Why diets don’t work - and what does

5 May 2021
3 minute read

Are you ready to say goodbye to fad diets and deprivation? International No Diet Day on 6 May is a celebration of body acceptance, including fat acceptance and body shape diversity. It’s about promoting a healthy lifestyle no matter what your size and raising awareness of the potential dangers of dieting. We offer tips on what you can do to maintain a healthy body weight - without dieting.

The truth about diets
The truth is that diets don’t usually work very well. According to the Institute of Medicine, "those who complete weight loss programmes lose approximately 10 percent of their body weight, only to regain two-thirds within a year and almost all of it within five years." This is backed by research which found that one of the main reasons diets fail is because they are too restrictive to stick to over a long term.

Extreme or radical diets, or long-term dieting, may even be damaging to the health, depriving you of the nutrients you need, and negatively affecting your metabolism, energy levels and even bone density.

What is a healthy body weight?
Just as there is not one ideal body shape, there is not one ideal body weight for each person. Age, height, muscle-fat ratio, gender, body fat distribution and body shape all have to be taken into account. There are a number of different methods for determining your healthy weight, but the most common is the Body Mass Index (you can read more about them and find an online Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator here). Your doctor or health care worker will be able to guide you.

Tips to maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight does put us at risk of certain diseases, particularly as we get older, so it makes sense to try and maintain a weight that is healthy for you. Forming healthy habits and making small lifestyle changes is the best way to stay healthy - better than dieting!

Exercise regularly
The rule of thumb is that to maintain your weight, you need to burn the same number of calories as you eat and drink. You don’t need to sweat it off at the gym. Walking twice a week is just as beneficial, and you can build in more steps in your day by pacing while you talk on the phone or march in place during the TV ads. Physical activity burns calories and builds muscle.

Make good food choices
Make healthy food choices that include protein, vegetables and fruit, and avoid processed food. A good tip is do most of your shopping on the outside aisles in the supermarket, where all the fresh food is stocked.

Eat breakfast every day
Studies show that eating breakfast does help you lose weight. Of course, it’s also about what you eat! A bowl of fruit with muesli and yoghurt is good, a plate of pancakes and syrup is less so.

Control portion size
Watch for portion distortion. Many of us are loading between 10% to 20% more than we need on our plates, and most of the portions served in restaurants are bigger than you need. A good way to get portion size under control is to use small plates and bowls.

Eat enough protein
Adding protein - yogurt, small portions of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, meats - to each meal or snack will not only meet your nutritional needs, it will keep you feeling full for longer so you're less likely to overeat.

Pile up the fruit and veggies
Not only does fruit and vegetables crowd out other foods that are high in calories, so you’re not reaching for the cookie jar, they are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium. They're also an excellent source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut.

Slow down
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive messages that you are satiated (feeling full), so eat more slowly to give your brain the time it needs to perceive that you are full.

Be diet-free and healthy!
Healthy eating habits balanced with exercise are all you need to maintain your ideal body weight. If you are overweight and need to lose a few kilos, you may need to adjust what and how much you eat, or burn a few more kilos, but scratch the word ‘diet’ from your plan. You’ll get there, and the result will be way more sustainable.

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