Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Post - Christmas - a little reflection on diets...


People have some very odd ideas about losing weight and also maintaining a healthy weight, not to be confused and not helped by the many myths flouting around, perpetuated by the NHS, doctors, nurses and even dieticians. Firstly we heard that fat is bad, all fat. Low fat is good. Then the complete reverse became true and its sugar that is in fact the enemy and fat is now good. 

So, how did fats get to be thought so badly of? Our ancestors certainly did well on it. Well, 50 or 60 years ago research linked foods with saturated fats, like eggs and red meat, to coronary heart disease and we were advised to cut back on fats and up our carb intake and so high-carb, low-fat foods became the ideal. However we are gradually learning that healthy fats are good and that there is in fact no evidence that dietary saturated fat increases a person’s risk for coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. While dieticians are now adamant that ‘fat can improve blood cholesterol levels, lower your risk of heart disease and benefit your insulin levels’ the NHS hasn’t quite caught on yet - it still advises, ‘To reduce the amount of fat you eat, you could trim the fat off meat, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk instead of full fat, choose a reduced- or low-fat spread, and replace cream with low-fat yoghurt.

With contrary advice like this around it seems we are all in a bit of a muddle. In my quest to understand and untangle the facts from fiction I’ve listened to some very odd advice, myths and general batshit including, ‘you can't lose weight through diet, only exercise’, ‘you won't lose weight if you don't have breakfast’ and ‘if you don’t eat enough, your body will go into starvation mode and store fat’. These are generally part-nonsense, part half-truths. For example, breakfast is in fact very good for kick starting your metabolism and stopping a mid-morning sugar binge but you most certainly can lose weight if you forfeit it and throughout history people who have been starved haven’t ended up obese! I don’t think there were any fat people in POW camps either…

Some other gems include, ‘I eat 600 calories a day and cannot lose weight’. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you. I think you mean, you starve yourself for some of the day and most definitely in public but have secret binges at times. Or, ‘certain foods burn fat’. ‘Certain foods’ being celery and ice cream – the theory being that chewing celery burns more calories than you consume and that your body uses more calories heating up the ice cream than the ice cream itself contains. Simply not true.

These anecdotes and myths can be funny in their recounting but I do conclude a sad reflection on the society that we actually live in; I’ve known women to be on diets their entire adult lives, women who starve themselves to look like young girls, women who want to be mistaken for their daughter’s sister and women who want to be told that they look too thin, that they should put on weight and even that they look unhealthy.

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