We ask three leading health nutritionists to cut through the diet myths and fads, common problems weight watchers make and their pet hates.
JESSICA RUESCHER, Accredited practising dietitian
Essence of Eating
Improving your diet means you need to go without flavour
This couldn’t be further from the truth! Why not try these nutritious ways to add flavour to foods include fresh or roasted garlic and onion, fresh and dried herbs and spices, pepper, chilli, lemon and lime juice and zest, olive oil, vinegar and homemade marinades and spice rubs.
Fad diets help with weight loss in the long term
We live in a society where we are surrounded with the latest fad diet, promising quick results. Research shows that 95 per cent of people who go on a weight-loss diet regain the weight within six months. About 60 per cent of those put more weight back on from when they started. It’s this fluctuation in weight which can increase inflammation in our body and can contribute to an increase risk of morbidity.
My pet hate
The never-ending release of yet another fad diet promoting weight loss
As weight-loss diets don’t work in the long term, it frustrates me that people are led to believe that the latest diet will suddenly be the magic bullet. It’s no wonder so many people are confused and get stuck in the dieting cycle.
Lack of variety, sticking to the same foods and getting bored
When trying to improve dietary intake, people often feel they must stick to one limited diet plan. This only lasts a short time before you will likely get sick of the same foods, developing cravings for alternative foods. Reflect on whether that approach is really going to work for you in the long term.
Having an “all or nothing” approach
Often people have great motivation at the beginning of their health kick, but put so much pressure on themselves to have the perfect diet. What happens when you are invited to dinner, or you have a wedding or after work drinks? Social events are inevitable and should contribute to our enjoyment, of food, drinks and socialising, not make us feel guilt and deprivated. Aim for the 80/20 rule: 80 per cent of the time enjoy wholesome nutritious food choices, 20 per cent of the time relax a little and enjoy life without the guilt. It’s about balance, right?
Body Balancing Nutrition
Food myths have always been around, and they add to the confusion of “what do I actually eat?” Common myths that often surround diets include: you have to eat less to lose weight; fats are bad; all calories are equal and diet shakes do work.
Eating a well-balanced diet and ensuring you’re eating enough is super-important. I have seen many people who are exercising, but not meeting their energy requirement and therefore not able to shift weight. Fats tend to get a bad rap, but not all fats are equal. Our bodies require healthy fats to support energy levels, brain health and balance hormones, so having plant-based fats in moderation is essential.
Slim/diet shakes are full of additives and preservatives, and are not a sustainable way of eating, contributing to fat and muscle loss, which is not what we want.
My pet hates
‘My diet starts on Monday’
A number one pet hate for me, as every day is a new opportunity to make better health choices, and often in this case there will be a new excuse to quit the current diet by Friday.
It may work for some, but we need to stop focusing on numbers and encouraging people to choose foods based on their nutritional content.
Getting on the scales daily
Another number association which can be really disheartening and cause someone to go more off track with their eating. I encourage my clients to focus on how their clothes are feeling rather than a number.
Quick fixes and shortcuts to weight loss
I believe there is no fast track to weight loss and you must put in the effort to get the results. There is no magic pill or shake that is going to be more beneficial than wholesome foods such as proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains and plant fats. People are falling into this trap far too often.
Common problems occurring when trying to lose weight include under-eating, replacing food with coffee, skipping protein at breakfast and mindless eating.
It’s crucial to fuel the body with enough food and to follow a simple plan that is comprised of real wholefoods. Long-term sustainability is the key to overall long-term health and wellness, so it needs to be realistic for your lifestyle.
When evaluating our own nutrition, it’s important to also look at outside factors which may also be attributing to our health and weight problems such as high stress, lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle.
DEBORAH KERR Associate Professor, researcher, dietitian
School of Public Health at Curtin University
A common diet myth is the “Dietary Guidelines don’t work”. That’s because Australians are not following them consistently. Australians eat only about half the recommended daily serves of two fruits and five vegetables and are not eating enough wholegrain foods. Australian diets are also low in calcium-rich foods, like milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives, which are essential for bone health.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines are based on scientific evidence and provide advice on the amount and kinds of foods people need to eat for health and wellbeing, including people wanting to maintain a healthy weight. If people followed the Dietary Guidelines we could eradicate the obesity problem in Australia.
My pet hate
Fad diets promoted by celebrities
These exclude whole food groups, such as wholegrain breads and cereals and calcium-rich foods whilst promoting excessive protein intakes. A healthy diet includes a variety of nutritious foods from each of the five food groups - fruit; vegetables and legumes; grain foods; lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu; milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends the daily serve for lean red meat is 65g. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting the consumption of red and processed meats for preventing certain cancers, for example bowel cancer, to no more than three serves per weekand eating more wholegrains, vegetables, fruits and beans.
People need to take a long-term view, after all changing eating habits is not easy. It takes patience and practice when trying to adopt healthier habits.
Being too restrictive with intake can lead to feelings of “being on a diet” and a cycle of dieting and overeating. Remember that diet is half of the equation — being physically active is also important for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. For those wanting to lose weight, reducing the intake of junk foods, sugary drinks and alcohol and adding an extra serve of fruit and vegetables every day is a great place to start.
This article originally appeared on The West