On a diet? Be careful. According to Irene Labuschagne, a dietician at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Nutritional Information Centre of Stellenbosch University (NICUS), the information available on nutrition is often perceived as contradictory, which makes it difficult to distinguish between fact, misinformation and fiction. “People are constantly looking for that magic bullet approach to losing weight, wanting a quick fix,” says Labuschagne.
“These diets can come at a price. Not just a financial cost, but there can often be a cost to health if these diets are followed over a period of time,” Labuschagne explains.
Labuschagne notes that healthy diets should be easy to adhere to over time. “An eating pattern for life should be the one that one can stick to and it should include enjoyment, a rich variety of foods in appropriate portion sizes and moderation.” You should consider what changes you should make in the long-term to not only lose weight, but to keep it off.
Labuschagne also emphasises that restrictive diets may be counterproductive and may even cause emotional distress and unhealthy eating patterns.
“All of us know someone who is on a diet. Unfortunately, for many women, being a dieter represents not only something that they do, but may also be an important aspect of how they see themselves.”
Restrained eaters (chronic on again-off again dieters who are concerned about their weight) are primarily women who are (or feel) pressured to conform to the thin ideal, who see themselves as too fat (even when their body weight is normal/healthy), and who define their self-worth on the basis of their perceptions of their weight and shape. This leads to a lot of women and to abuse to the restrictive diets and to suffer eating disorders.
— Inadequate nutrient intake.
— Nutrient deficiencies.
— Unhealthy food and body preoccupation.
— Repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain.
— Distraction from other personal health goals and wider health determinants.
— Reduced self-esteem.
— Eating disorders or disordered eating.
Outrageous claims of success: Diets that claim rapid weight loss should be viewed skeptically. In reality, on a healthy weight-loss diet, people will lose about 1-3 kilos per week max, depending on their current weight, fat percentage, and other variables.
Testimonials: These can be very compelling, but most of the time are not true or based on any real evidence. Celebrities are often linked to fad diets too.
The diet has a ‘secret’: Fad diets often claim to have ‘the secret’ or ‘key’ to weight loss. Claims and language such as “unlocking the secret,” “hacking the body” or “unleashing the genetic code” are often used.
They demonise a food group: These diets advocate specific food recommendations and restrictive menus. This often goes hand in hand with the concept that there are also magic foods that should be encouraged.
According to the Nutritional Information Centre, healthy adults should follow a diet high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and fat-free dairy products and alcohol; and a small amount of red and processed meat.
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