They say you should detox

If you own a liver and kidney you are detoxing 24/7. Check if you have these and if you do, don’t panic. To help them along keep well hydrated and don’t drink alcohol in excess.

They say you should cut out sugar

I recently had a visit in clinic from a journalist from ‘buzzfeed’ who wanted my expert opinion on the sugar free craze that she intended to embark on for journalistic purposes- she shares her experience here. As well as a biology lesson, I gave her the bottom line… excess sugar over and above your body’s fuel requirements will require storage. Whether this ‘sugar’ comes from a packet of jelly babies or quinoa, when broken down, the body makes no distinction. Clearly one is better for us than the other though, which is the why the notion of a sugar free diet is nonsense.

A diet low in excess free sugars (either those added by a manufacturer or you before you eat it), is clearly what matters for a diet to be a healthier one.

They say you should fast 2 days a week

Intermittent fasting, more commonly known as the 5:2 diet is gathering momentum and has some good research to support it. Whether it is superior to traditional calorie restriction is yet to be proven in humans, however the rodents reading this may want to try it with more conviction.

If you’re highly motivated and a stubborn as a mule you should make it through your fasting days unscathed. If you have a demanding job or are looking after small children you may want to reconsider for sanity reasons.

They say you should eat like a caveman

The Paleo concept in its strictest form excludes all grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined oils. As a result you’re left with lean meats, eggs, vegetables, nuts and seeds which translates into a high protein, low carb approach.

Achieving a good proportion of protein within the diet is important for many reasons, satiety (fullness) being one of them, which is obviously key when considering weight loss. The extremes of the paleo diet though lack good reasoning.

The reality is, the diet of our ancestors developed based on the foods available to them and for this reason there wasn’t just one type of paleo diet. Indeed many of the plants available to them then, are no longer in existence today. Whether or not these plants were crushed by a giant Tesco superstore we don’t know, but what we do know is there is no good reason to avoid good quality grains or dairy in the diet. They are an essential source of vitamins and minerals and have a significant role to play in disease prevention; diseases from which our ancestors, with shorter life expectancies were unlikely to have developed.

Achieving your nutritional requirements is more complicated when avoiding large food groups so if you’re considering this, do so with the right rationale.

They say you should eat ‘clean’

I don’t know about you, but I always take a shower in the mornings and therefore consider myself to be nice and clean when I eat. Is this what is meant by eating clean? Apparently not.

The definition is open to interpretation and not surprisingly it’s not a scientific term. In essence it refers to eating nothing processed. This concept is not a bad one but preparing absolutely everything from scratch all the time may be challenging and unnecessary. In reality not all processed foods are bad for us (take tinned tomatoes, pulses or marmite for example)

Overly obsessing with the cleanliness of one’s food, can ultimately have the exact opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve… a socially isolating diet of poor nutritional quality.

My message to you

Look beyond the faddy headlines to what these so called amazing diets all have in common…

  • They force you to raise your awareness of your eating habits.
  • They make you more aware of what you put in your mouth.
  • They control portion size or at least make you think about it.
  • They advocate a reduction of processed foods (where additional fats, sugars and salt can be found)

Research into the most successful diet concluded the simple truth; the most effective diets for weight loss are in fact those that are easiest to stick to. However, by talking about weight loss I feel we’re slightly missing the point. All diets will produce weight loss by manipulating the number of calories you take in, but is it not maintenance of that weight loss that you’re actually after?

To achieve that you need to create your own set of ‘rules’ which are jargon free and don’t promise the impossible.  They need to work for you and fit into your lifestyle forever. Consider the quantity of food you consume, the number of fresh ingredients versus packaged foods and your macronutrient balance! Not a simple task I grant you, and that’s where registered dietitians can help.


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“Lemon” by André Karwath aka Aka – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –