Are diets really effective?

MAGDALENA MARVELL, OUR RESIDENT NUTRITIONIST, DELVES INTO THE WORLD OF FAD DIETS AND ASKS IF THEY REALLY ARE EFFECTIVE?

Summer is often the time when people worry about finding the perfect diet to lose weight just in time for a beach holiday. But do diets really work? Yes, they do help you lose weight, but 95% of people who lose the weight by dieting will regain in one to five years. FAD diets often work as a temporary weight loss plan which promises dramatic results in a rather unrealistic timeframe. It will not last long term. So where can we find the best solution for healthy, long term weight control?

Many people prefer to follow fad diets instead of making an effort to change their eating and exercise habits allowing for long term and sustainable weight loss. People want to feel or look better or are worried about certain health concerns such as diabetes. Companies which promote quick fix diets take advantage of this aspect. Many of these diets require you to limit your food choices which may also limit the daily amount of nutrients that your body needs to support its functions.

Fad diets are extremely popular due to rapid weight loss over a relatively short period. In most cases, this is because you consume less calories than normal. Often with a fad diet you will focus heavily on what you are eating. Usually however most of the weight you lose is from water and lean muscle and not body fat. It is also difficult to follow the demands of a strict diet.

Limited food choices can also require you to eat the same foods over and over. Following a fad diet, it is not uncommon to regain the weight you lost.

Here are some recommendations for healthy sustainable weight loss:

• eat a variety of food to provide all the nutrients: mineral and vitamins that your body needs

• reduce sugar intake in your daily diet, examples of foods with hidden sugar are: protein bars (fruit sugars). Sugar is high in calories and low in nutrients. Sugar can also trigger inflammation in your body and alter the homeostasis in our microbiome.

• replace simple carbohydrates i.e.: white bread, pasta, crackers, croissant, cookies, biscuits, cereal, white rice with complex carbohydrates: wholegrain/wholemeal bread, brown rice, buckwheat and oats/porridge/ oatcakes, quinoa which provide sustainable energy and help you to feel more satisfied. Look at the labels on the back of products – anything with less than 5g of sugar in 100g of a product is considered low in sugar.

• reduce your calorific intake by reducing or eliminating sugary soda drinks, juices, and alcohol. Chose low sugar fruits such as berries or watermelon instead of juice. If you fancy the occasional alcoholic drink, choose white spirits as they are low in sugar. Drink at least 1.5/2l of water daily to stay hydrated.

• reduce caffeine (black tea and coffee) and alcohol (high in sugar, use gin and tonic with no sugar added as it is lower in sugar) intake, since it stimulates adrenal cortex to release more cortisol into the blood stream. Ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of protein, fibre and greens. This is important since cortisol promotes cravings of fat and sugar which might limit intake of healthy foods and increase fat storage.

• observe and limit your portion size. Swap the bigger plate for a smaller one, this will help you to manage your portions better and stops from overeating. Make sure that you split your meal evenly into thee portions: protein, vegetables and some carbohydrates ideally complex carbohydrates which provide a more sustainable energy source.

• ditch some of your daily habits such as going to the corner shop to buy a sweet treat on the way back from work. Perhaps change the route so you are not tempted to go there. Instead ensure that you have a healthy snack in your bag such as a bag of nuts or oat cakes to curb craving until you get home.

• make sure you exercise regularly. Regular exercise, four to five times a week, can naturally balance stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and keep your body weight under control. Physical activity also stimulates the release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. A sedentary lifestyle may increase ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and decrease ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Exercising and keeping active does not mean necessarily mean a daily trip to the gym. You can try to set reasonable goals and start from once or twice a week, getting involved in your kid’s sports activities or incorporating brisk walks between journeys to the shops or taking the stairs instead of an escalator?

• limit foods high in saturated fats found in animal products such as dairy, meats and also cakes, biscuits and pies. Swap for foods rich in essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 including: fish, nuts, seeds, olives, and olive oil.

• get eight hours of sleep! A lack of sleep is a common stressor that can be easily rectified. Those who get less than eight hours of sleep are far more prone to produce higher levels of cortisol which promotes cravings of sugary and fatty foods. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, natural remedies like chamomile tea may help.

• Manage stress and eliminate stressors – when you’re constantly being exposed to stress i.e. stress at work, vigorous exercise, physical stress, disturbed/ or lack of sleep it’s easy to see how your body would start to accumulate fat in the belly. An excess of cortisol circulating in the blood is good for emergencies but very bad when it circulates for a long period. High blood sugar levels caused by a constant barrage of cortisol promote storage of fat in the abdomen.

Healthy recipes with Magdalena

Magalena Marvell is a Nutritional Practitioner and Founder of the Persea Clinic which helps support clients who want to optimise their health in areas such as gut health, hormonal balance, skin conditions, weight management, family nutrition.

Roasted salmon with lentils

This is a really easy meal that you can put together in about 30 minutes. It is a light meal that feels wholesome due to the lentils and it being rich in Omega 3 (the good fats) which help us feel satiated and fuller for longer. Absolutely delicious during the summer months and has the added benefit to some of being both dairy and gluten free.

Ingredients:
• 2 eggs
• 250g bundle of asparagus, wooden ends removed
• 250g salmon fillets with skin removed
• 2 tsp olive oil
• ½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• ½ x 390g tin green lentils, drained
• 3 spring onions, sliced
• 10g fresh dill, chopped

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 190°C or 170°C for fan assisted. Boil a pan of water and add eggs then gently simmer for about 5 mins to achieve a runny yolk. Remove from the pan then run under cold water until the shells are cool enough to handle. Peel and set aside for later.
2. Add asparagus to a roasting tin and lay both salmon fillets over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and season salt pepper and the coriander seeds. Bake in preheated oven for 15 mins or until the salmon is cooked to your liking.
3. While the salmon is roasting add olive oil to a small fry pan and add the garlic. Cook for about 1 min until the garlic is slightly coloured then add the green lentils and sliced spring onions. Simmer for a further 3-5 mins then add salt pepper and dill.
4. Remove the salmon from the oven and serve with lentils, asparagus and halved eggs, garnished with a little extra dill and enjoy.