Research presented to us in the media about diets, including government regulated health recommendations seems to change all the time. And yet, despite this, the news and everything else constantly have the ‘perfect easy’ answer about what we should eat and how much we should.
This can make it difficult to distinguish between what is actually healthy from what information is presented to us and what they simply want us to believe is healthy for us.
Marketing takes advantage of the desire to drop weight fast, and be stronger, slimmer, and… happier! We are sold on the basis that the new diet we begin to implement in our own life will have promising and dramatic results FAST. These are often known as fad diets. As you guessed it, it is often too good to be true.
You might be wondering where fad diets even came from?
The phenomenon that is ‘the fad diet’ began in earnest in the Victorian Era with trends like the vinegar diet, and the Banting diet. Since then, diets have advised us of all sorts of things; to excessively chew, to not chew at all, to swallow a whole grapefruit per meal, non-stop soup, even the consumption of arsenic… crazy right!
If the idea of diet trends has withstood history, could this mean they work?
In the short-term, the answer is often yes. Diet plans low in carbohydrates, like the Atkins diet have an initial diuretic effect. Sodium is lost until the body can balance itself out, and temporary fluid weight loss may occur.
With other high-protein diets, you might lose weight at first since by restricting your food choices, you are dropping your overall calorie intake.
But your body then lowers its metabolic rate to adjust to the shift, lessening the diet’s effect over time and resulting in a quick reversal if the diet is abandoned.
So while these diets may be alluring early on, they do not guarantee long-term benefits for your health OR your weight.
A few simple guidelines, though, can help differentiate between a diet that is beneficial in maintaining long-term health, and one that only offers temporary weight changes.
The first key tip… if a diet focuses on cutting out entire food groups, like fat, sugar, or carbohydrates, chances are… it’s a fad diet!
A second red flag is ritual, when the diet in question instructs you to only eat specific foods, prescribed combinations, or to opt for particular food substitutes like drinks, bars or powders.
The truth is, shedding kilos in the long run simply does not have a quick-fix solution if you want the ‘diet’ to become apart of your lifestyle.
What about claims of superfoods, cleanses and other boosting solutions?
Marketing emphasises the allure of products associated with ancient and remote cultures to create a sense of mysticism for consumers. While so-called superfoods, like blueberries or acai, do add a powerful punch of nutrients, their super transformative qualities are largely exaggeration.
They are healthy additions to a balanced diet, yet often, they’re marketed as part of sugary drinks or cereals, in which case the negative side outweighs the benefits.
Cleanses, too, may be great in moderation since they can assist with kick-starting weight loss and can increase the number of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed daily.
However, they have not yet been shown o have either a long-term benefit or to detox the body any better than the natural mechanisms already in place.
Everywhere we look, we are constantly being offered solutions to how we can alter our appearance to look better, feel fitter, and generally be ahead of someone else.
Food is no exception, but advice on what we should eat is best left to the doctors and nutritionists who are aware of our individual circumstances.
Diets and food fads are not inherently wrong and should not be taboo, they might even be right, just not for everyone all of the time.