Crash Diets and Fad Diets and the Only Diet that Will Work for You
Fad diets and crash diets, such as the cabbage soup diet and Hollywood diet, are not only unhealthy but also tend to result in rebound weight gain. In other words, the weight you have lost is soon regained, either because the weight loss was mainly water, soon inevitably restored by the body, or because you cannot keep up a severely restrictive food diet for ever, or even for very long.
Crash diets dehydrate you, whilst low calorie diets put your body into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism since your body thinks itís starving and tries to conserve its energy supplies. This causes your weight loss to plateau and you are unable to lose any more weight. Very high protein diets can lead to a deficiency of some micro-nutrients and put a strain on the kidneys.
What you need is a sensible diet based on the sound principle that the amount of your daily energy expenditure needs to be greater than your energy equivalent of the food you eat. This, coupled with an increase in exercise levels to boost your metabolism, will lead to a steady, albeit gradual loss of weight.
Yes, it has to be gradual. You cannot really expect to lose more than a couple of pounds per week on a sensible diet, and so it will take several months to lose an appreciative amount of weight. This is better, surely, than making yourself ill or getting nowhere at all?
You need therefore to cut back your daily calorie input by a small amount, probably 2-300 calories, whilst maintaining a healthy and varied diet. The key to a healthy diet is that it should contain roughly one third of each of the main groups of foods, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and not too much of any one group.
Protein is essential for body growth and repair, but you donít need to worry about getting sufficient as it is present in meat, fish, and many vegetarian foods such as beans and pulses. Most people get enough protein in their diet without having to think about it. Unfortunately, some meats, particularly red meats, are high in unhealthy fats called saturated fats, so for this reason it is best to moderate consumption of red meat.
Fat has had a bad press over the last few decades, being overly blamed for obesity amongst our Western society. Eat too much fat and you get fat, sounds plausible, but many now think that itís not quite as simple as that. The fact is that we need some fat in our diets, for normal brain and nervous system function, for the utilisation of fat soluble vitamins, amongst other things. Fat is also a source of energy. Too much fat may be bad for us, and certainly too much saturated fat, since this is implicated in the formation of atheroma, causing artery and heart disease.
It is now recognised by many that carbohydrates are the main culprits when it comes to putting on excess weight in our Western society. Because carbohydrates are cheaper to produce than protein, they are incorporated by food manufacturers into almost all their foodstuffs, from tomato sauce, breakfast cereal, ready-meals, canned beans, to the more obvious cakes, biscuits, and breads.
Moreover, these carbohydrates are refined, which means, despite the name, that they are actually bad for us. This is because they are so rapidly digested and absorbed by the body that they cause sudden surges in blood sugar levels, which is not a healthy state of affairs.
Our blood sugar levels need to stay fairly constant, and repeated sudden surges have to be corrected by our bodyís regulatory system using insulin. Excess glucose in the blood is removed, converted to fat, and, because there is no immediate need for it to be used for energy, it is converted to fat, and stored in the body leading to weight gain.
Our healthy diet then, should be one where calories are reduced, mainly at the expense of refined carbohydrates, but still consist of roughly one third each of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, plus plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables for their essential content of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
The diet I have described is virtually the same as the Mediterranean diet, incorporating as it does, lean protein, mono-saturated oils such as olive oil, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. If you cut back on refined carbohydrates, substituting whole-grain breads and pasta for white, and copy the diet of the Mediterranean people, you can lose weight while staying healthy.
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