“Diets, Diets, Diets.” That seems to be the hot topic on everyone’s lips leading up to summer. Alas, the annual quest for a toner, leaner, more defined physique begins, but with the vast amount of information on dieting, nutrition and looking good, which ones actually work? Let’s take a look at three popular diets and find out what exactly makes a diet work for you.
The Atkins Diet has been widely popularised because of the rapid changes dieters see in their weight. The diet works by switching your body into a state of ketosis, using fat as the main source of energy instead of carbohydrate, thus inducing drastic weight loss. Dieters follow a regimented 4-stage eating plan. The first stage is a two-week induction phase where only fats, meats and certain cheeses are allowed, and starchy carbohydrates, fruits, nuts and legumes are kept to an absolute minimum. Following which, selected carbohydrate portions are gradually increased with each subsequent phase, and done so until the desired weight is achieved.
Celebrities who have been on the Atkins Diets include Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
- Good for people who are pre-diabetic and those with type II diabetes.Works well for people who are overweight and need to lose fat fast. Great for meat lovers, given that it is a high fat, high protein diet.
- Weight loss in the first week or so is mostly due to water loss from the body.
- It is non- sustainable in the long term.
- Depravation from carbohydrates can cause one to ‘rebound’, and over indulge in sweets when getting off the diet. (So don’t be surprised when you are heavier than when you first got on the diet!).
- While it allows for unlimited saturated fat, it does not specify the need for organic saturated fats. The increasing incidence of heart disease and high cholesterol nowadays is due to the accumulation of trans-fats, plastics, chemicals and stress hormones in non-organic animal fats.
- High amounts of protein at any one time can also increase insulin (the storage hormone) secretion substantially, causing fat to be stored instead of lost.
SOUTH BEACH DIET
Founded by Arthur Agatston, MD, the South Beach Diet has had a following of big names such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Jessica Alba, and our very own Nicole Kidman. This diet is based on the theory that cutting out ‘bad’ fats and carbohydrates will help your body lose weight and be less susceptible to heart disease, thus helping you become healthier and slimmer.
Unlike the Atkins, the South Beach Diet does not restrict carbohydrate portions per se, but emphasizes the use of ‘good’ low glycemic (GI) carbohydrates ( carbohydrates that do not cause a sudden spike in our blood sugar levels) over ‘bad ’ high GI ones, such as highly processed foods, sweets and soft drinks. It also distinguishes between ‘good’ unsaturated fats and ‘bad fats’ like saturated fats and trans fat, both of which is believed to increase in the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. The diet is divided into three different phases all of which include specific allowable foods, meal plans and recipes.
- Ideal for people who want a rough outline on nutrition rather than a structured program.
- The focus on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates has been found to decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and help with type 2 diabetes.
- Carbohydrates are not cut out completely, but are substituted by ‘good’ low GI carbohydrates.
- There is no need to count calories or weigh foods on this diet.
- The diet can be a slippery slope for carbohydrate addicts, as no clear guidelines about portion sizes or grams are given. This is left open to the dieter’s interpretation and may lead to overeating.
- Focusing on the Glycemic index (GI) can be rather misleading and cannot be taken as an absolute indication for healthy living. For example, French fries have a lower GI than baked potatoes, but that does not mean it is a healthier option.
Created by Dr Barry Sears, the Zone Diet was not originally intended for weight loss diet but in fact, had an initial focus of decreasing heart disease. The diet focuses on the consumption of a correct ratio of food groups, in particular each meal should comprise of 40% carbohydrates: 30% protein: 30% fat. By keeping to this optimal ratio, our body’s sugar and fat storage hormone – insulin, will not be over secreted at any one time. This means reduced inflammation, more sustained energy, a better metabolism and the best part of all, the weight falls off. Celebrities including Madonna, Demi Moore, Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston have all claimed success with the Zone diet.
- Places a focus on lean protein and ‘good cholesterol’ which is healthy for your heart.
- No specific foods are forbidden, thus giving the dieter a wider variety to choose from.
- While an ideal ratio is specified, the total amount of food to be consumed within each meal is not. Eating large quantities, despite keeping a ratio does not make it healthy to the waistline!
