Grain-free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian. Lots of meat, no meat at all, red wine is good, red wine is bad, gluten is the worst. Ditto coffee. Are you confused?
Between advertising, marketing, regular media and social media it’s virtually impossible to get a clear understanding of what exactly you should eat to be healthy. Likewise if your goal is weight loss.
If you’re female, you’ve probably tried at least one fad diet, meal replacement, detox or calorie controlled diet to lose weight. If you’re like me, a child of the 80s and 90s, you’ve probably tried all of those, several times. Maybe you’re still trying.
Back then, diets were targeted at weight loss: Get your bikini body, Lose weight before the date, Drop 5 kilos in 5 days.
The emotional appeal was your self-esteem. Skinny was beautiful, and we all wanted to be skinny. We’d try anything.
Diets were promoted in women’s magazines and on TV. It’s what your mum, your number 1 female role model, was reading, watching and doing. So were all the celebrities.
It may be generalising, but it’s not a stretch to see why many women of that generation have some level of dysfunctional thinking about food and body image.
And we’re still not sure what to eat.
In 2018, it’s even more emotive. In addition to being thin and beautiful, now we need to be healthy too. I’m not disputing that – chronic illness is, well, chronic, and it’s mostly due to poor to diet and lifestyle choices.
But now, we want to be thin, beautiful and healthy. And we’ll still try anything.
Every year a there’s a new diet. Everyone is talking about it and doing it. This isn’t new.
What’s new is that the messages are not just in magazines and on TV. They’re on your computer at work, on the side of the bus or train, in your social media, on food packaging, at the supermarket and pretty much wherever you go. And there are more of them!
The flavour of the day is the Keto Diet. This diet was developed for heart disease, Type II diabetics and obese patients, to reduce disease burden. It’s very successful. But are you in one of those categories? Do you have a plan for when you’re done ‘dieting’? Do you know the risks of excess ketones in the body? These are important questions.
Last year, it was the paleo diet. Lots of protein, no grains, no refined sugars. Again, great ideas and healthy, for the most part. Not so great if you have low stomach acids or enzymes required for protein digestion. Nor if you have kidney concerns, are time-poor, or actually poor – paleo involves lots of prep time, and quality meat is expensive. This doesn’t suit everyone.
What about the 5/2 diet? Eat whatever you like 5 days of the week, and fast on 500 calories for two days. Again, there are many benefits to short term fasting, but is this ‘lifestyle diet’ sustainable? And what of the people who simply overindulge on their 5 days off?
None of these diets – or the ones before them – make health or weight loss better for two main reasons:
- They are difficult to maintain long term
- People have very different nutrition and dietary needs
You can’t apply one ‘diet’ to everyone and expect it to fit.
You may see early results in both health and weight loss, but over time, as compliance drops, so does enthusiasm. A year later, old habits are most likely back. And you?re on to the next fad.
So how to get off this diet treadmill?
You eat real food, and foods that suit you, your body, age and your lifestyle.
Consider the dietary needs of these people:
- A 6-month old baby Vs a growing adolescent.
- A pre-diabetic mother Vs a mother with ‘a little baby fat’ to lose.
- A breastfeeding mother Vs a menopausal woman.
- A menopausal woman who runs 5 days a week and works full time Vs a menopausal woman who is 15kg overweight with a desk job.
- An elderly gentleman living alone Vs a 25yr old male in a share-house.
Can you see how much their needs differ?
And that’s without considering health factors:
- Do you have allergies or intolerances?
- Is your digestive function working well?
- Do you have high-blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes?
- Is your liver healthy?
- Can you process and digest fats properly?
At the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet.
Different people have different nutritional needs and those needs are always changing in response to our lives and lifestyles.
Fad diets come and go, but are not sustainable solutions for weight loss or health.
I’m all for making dietary changes, and if it’s weight loss you want (and need), then go for it!
But before you consider changing your diet, consider first whether the changes will suit you, your lifestyle, your family, your health and your purse strings.
And try to keep this in mind: your diet should refer to what you eat, not what you do.
Agnesa Simcic is an Accredited Nutritionist and Yoga Facilitator dedicated to helping women and their families keep healthy and happy, naturally. Find out more at www.wholefoodmama.com.au.