A healthy diet and effective dieting

First sugar was to blame, then fat. The latest culprit is carbohydrates. All manner of things are supposed to make you fat. And a new diet comes hot on the heels of each fresh piece of research by nutritionists. These studies prompt dieticians to make bold assertions regarding what we should, and should not, eat and drink. They also promote uncertainty. Tempted by slogans like “lose five kilos in ten days”, “eat whatever you like but lose weight nonetheless”, or similar, people follow every possible (or impossible) regimen, adhere to strict diets and undergo “miracle treatments”.

After a while, most of us realise that the easy part was losing weight. Maintaining our target weight for any length of time was harder.

That’s the well-known yo-yo effect. On completion of the diet, it’s not long before we start putting on the pounds again, perhaps even ending up more overweight than we were to start with. Slimming is only really effective when, assuming a healthy balanced diet, the lower weight persists for a prolonged period.

And there are at least as many false beliefs about dieting as there are diets.

1. Sport sculpts your figure, you can simply train away those problem zones

Sadly, that’s not the case. Losing weight and achieving a good figure are two different things!

What we’re concerned with here is the number of calories we consume and our calorie intake. Anyone wanting to do something for their general health is right to undertake some form of sport, but that will only go a little way to reducing one’s weight and improving one’s figure. The degree of success depends largely on the type of sporting activity. Weightlifting and the like definitely help define your muscles and trim your figure, but this does not result in weight loss since muscles are heavier than fat.

It’s endurance sport that works best for anyone hoping to shed those pounds. That’s because the calorie consumption is higher, which is what matters here. The following can be recommended: jogging, swimming, fast cycling, Inline-Skating and fitness training, or team sports such as volleyball.

With all of these, more calories are consumed than added. However, it’s necessary to be realistic and not have exaggerated expectations!

It’s often the case that those who practise sport do not burn as much energy as they think. Half an hour’s jogging, for example, burns only as many calories as have been gained from eating a chocolate bar.

2. Just eat half as much, that’s as good as any diet

That sounds convincing, doubtless because it appears to be an easy way of solving the problem, but if we halve the size of our meals, we consume too few vitamins and insufficient fibre - and generally speaking, there’s little enough of those in our diet anyway.

3. ‘Light’ products cut our calorie intake

‘Low-fat or diet” - however the countless light products are labelled, all of them imply that calorie-reduced food will allow us to slim without going hungry.  Unfortunately, that’s not true. Most such products indeed contain fewer calories, but they also leave us feeling less full, meaning we eat more of them to sate ourselves.  ‘Low-fat’ does not necessarily mean ‘low-calorie’ as the lower fat content is often compensated for by an increased use of sugar. And when artificial sweeteners are employed to replace sugar, that really makes us ravenous, because the body is fooled into thinking it’s getting sugar and this generates insulin. This causes the blood sugar level to drop and we react with HUNGER!

4. Separating proteins from carbohydrates makes us slim

The theory that our bodies cannot digest proteins simultaneously with carbohydrates, and that therefore they should not be consumed together, has been refuted by scientists. Nevertheless, it does make sense to follow such a diet to a moderate extent, as we then usually consume less meat and fat, replacing them with vegetables and wholemeal products.

5. ‘Dinner cancelling” helps with weight loss

 If this is implemented in the right way, it can be a very effective aid to weight reduction. But it is essential to ensure that we take some fluids after 5 pm (for example, unsweetened herbal teas or mineral water, or even a vegetable broth). To prevent cravings, it’s also vital to have a varied and nutritious diet during the day. This guarantees that the body is optimally provided with vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

6. Sugar makes you fat

Sugar alone does not make you fat. Here too, it’s solely a question of the ratio of energy intake to energy consumption. It’s also important to remember that sugar plays a key role in supplying energy to our brains. A ‘sugar-free’ diet is nigh on impossible, given that there’s sugar in almost everything we eat, if only in the form of starch.

7. Fat makes you fat

That’s also incorrect, and we need fat to live: our bodies cannot process vitamins A, D, E and K without it. In general, however: avoid saturated fats (common e.g. in some kinds of meat and sausage) as they push up blood fat levels (lipids). Go instead for unsaturated fats, to be found especially in olive oil and safflower oil, in fish (e.g. salmon and mackerel) and in avocados. The recommended daily fat intake for adults is between sixty and eight grammes.

You do not need to waste money on appetite suppressants if you take the following advice to heart:

  • When your energy intake (in the form of calories) exceeds your energy consumption, the excess energy is stored in your fat cells. It does not matter to your ‘energy balance sheet’ whether the calories come from protein, fat or carbohydrates.

  • Slimmers have to take a sensible approach to their bodies, and as that suggests, it all begins in the mind. Work out why it is you want to lose weight, for only the right motivation will ensure success long term.

  • Set yourself realistic goals, so that you can quickly celebrate little successes along the way.

  • Keep an eye out for hidden fats in food and opt for low-fat milk products (yoghurt, quark) and cooked meats (chicken breast, ham).

  • Use high-quality fats.

  • A high-fibre diet will prevent you from getting hungry for longer. Many vegetables have a high fibre content.

  • Make sure you keep moving, as often as possible. Sport alone will not kills off those kilos, but it will, in any case, do an awful lot for your health!

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