Why It’s Time to Ditch Diets
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a round table event on why diets fail, hosted by XLS medical. XLS Medical make slimming aids and, I’m not gonna lie – I arrived with my cynical cap on. I’ve always classed slimming adis in with diets as a whole – yet another cul-de-sac approach to weight-loss, which might provide a quick fix but will ultimately mess up our bodies even more in the long term.
I was pleasantly surprised, however, to enjoy a totally unbiased discussion of weight loss approaches and why diets, on the whole, completely fail. Even though I work in the modelling industry and have done ballet in the past, where eating tissue paper and cotton wool were a not-so-secret practice for some, I was pretty shocked at some of the diets touted by celebrities these days. Have you heard of the kale and chewing gum diet? Dear reader, it is exactly as you read: eat kale-based salads, and when you’re not eating kale…chew gum. Can you imagine what that would do to your teeth, let alone your body?!
Oh and there was the ‘Bulletproof Diet’. Here, participants enjoy a daily coffee with two tablespoons of butter (:-|) and a tablespoon of coconut oil, which has 400kcal per cup and more than the daily recommended allowance of fat.
People people people! Why do we do this to ourselves? We’re just trapped in this cycle of eating too much, feeling fear at an impending event/holiday and going on a crazy diet to lose weight and feel skinner. It’s panic-driven in most instances, which is the worst starting point for a life overhaul and explains why pretty much every diet ever attempted has failed to be maintained. They are unsustainable – worst of all, the more you diet, the more likely it is that you’ll become overweight.
That’s not to say that we don’t need a dramatic overhaul. I was truly shocked to hear that, by 2030, it’s projected that 63% of women and 73% of men will be overweight. That’s going to put a terrible strain on our NHS, and also means that so many of the children we’re raising now aren’t being fed a healthy diet and enjoying an active lifestyle. It’s easy to scorn those who live on takeaways and sit around watching TV, but society isn’t helping. Everytime I go to buy a newspaper, I have to avoid the cut-price, enormous chocolate bars at the counter. When Mum used to serve my meals, there was space on the plate – now when I serve myself my (huge) plate is loaded up – our portion sizes are far too big these days! Daily, we’ll pass, on average, 32 different fast food options…temptation is everywhere, and bad choices are habit forming.
So What Should We Be Doing?
We should take our inspiration from people, and populations, who are naturally slim. Remember what I said about changing our lives from panic? It should be more about a slow, inspired change than a dramatic overhaul. People who are naturally slim eat fruit and veg, they often sleep 7+ hours a night, they don’t deprive themselves but live by the mantra of a small treat every now and then won’t do you harm. The best example of this is the Mediterranean Diet – fruit and veg, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olive oil and oily fish, less red meat and modest wine consumption.
Healthy eating isn’t a chore, it’s a joy. Like this lunch, served at Bamford Spa, which gave me energy and happiness!
As someone who has tried many a fad diet, let me tell you – The Mediterranean approach really is the best approach! You’re not going to drop tonnes of weight immediately, but you are going to maintain a constant weight, plus when you go on holiday you can enjoy the food rather than watch all that calorie counting fly out the window!
Some Other Things I Thought You’d Find Interesting
How many people tried the 5:2 diet? What a lot of you ladies will have found is that your Dad/boyfriend/boy mate loves it, and has lost loads of weight…Whereas for us it made our bodies go a bit funny. Well, it’s not just that we’re eating too many cream buns on the ‘eat anything’ day…It’s because our hormonal balance is completely different, and doesn’t work well with this pattern of eating! So you can safely abandon this one, guilt-free.
Stop Sitting Down!
This one had a real effect on me. Fitness expert Jane Wake said that as soon as we sit down, our bodies shut down and don’t operate optimally. We’re designed to be on the move! Our recent generations have become increasingly sedentary; we should be walking, striding, standing, jogging, playing but we’re sitting down working, coming home exhausted and hoping for a seat on the train (or sat in traffic) then lounging in front of the TV.
Basically, every time you sit down, you should be thinking of how you can next be on the move. Swap your chair for a swiss ball, walk up the stairs/escalators and get out there and play with your kids if you can. Exercise doesn’t have to be an allotted hour, three times a week – it can simply be walking more.
Learn to Cook, and Find Ways Of Getting Extra Veg in There.
This really spoke to me. Can’t cook? Don’t buy Hemsley & Hemsley, get an O Level cookery textbook! According to food writer Helen Best-Shaw they are basic, easy to follow and will give you a great foundation in cookery techniques.
Because it turns out that, when most people see a recipe and it has more than 6 ingredients, they won’t go for it! The more you cook the more you learn how to substitute and adapt, but this is totally true for me. If I didn’t have one spice, I’d assume it would all taste wrong so I’d try a different recipe, rather than just going with the flow. Plus it can all add up, and fancy recipes require superfood powders that are £6+ a pop, meaning many people feel priced out of so-called ‘healthy’ cooking.
Cooking is fun and recipes are often only guidelines! Pic by Theo Games Petrohilos
So, you’re into your basic/spontaneous cooking – the next challenge is to always find ways of adding veg! You can grate courgette into your omelette, you can add carrot with humous as a quick and easy starter or you can make chocolate mousse with avocado – great for getting those extra nutrients, as well as filling you up and making sure you won’t snack!
Finally – It’s HOW You Eat!
Confession time. I often eat at my desk, watching something on Netflix and checking my Instagram while I chew.
Many’s the time I’ve eaten a wrap from Pret whilst pacing to my next casting.
I’ll also rush my food for no particular reason other than I live in London and I’m on flight-or-flight mode, all the time.
We should be eating socially, all together, chatting and tasting and sharing. We should be focusing on our food – the tastes, the textures and the delights. Even if, like me, you eat alone a lot, you can still set aside that 15 minutes or so to focus on what you’ve taken time to make and should therefore enjoy. When we rush and don’t pay attention to our food, we’re less likely to feel satisfied and, crucially, realise how much we’ve eaten.
I’d like to say a big thank you to XLS Medical and Frank PR for hosting this event. I felt that I learned a lot, as well as re-confirming how I feel about diets and faddy phases with food. And I no longer think slimming aids are a complete no-go – I can see that there are many commonly held misconceptions about them and that, in some circumstances, they can aid a persons weight loss when taken in conjunction with a sustainable, mindful and healthy diet and exercise regime.