Do diets really work, or are they just DANGEROUS?
The type of diet an individual goes on depends on the aim of the diet and how quickly they want results. It may also depend on what is popular at the time. Recent ‘food fad’ the Atkins diet was all the rage in the early-2000s, mainly due to celebrity endorsement.
However, such extreme crash diets do not work because they ignore the real issue, which is the reason for the weight gain in the first place. Another reason why they fail to produce results long-term is that they are either too difficult to maintain or simply too dangerous to keep up for extended periods. (see article Do Diets Really Work)
Cabbage soup diet
People looking to shift up to 10lbs in a week often turn to this diet. This regime involves eating just one food – cabbage soup – for seven days.
What you can’t eat: Everything else.
What are the benefits? A quick fix.
What are the risks? There is no balance to this diet – no protein, no carbohydrate. Despite being able to eat unlimited amounts of cabbage soup, the dieter will feel very hungry and, if continued for more than a week or so, the body will start lacking essential vitamins and minerals that are needed for operation.
How does it work? This diet is low in fat and calories, and because of this the weight does fall off. However, this weight is lost mainly in the form of water and will be regained as soon as the dieter resumes their normal eating habits.
Does it work? In the short term this will work, but it doesn’t promote a healthy attitude towards dieting.
Low calorie diet
Calorie counting (or point counting) can be very successful. However, individuals must have a reasonable idea of their previous intake and actual daily calorie demands from their body to make this work.
What you can eat: Fruit, vegetables, fish, chicken, rice.
What you can’t eat: Cakes, sweets, chocolate, fats, alcohol.
What are the benefits? An effective way to analyze energy intake and restructure diet. A good way to slowly lose weight.
What are the risks? Significant cuts in calories can result in lethargy, hunger and tiredness and if the calories are not cut from the right food groups, fat intake may still be too high and weight will not be lost. Diet must also be balanced to ensure individuals get all necessary vitamins and minerals.
How does it work? Exceeding the recommended daily calorie intake causes the body to store the excess as fat, so adhering to this daily allowance means weight should not be gained through calorie intake.
Does it work? Although calorie counting can work, individuals must still be aware of their fat intake as well as ensuring they stay active.
Low carb diet
This diet’s been engineered to work by removing the more complex starches and sugars from your diet. You are encouraged to eat more fats on this diet (but only ‘good’ fats), but you are more likely to feel hungry as you do not have the steady-releasing carbohydrates in your diet.
What you can eat: Red meat, eggs, olive oil, cheese, poultry.
What you can’t eat: Fruit, pasta, rice, bread, soft drinks.
What are the benefits? You’re allowed to eat meats, cheese, fats – everything that is normally rationed in a diet!
What are the risks? Main risks are increased blood pressure, and lack of vitamins due to a reduced intake of vegetables and fruit.
How does it work? Removing the complex starches and sugars from your diet means that food taken into the body is immediately broken down and used.
Does it work? Well, yes. However, there are several risks associated and due to the strict nature of what you are allowed, it is not healthy to follow long term.
There are many health benefits to cutting all meat (and all animal products if vegan) out of your diet. However, vegetarians should endeavour to ensure that they obtain the nutrients found in meat and fish by eating protein-rich foods such as soy beans.
What you can eat: Bread, rice, pasta, vegetables, fruit, tofu.
What you can’t eat: Beef, chicken, pork, game (vegan-no dairy).
What are the benefits? Increased vitamin intake, lower fat content.
What are the risks? Major risk is that individual will not eat enough protein – diet must be carefully planned to ensure it is balanced.
How does it work? Eliminating meat (and all animal products if vegan) reduces the intake of fat, resulting in an overall calorie reduction.
Does it work? Individuals are far more likely to eat lower fat diets, with higher levels of vegetables and carbs. They are likely to get higher doses of vitamins and more fibre than a meat eater. Overall, turning vegetarian may help you lose weight and be much healthier.