- The Zone can be time consuming as food has to be prepared in a fixed proportion. Inconvenience can often deter dieters from reaching their goals.
While all 3 celebrity diets are helpful in losing weight in their own right, dieters often cannot sustain the results of the diet, leading them to put on more weight than when they first started. Oprah, for instance, has been on almost every diet known to man, only to see her weight ‘yo-yo’ up and down. This is known as the ‘rebound effect’. The stricter the diet and the more emotional suppression the dieter goes though, the larger the rebound effect. Frequent yo-yoing also impairs the proper functioning of the thyroid gland (this is the centre that regulates our metabolism), and leads to drastic weight gain.
Diets may work better for one individual over another. This highlights one fundamental truth – that we are all different in body chemistry and physical structure, and therefore have different nutritional requirements. Unless we are eating what our body really needs, it is not going to be helpful to our weight nor health in the long run. Severely low calorie diets have also been shown to increase cortisol (a stress hormone), causing abdominal fat and muscle breakdown.
So if you really what to shed those nasty kilos and keep it off for good, make sure to give these tips a go:
1. Make eating healthy a lifestyle, not a temporary band-aid.
A Diet (Pronounced ‘die-it’) as its name suggest, is a means to an end. By making a lifestyle choice to nourish your body with healthy produce, you will keep that weight off for good.
2. Stop counting calories!
While calories do have a part to play in the dietary equation, they also discount the importance of other elements in foods such as vitamins, mineral and phytochemicals. These are essential for maintaining the optimal health of our bodies as well as facilitating the absorption of nutrients, without which our bodies breakdown and are more susceptible to disease.
3. Do not just focus on weight loss.
Often initial dietary weight loss can be due to the loss of water (not fat, as you would be led to believe!). Learn to rely on other signs such as how your clothes fit, muscle tone and overall fitness levels.
4. Specific foods stimulate specific hormonal responses.
For instance, while pound for pound carbohydrates have the same calorie count as protein; it stimulates insulin more than any other food! Insulin is a storage hormone that is responsible for reducing blood sugar and storing fat.
5. Aim to have protein in every meal.
Protein sources such as meat, fish and eggs not only increases the satiety of the meal, keeping you fuller for longer, but also increases your metabolic rate. In fact, having protein in the morning has been found to stimulate neuro-peptide Y, a neurotransmitter manufactured in the gut which is responsible for feelings of motivation. Thus a good hearty breakfast sets you up for the day and can help you make better decisions.
6. Stick to nature.
Because our bodies are organic, it is best suited to handle foods that are natural. Unprocessed, organic foods contain a higher amount of vital nutrients and are not adulterated with artificial chemicals and pesticides. By opting for fresh organic produce as often as you can, you will ensure that your body has the nutrition it needs for optimal living.
7. Stay off packaged, canned and preserved foods.
Such foods are known to contain large amounts of xeno-estrogens and ‘plastic- like’ molecules which our bodies are unable to breakdown. According to Renowned Strength Charles Poliquin, our inability to detoxify such estrogens effectively often results in fat storage specifically around the thigh and hamstring region.
8. Eat fat to burn fat.
Due to our diets of modern foods, our bodies severely lack omega-3, an essential unsaturated fatty acid. Omega-3s contribute to the optimal functioning and integrity of all our cells. A high quality fish-oil such as Poliquin or Nordic Naturals is regulated by the highest standards in the industry and can provide a much needed supplementation our diets. The benefits of increasing our Omega-3 intake include weight loss, improvement of cognitive ability, and overall cell health.
9. Eat and enjoy your foods slowly.
Taking time to chew and taste the flavours, will not only promote better digestion, it will also ensure that you do not overeat.
10. Exercise with weights.
Research has found that you would reach your maximum weight loss potential after only 6 weeks of continuous aerobic cardio (that’s right, all those extra miles on the treadmill won’t do you any good), and in fact, can make you fat around the belly region. By using weights, you are building lean muscle tissue. Every extra pound of muscle actively tones your figure and burns an extra 70 calories a day!