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A Healthy Attitude To: Dieting


A word that strikes fear into the hearts of some and the assumption of too much hard work in others. Many people associate diets with severe restriction, with sin foods, with punishment and with misery.

The word diet has been misrepresented, overused and abused by the latest fads, the ‘new things’ and the latest in ‘revolutionary eating’. The problem here is that there is nothing revolutionary, new or amazing here, diets follow the principle of a calorie deficit, which means eating less that you are burning on a daily basis.

So what is the best way to stay in a calorie deficit? What is the best way to diet?

The fact of the matter here is that ALL DIETS CAN WORK, provided they abide by two ‘rules’.

Firstly, that they put the individual into a calorie deficit, and secondly that you can adhere to it.

A UK based Randomised Control Trial study published in the British Medical Journal (Truby et al, 2006) compared four common diets for their efficacy. The study compared the Atkins, Rosemary Conley, Weight Watchers and Slim Fast interventions for their efficacy with 293 participants over 6 months. The study found that over the 6 months of the trial, ALL INTERVENTIONS brought about significant weight and body fat loss.

Calories IN vs Calories OUT

This study is not an exhaustive study, there are many more dietary approaches, each with the same underlying principle of eating less.

The results showed “All diets resulted in significant loss of body fat and weight over six months. Groups did not differ significantly but loss of body fat and weight was greater in all groups compared with the control group. [...] average weight loss was 5.9 kg and average fat loss was 4.4 kg over six months. The Atkins diet resulted in significantly higher weight loss during the first four weeks, but by the end was no more or less effective than the other diets.”

What does this mean?

Ultimately, a calorie deficit is the common denominator here, the proclaimed ‘answer’ or ‘best diet’ are merely marketing gimmicks. A dietary intervention is only ‘the best’ (for you), if you can stick to it and it puts you into a manageable calorie deficit. Intermittent Fasting, water cuts, low fibre etc are merely tools that can be used in some circumstances, but do not have to be used in every case.

A dietary intervention is only ‘the best’ (for you), if you can stick to it

There are certain interesting factors here to bear in mind.

Firstly, get an understanding of what you want. There are some diets that can result in faster weight loss in the short term than others, however these results will ultimately slow over the longer term and can result in weight regain if not followed up with appropriate habits and “lifestyle interventions involving dietary change, nutritional education, behaviour therapy and increased physical activity” (Astrub et al 2000, International Association of the Study of Obesity).

Is there the ‘best diet to follow’? No. Absolutely not. The best diet for what? Once you align your goals and understand what it is you want to achieve, then the principles can be applied to find the method that works best for you.

Secondly, find the best diet that YOU CAN STICK TO, this is the key to actually achieving your fat or weight loss goal in a calorie deficit. Sometimes this is the area that can confuse people most, if this is the case I strongly recommend getting some help. Seek some advice from an evidence based nutritionist who will help you find an answer for you, not fit you to a set of strict parameters around their bias.

Remember, it is the theoretical understanding that underpins the practical application. I give you the theoretical understanding, the ‘how to fish’, so that with some guidance, you may go forward with the practical application.

Theoretical understanding leads to the empowerment to see through the extensive and confusing marketing behind 'nutrition'.

For full details on references and more on this topic, or if you need some advice in your dietary approaches, reach out through the chat window in the bottom right of your screen, or get in touch HERE.