tummy will inevitably have you diving for the cookie jar before long. A fulfilling breakfast including wholegrain/high fibre breakfast cereals and muesli, wholegrain toast, eggs, low-fat dairy and other delicious fruits is a much more satisfying and nutritious start to the day.
  • The ‘Calorie Shifting Diet’ – diets that involve dramatic diet changes for short periods of time are usually doomed to crumble in the long term. Cutting out entire food groups is not healthy. It is a much better idea to eat healthy foods (in sensible portions) so your metabolism can function normally. The concept of cycling high protein one day, then high carbohydrate the next is meant to confuse your metabolism to burn more fat. There is no evidence that this actually happens and in fact it is more likely to be the reverse – rapid weight loss is associated with muscle wasting, which will slow your metabolism. Beginning an exercise program that includes weight training will increase your metabolism the healthy way. Any weight loss achieved on this diet will result from eating less (no more than 7500kJ), regular exercise (at least 30mins each day) and limiting high kilojoule beverages such as alcohol and soft drinks – normal healthy weight loss principles. Instead of worrying about what food group you mustn’t eat today, put in the extra effort to practice modifying new recipes to make them healthier for you and your family. Use ingredients that are in season, on special and of course what you enjoy.
  • The ‘Low Carb Diet’ – again! Not exactly new, but one of the most misunderstood diet myths of all time. The important thing to remember is that carbohydrates come in all shapes and sizes, and some are better for us than others. Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and fruit are much healthier carbohydrate-containing foods than soft-drinks, ice-cream, yoghurt, lollies and chocolate which are much less so. Grain-based foods like breads, rice, pasta and breakfast cereals (preferably wholegrain), along with legumes, fruits and vegetables provide protein, fibre and essential vitamins and are an important part of a healthy balanced diet. Cutting out carbs can slow your metabolism and have negative effects on your mood. If you are still convinced by ‘low carb’ make sure it’s lollies, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, pastries and alcohol you are cutting out and not the goodness of grains, wholegrains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
  • ‘Cookie Diet’ or ‘Tapeworm Diet’ – let’s not even go there.

It is hard not to have a glimmer of hope when reading these diets, but please don’t believe the hype. The awful truth is it takes hard work and discipline to lose weight and maintain it. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in Amercia tracks people who have successfully lost at least 13.6kg and maintained this weight loss for at least 1 year. This data shows that 78% of successful dieters eat breakfast every day, 75% weight themselves at least once a week, 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week and 90% exercise on average about 1 hour per day. Their hard work pays off with 95% of NWCR participants noticing improvements in quality of life, 92% noticing increases in energy levels and 91% reporting decreases in depressive symptoms.

Learn to love food; eat a wide variety of healthy everyday foods you prepare including wholegrains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, lean meat, poultry, fish and nuts. Try new recipes, mind your portion sizes and exercise every day.

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