Image Attribution:Sonia Davis (PDP)
Australian obesity rates have skyrocketed from a mere 10% in 1980 to a whopping 28% of the current adult population. As a nation of healthy and trim individuals we are in danger of hitting American levels of excess weight. One of the biggest culprits in this change has been a surge in sales, portion size and sugar content of fizzy drinks. While there is controversy over introducing a sugar tax, many Australians seem keen to embrace a wide range of different diets in an attempt to control their weight. What should we look for when selecting a diet? Are all diets equal?
The Basics Of Dieting
In many ways, losing weight is a simple thing. The food we eat contains energy that our body uses. Everything our body does requires energy. If we use more energy than we take in we will use up our stored energy and actually lose mass. If we take in more energy than we use, our body will transform the excess energy into glycogen and fat. Mass can be lost by either increasing the amount of energy used or by decreasing the amount of energy taken in. Putting it another way – exercise more and/or eat less. But, the diet industry is worth $641million so surely there is something more to it?
Why The Fads Don’t Work
Fad diets can typically be spotted through their flashy celebrity endorsements, strict rules, exclusions and all manner of pseudo scientific language. At their core all of these fads are, essentially, just calorie constriction dressed up in new clothes. The danger with almost every one of these fads cannot be understated. The biggest issue is that this style of eating is known to be unsustainable. It is your habits and your attitude to food in general that needs to change rather than a short-term set of rules to “get summer ready” (or whatever).
The Dangers Of Carbohydrate Exclusion
Modern diets have an excess of carbohydrates, and almost everyone could do with restricting them to a degree, but complete exclusion is very dangerous. Experts have highlighted that the Atkins Diet (and others based upon it) cause serious issues with reduced vitamin and mineral intake, heart disease, kidney problems and liver issues. Even more seriously these diets have been linked to Type II diabetes too.
Cleanses, Detox And Flushes
Spending days just drinking diuretics to “flush out your system” might seem to make sense. The idea of removing the toxins from your body is an old one, but it makes no sense at all. Your body has perfectly good systems for removing the toxins from your blood and by drinking excess diuretics you just put more strain on those systems. On top of this, diets of this kind just shed excess water from your body. Once you start to eat normal food again this weight will return. The dehydration, nausea and tiredness that will come with this diet stops it from being sustainable.
The Deadly Cotton Ball Diet
Soaking synthetic fibres, fibres your body can’t digest, in fruit juice and then eating them… this is unbelievably dangerous. The nutritional deprivation is bad enough but the risk of blockages and severe intestinal damage is far worse. This diet is more likely to lead you to the operating theatre than the body you dream of.
Dieting leads to booms and busts of weight gain and loss which puts an enormous strain on your body. Restriction and exclusion of food groups, strict rules on how food is prepared and bizarre new fads are simply not sustainable in the long term and will not change your habits. If you can only get through a diet by reminding yourself it will end when you hit a key weight, you will soon have piled on the pounds again.
The statistics on obesity rates in Australia are worrying but the solution is not expensive or flashy. The solution is to eat a balance of foods, in smaller quantities while undertaking moderate exercise frequently. Fad diets will see quick results but if you are going to undertake them then don’t bother to throw away your “fat clothes” as you will be back in them soon enough.