New year’s resolutions are usually all about eating healthier, exercising more, losing weight, or feeling better overall… and we all know that all of these things can’t happen without focusing on food. but…
"Eating healthy is impossible."
We've all thought it. We’ve all said it. And many of us believe it so the point where we won’t even try.
The main reason is because there has been such a large jump in the number of fad diets out there, supported by wellness gurus and celebrities, who claim these diets to be the secret to a new, healthier, more attractive and energetic you.
And with 2018 well and truly upon us, your social media feeds, screens, and web pages will be filled with celebrities and self-appointed nutrition ‘experts’ promoting their latest fads, products and programs – many promising way more than they can possibly achieve.
As I’ve always said in the past though, healthy eating is not difficult. It is so achievable and most importantly, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. So, to help you decide on how to become a ‘healthier you’ in 2018, I’m going to tell you about the diets you should steer clear from. These diets may work in the short-term, may help you lose weight, may help you feel better; but trust me, in as little as a few days ‘off’ the diet, you will probably gain the weight, feel worse than you did at the beginning, and feel totally miserable.
So let’s avoid all these situations by not even going on a ‘diet’ to begin with… especially none of the following:
1. The alkaline diet
This diet claims that by changing the foods you eat, by having more “alkaline” and less acidic foods, the pH balance of your blood will change and will therefore reduce many health risks. Of all health risks, the most harmful, dangerous and wrong claim has been that this diet can treat cancer.
And guess what? It never actually has cured anything, let alone cancer.
Of course, encouraging people to eat more fresh veg is a good thing, but the pH of your food will not have an impact on the pH of your blood – and you wouldn’t want it to! Your body is perfectly capable of keeping its blood within a very specific pH range (between 7.35 and 7.45). If it fails to do so you would become very ill very quickly and die if not treated! Diet can change the pH value of urine, but this is not related to the pH of your blood, which cannot be affected by diet.
So, the only pro about this diet is its encouragement to eat more veg and the reduction of ‘processed’ foods – but if you do those things even without following this diet, you’d probably get the same outcomes. So I’m sorry alkaliners out there, but this diet just a big fat alka-lie!
2. The ketogenic diet
This one is basically the Atkins diet, where you eat a very low carb (around 20-50g per day), relatively high in fat, moderate protein diet. It restricts many essential food groups like grains, dairy, legumes, soy, most fruits and starchy vegetables.
Now, in any situation, if you restrict that amount of carbohydrate from your diet, the body switches from burning carbohydrates to burning fat for energy. This increases the levels of ketones in your body, and this system is claimed to be good for weight loss, hunger control and overall health. Sometimes, people will wrongfully claim it to prevent/treat cancer as well. (it always seems to go back to cancer… can people just stop?!)
Anyway, a dietitian-developed ketogenic diet is effective in only specific cases, like neurological disorders (i.e. epilepsy). But, for weight-loss – sure, it will work. But only for a limited amount of time. Your body holds nearly 3g of water weight with every gram of carbohydrates you eat. So when you cut the carbs, you’re losing water weight. That’s it. And can you guess what happens when you add the carbs back in? … Your body will fill up with water again. This makes it very unsustainable in the long-term.
It is never a good idea to ‘over-restrict’ any one food group (including carbohydrates), because it makes it more difficult to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
3. The detox diet
The allure of this diet is strong, which is why it’s been around for years. When we hear that something is going to get rid of everything ‘bad’ inside us, like chemicals and toxins, of course we’ll jump on board. But as good as it sounds, it’s not the best thing to do. It’s not healthy, and can be pretty darn harmful as well.
This diet comes in many versions – because it’s got to stay exciting, right? There is the apple cider vinegar detox, the lemon detox, the ‘tea’-tox, the activated charcoal detox… You bloody name it! But they all claim to do the same thing… Miraculously make us feel and look awesome in days!
While it’s true that drastically cutting out food from our day will have some short-term pros, like weight loss – there are some serious down-sides to detoxing. With weight loss comes muscle loss, because you are depriving your body of the nutrients that feed your muscles, like proteins and carbohydrates. And as soon as you’ve stopped the detox, your weight will stack back on, with interest, but your muscle mass would have decreased. Horrible right? The body is not fooled easily, trust me.
While detoxing, you will feel like absolute crap – mood swings, headaches, lethargy… So if you want to detox, make sure you’ve set a few days aside to stay in bed. And most importantly, while detoxing, you’re not actually ‘detoxing’ anything – your body doesn’t need to detox… Our organs like our livers and kidneys ‘detox’ for us every single day, every single hour and every single minute. If they didn’t, we’d all be dead. Fact.
So, in 2018, save yourself the headache (literally), and save yourself the money (some can cost up to $500). Let’s leave detoxes in the 2017.
So what can you do?
Know that there is no ‘perfect’ diet. The only way to eat healthy is to know that you’re not going to do it perfectly.
Think about balance.
Boring, I know. But it works. I’m serious.
Try to avoid restricting anything, and live by the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time eating wholesome foods from all the food groups, and 20% of the time, eating other foods intuitively, WITHOUT feeling bad about it. Eating should never feel like punishment, and try to not get sucked in by extreme messages like I discussed above. Making diets too complicated and hard just makes us want to give up before even beginning – don’t you think that it’s better to change one small thing at a time and allowing these changes to last years, instead of making drastic changes all at once, only for a few days?
All diets around the world have one thing in common: eating lots of veggies and reducing the amount of processed and packaged foods. And that is essentially the basis of a healthy diet. Keep it simple, and you’ll find that it actually isn’t difficult at all!
Instead of ‘dieting’, try these things in 2018:
Drink at least 2L of water, especially on hot days. Yes, this goal always tops my list.
Limit eating out and take away to no more than once a week
Add a vegetable serve to each meal and/or snack.
Sauteed spinach and mushrroms with your eggs in the morning
Cucumber sticks with cheese and dip
Roasted veggies in your sandwich at lunch
A handful of spinach in your fruity smoothie
Vegetarian dinner meal at least once a week
Do something active every day, even if it lasts 10 minutes on some days. As long as you move your body in any way, you will reap the benefits.
Finally, don’t forget that I am here to guide you through any difficulties with healthy eating. It is my job to make your life easier, by providing with easy ideas to help you realise that healthy eating is most definitely not impossible. Contact us here to find out how you can start 2018 on a high, and stay there!
Happy New Year!
Lots of love,
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian, Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.