Is there such a thing as a weight loss diet? Well, the answer is quite straightforward – depending on who you ask. Globally, the weight loss industry is worth a staggering US$586.3 billion as of 2014 and they will most definitely answer this question with a big fat YES.
Turn your eyes to the holistic health community and most nutritionists will agree that there is no such thing as a weight loss diet. Having said that, there are, of course, diets that will make you lose weight and quite quickly at that. Confused? I am not surprised because the problem starts with the word ‘diet’. It implies a sudden and drastic change in eating habits, often involving severe calorie restriction or exclusion of several food groups. Dramatic short-term changes will lead to dramatic short-term results at the cost of your health and sanity.
If you would like to lose 2 stone in 4 weeks or shrink by 3 dress sizes in a month without giving a second thought to your wellbeing and long-term health, then please, by all means, subscribe to the Atkins, Weight Watchers, Slimming Worlds and Lemon Detoxes of this world. Don’t, however, expect the new ‘You’ to last for very long! While some weight loss methods are rather dubious, others are based on real science but all of them fail to do one thing; none of those slimming giants educate their devotees about real lifestyle changes that are sustainable. You might leave the village hall 3 stone lighter but once you are in your own home things go downhill very quickly. Not just because you haven’t been provided with real, healthy and sustainable food and lifestyle choices, but your body is still recovering from the shock of starvation. Besides, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life meticulously counting points, studying labels or having ice baths followed by a couple of strong espressos.
The body’s own way of conserving energy is the downfall of most, if not all, weight loss diets. No matter what angle they are coming from, whether low carb, high protein or both, severe calorie restriction is always a feature. When supplying your body with less calories than it needs to perform even basic but essential tasks such as digesting and breathing (known as your basal metabolic rate), warning signals will go off in certain parts of the brain. Your master metabolism gland, the thyroid, will then down-regulate all bodily processes in order to conserve energy so you can perform essential biological functions necessary for living. As a result, your energy output can be significantly reduced and whilst you might lose a lot of water, or even muscle mass, you won’t necessarily be burning any fat. The body will sense this dramatic reduction in calories as a significant threat, putting a lot of stress on the body and increasing hunger, thus making it really hard to stick to your super low intake. As a result, most people who severely restrict calories tend to ‘crash’ and give up after a few weeks or indulge in a big binge which can increase cravings and weight gain. At this point, we’ll observe the popular Yo-Yo effect of serial dieters. Besides being caught in a vicious cycle of food restriction and over-indulgence, severe calorie restriction puts you at risk of considerable nutrient deficiencies.
In short, the real and full answer to the question is no, there is no such thing as a weight loss diet that will bring long-term results with optimum nutrition. Nothing that is called a ‘diet’ should be embarked on in the first place, not if you’re taking your health seriously. But surely – there must be a way to lose weight effectively, healthily and able to stay off long term? This time, the answer is a firm YES! It’s not called a ‘diet’ though, but a lifestyle change that will be sustainable for the rest of your life.
After indulging in some recreational research and seeing many clients with weight loss issues, I have come to the following conclusion: Whilst having to respect and acknowledge everybody’s biochemical and genetic individuality, there is one basic programme or lifestyle that will enable the majority of people to live a life at their optimum weight, with superior nutrition and the best defences against chronic disease (including small variations on an individual basis).
Surprisingly it sounds quite simple. All you have to do is eat what your body was made for. The optimum diet (in the sense of eating habits) would be very close to those of our stone age ancestors. Also referred to as a Palaeolithic lifestyle, you don’t have to start sharpening your spears and fastening your mammoth skin boots just yet! You just
need a little imagination of what life would have been like in such prehistoric fields and forests…. You would have been foraging for nuts, seeds, some berries and mushrooms, you would have found an abundance of green leaves, wild vegetables and discovered the nourishing benefits of roots! You would have made frequent trips down the river to fish for all sorts of sea life and you would have collected all those juicy mussels, shrimp and crayfish. If you were lucky you would have caught a wild beast every now and then without getting killed in the process and you would have feasted on succulent meat and nourishing offal. The animal’s fat would have been a much longed-for source of energy and even the bones would have been made into a warming and delicious broth. Once a year, in late summer, you would have indulged in the sweet ripeness of all sorts of fruit and consumed sufficient fructose to accumulate layers of fat to see you through the winter months. We should keep in mind that you would have also eaten some overripe, naturally fermenting fruit with a considerable alcohol content!
I am sure stone-age life was not as idyllic as I just made it out to be but from a health and weight point of view, it must have been paradise on earth!