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Are diets doing more harm than good?


The clubs, organisations, diets and plans spreading across the world are meeting a general hunger for weight loss. Organisations like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Rosemary Conley and Slimming World create a sense of camaraderie that makes people stay with the programme. But with obesity an ever-growing problem, we have to ask:

Diets are supposed to limit the amount of calories you put in your body and encourage you to burn them off, often by combining a points system with specialist food and exercise

For many people, obsessive calorie counting does help in the short term. For others their days are filled by thinking about the food they can’t have. In interview, one lapsed diet club attendee said: “I didn’t use to think about food, much.

“When I was hungry, I would eat. I might have eaten unwisely, but I ate and then I got on with my life.

“On my diet, I felt hungry all the time. I thought about food every minute of the day. I was thinner, but I was also miserable, that’s for sure.”

Of course, it’s only one person’s experience and others are happy with the diet regime, at least while they are on it. Having a group to report successes to, or share failures, is a strong psychological spur for many to stay “on the wagon”.

The problem comes for some when they fall off the wagon. Facing all those friends they’ve “let down” can be demoralising and isolating. of course, the bright-eyed excitement of starting the next weight-loss programme soon wipes out any painful memories.

And with an industry worth $20 billion a year in the US alone, you can be sure you won’t have to wait long before another wagon comes along.

Some diet plans provide dieters with powdered drinks or such rigid regimes so devoid of nutritional content that the consumer cannot help losing weight – for a few months, at least.

Then, when he comes off the diet after achieving his ideal weight his body heaves a huge sigh of relief at not being starved any more, and it’s binge time!

Successively, year after year, he gains more and more weight as starvation mode kicks in after each diet, and his body stores extra fat in case it happens again.

For those disillusioned with diets, surgical options are open to them, such as liposuction or gastric bands. While the prospect of have a big hose stuck under your skin to suck out a layer of fat might seem radical and strange, it does hold an appeal for people at their wit’s end how to lose weight.

The same can be said of gastric bands, which appear at first sight to hold the answer to over-eaters by constricting the opening to the stomach.

What is not mentioned prominently in the literature for these are the complications, which include ulcers, erosion (in which the band migrates through the stomach to the inside, potentially causing severe illness), internal bleeding, infection and prolapse to name a few. a recent survey showed that a fifth of people with a gastric band fitted have to be readmitted to hospital, with many requiring further surgery.

Surely, there must be a better way? With the gimmicks, the money-making gadgets, bars, calculators and counter to one side, what does a person need to do to lose weight?

Clearly, people get fat for different reasons. For some, the nature of “emotional eating” means that food is a solace. Learning to find happiness elsewhere is a skill that involves looking at your whole life, rather than heaping all your hopes and fears on to a plate in front of you. For some “yoyo dieters” who take weight off and put it on again, thinking food is the problem actually is the problem. Instead of obsessively imagining that attaining an ideal weight will bring them happiness, simply learning to feel good about themselves in the first place will stop them eating all those sugars and fats just to feel good.

For others, there are genuine genetic factors to contend with, but even with these people, there is a very simple fact to consider. People lose weight if their calorific input is lower than their calorific output. To achieve that, they don’t need to starve themselves obsessively or run marathons.

They just need to change the relationship between what goes in and what they put out. Considering your life in the round, then, can ironically make you thin. It is not just a well-balanced diet you need. a well balanced life can bring the subtle change to finally tip the scales… in your favour! all those programmes to one side, deep down you know: if you eat less, you eat wisely and you exercise frequently ie. you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight!

The Best You

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