• So..do ‘diets’ really work?



        There was a fascinating insight into the world of dieting this week with the start of a new series on BBC2 which reinforced all my beliefs that fad diets just don’t work. Whilst some of the failure statistics the presenter quoted may be under debate on today’s blogs and forums, the over-riding message that came across was that the concept of the modern day ‘diet’ is an industry fuelled by commercial enterprises with much charisma and a desire for large profit margins.

        Most honest of all was the former Financial Director of WeightWatchers who admitted that the reason the industry is so profitable is because, on the whole, the commercial diets tend to fail, so people return, spend more money and try again.

        It was also fascinating to hear that the industry effectively began back in the US when a statistician for a big insurance company re-defined the parameters of ‘healthy weight’, and in doing so, re-classified a huge proportion of possibly healthy Americans as being overweight. This was latched on to by the US Government and medical institutions, creating a perfect breeding ground for companies hoping to thrive on the guilt and worries of the population and create a solution to this new-found national neurosis.

        We undoubtedly have a growing obesity problem, not just in the UK, but worldwide, with the World Health Organisation now saying that obesity is a great problem than starvation globally.

        So is there a role for ‘diets’ or should we be looking for other solutions? iStock_000019276692XSmall

        Firstly, I prefer to use the term weight management. The words ‘diet’ and ‘weight loss’ imply deprivation, which automatically triggers a mindset of failure. Surely it’s better to embark on something positive and achievable which gives you lasting, healthy and sustainable results?

        Each person should be treated as a unique individual, recognising that weight issues can be caused by a variety of reasons, so it is too simplistic to say that merely eating less is the solution. If that were the case everyone would achieve their targets and we wouldn’t have a national crisis! For some it could be related to medical issues which need to be understood and addressed, such as adrenal insufficiency, thyroid problems, stress or prescription medication. For others, previous experiences and psychological issues can be the root cause.  How many of us were told as a child ‘Eat up – there are children starving in Ethiopia’? These childhood habits can stick and cause immense harm.

        Social factors also need to be looked at; in particular the way we now have constant access to convenience foods 24/7. We eat on the run, and eat mindlessly with little thought or understanding about what or how much we put in our mouths. Combine all these factors and you can see the problem.

        A lucky few might have the wherewithal to change their habits with little apparent effort and hit their goals on their own. However, there are many people who simply don’t have the know-how to unravel all these elements and get back on track.  For them, a structured plan can be useful and group programmes also have their benefits since peer support and encouragement will always help promote success. These things can be hard to achieve on your own!

        Rather than crazy fads, what we need are realistic and achievable ‘health’ programmes which offer long term re-programming of habits without doing anything extreme and harmful which will pile the pounds back on further down the line and leave a frustrating sense of failure.

        Ideally this should combine a medical overview to understand why weight might be increasing; education to learn how each food group is vital for health and wellbeing.

        For some, a group dynamic can help provide additional peer-group encouragement; also psychological support and motivational coaching can help explain habits and overcome barriers to success; but finally expert guidance is vital to develop new healthy habits which become a natural part of daily routine around real life which includes holidays, meals out, birthdays and festive meals. The secret is to learn a few healthy habits, relax around food, and most importantly discover how to enjoy it again.

        Poached salmon with avocado salsa

        So pack away those meal replacements, pills and extreme diet books and take a new approach. Focus on eating lots of the good and tasty stuff rather than obsessing about what you ‘can’t and ‘shouldn’t eat.

        Our practical and realistic weight management programme offers a unique approach combining my qualified nutritional support and advice, with motivational coaching and hypnotherapy provided by Marco from OpenMindz to offer the additional techniques which will help you reach your goals.

        The next 6 week Brighton and Hove Weight Management course starts on Tuesday 1 October in Preston Park, offering a small but supportive group environment. We know it works, so come and join us!

        Contact me for more information.