What you can eat: All-Bran, wholegrain bread, peanuts, carrots, milk.
What you can’t eat: Doughnuts, white bread, potatoes, dates, syrup.
What are the benefits? Great for lowering sugar – recommended for diabetics. It is the diet you are supposedly least likely to feel hungry on! Will improve and steady your energy levels.
What are the risks? No real risks, but GI is hard to track so the individual must know all contents of a meal before being able to work out GI.
How does it work? The aim of the diet is to stabilize calorie intake while also encouraging healthier eating. It works by encouraging the participant to eat ‘good’ foods which have a more consistent, steady release of energy throughout the day and to avoid high sugar foods.
Does it work? It is recommended for individuals who need to lose weight over a long term basis, and for individuals looking to maintain their weight.
This diet is supposed to cut out all ‘bad’ foods and ‘cleanse’ the body of unwanted chemicals or toxins that accumulate in our systems through food additives, caffeine, poor diet and so on. The supposed side effects of such toxins are weight gain, cellulite, headaches, bad skin, bloating, and generally feeling unwell.
What you can eat: Usually water, fresh vegetables and fruit.
What you can’t eat: Alcohol, chocolates, preserved foods, fried/greasy foods.
What are the benefits? The individual who partakes in a diet such as this is likely to feel refreshed and ‘cleansed’ at the end of the diet. Weight may be lost.
What are the risks? Main risk is lack of balance to the diet, and the extreme nature can mean the body is shocked and goes into starvation mode. Therefore, if weight loss is the aim, this may not occur. Also, for the first few days/week, outbreaks of spots and lethargy have been reported.
How does it work? Due to the associated low calorie intake of a detox diet, weight loss is indeed a likely outcome of such a diet.
Does it work? Yes and no. The weight loss will vary depending on how strict the detox is, but it is often a dramatic and extreme diet which can have negative results.
What you can eat: Fruit, vegetables, oily fish (oily fish is high in fat, but guidelines recommend eating one portion per week to prevent blood from being sticky, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack).
What you can’t eat: Processed or takeaway foods, fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, diet food (although diet snacks may claim to be low-fat, many are in fact very high in sugar).
What are the benefits? Reducing saturated fats can lower the cholesterol linked to heart diseases.
What are the risks? A healthy diet requires some fat to insulate the body’s major organs. Also, some essential vitamins are soluble in fat so cutting out fat completely isn’t ideal.
How does it work? Because fat contains more calories than almost any type of other food, it seems only sensible to watch the amount of fat in the diet and ensure the daily calorie intake doesn’t exceed the recommended allowance.
Does it work? Experts confirm that a diet low in fat but high in fibre will aid weight loss and help it stay off.
Meal replacement diet
Meal replacement plans claim to offer a way of controlling calorie intake by removing the need to count the calories of two of your three daily meals – usually breakfast and lunch are supplemented with shakes, bars, and soups.
What you can eat: “A shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and then a proper dinner,” two to three 100-calorie snacks per day (most plans also recommend drinking plenty of water or low-calorie drinks), a 6oo-calorie healthy meal.
What you can’t eat: High-calorie snacks, processed foods, sweets.
What are the benefits? By law the meal supplement must contain the recommended daily nutrients for a healthy diet (including calories, proteins, vitamins and minerals). A convenient way to live by a calorie-controlled diet without the need to get your calculator out.
What are the risks? This type of diet does little to instill the values of healthy eating and without the plan, there’s a chance the individual will be unable to maintain a balanced diet.
How does it work? Much like the low-calorie diet, the meal replacement plan is aimed at carefully controlling calorie intake so the dieter takes in fewer calories than the body needs and so draws on their fat stores for the extra energy required for the body to function properly.
Does it work? Sticking to a reduced-calorie diet should shift the weight. However, it depends on the number of calories consumed and the physical activity taken up. Generally, an intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day results in a loss of 1-2lb per week.