With New Year’s resolutions comes the inevitable promise to lose weight, either to shift those Christmas pounds or get that perfect body you've always dreamed of. Every year the cupboards are thrown open and every last sweet and biscuit crumb is thrown away, and gyms up and down the country experience a sudden uptake in membership.
The other inevitability is that by around the start of February these good intentions tend to lose momentum until normal service is resumed. The fallback is the fad diet – a quick fix solution that promises dramatic results with the minimum of effort.
Naturally these diets often come with large price-tags attached to books and DVDs, and employ some pretty unusual techniques for the promise of dramatic weight loss.
Last year saw some pretty disturbing diet trends, such as the cotton ball diet, which literally involves eating cotton balls, of the type used in makeup removal, in order to lose weight. This bizarre practice was reportedly started by fashion models, and has quickly become well-known on the internet. Apart from the fact that cotton is indigestible, many ‘cotton balls’ are actually just bleached polyester, and full of harmful chemicals.
Here are some of the worst diets to avoid, as selected by the British Dietetic Association.
Probably the most extreme diet that’s going to be hanging around in 2014 is the Breatharian Diet. The idea behind it is that you don’t actually need food to survive, and can live on just air and sunlight. Either the fans of this diet are confusing humans with plants, or else didn’t listen in biology lessons, but of course it’s not remotely possible to survive without food and water. This crazy ‘diet’ should not be considered for even a moment.
The idea of cutting out wheat and gluten from your diet to lose weight has been around for some time, but persists as a popular diet option for many people. The idea is just avoid any foods containing gluten, such as bread and cake products, as wells as oats and beer. (You can probably already spot the ‘secret’ of this diet plan.) The problem is that there is no robust scientific evidence to support weight loss as a result of a gluten-free diet, but obviously many of the foods that contain gluten are generally high in calories and so some people make a link between the two. In reality this diet is just a dressed-up reduced calorie diet, and a true gluten-free diet is only appropriate for people with coeliac disease or gluten intolerance.
This diet is essentially a VLC (very low calorie) plan, but with the intention of ‘saving up’ the extra calories for binge drinking at the weekend. Following this diet would almost certainly mean you would not be getting sufficient nutrients and vitamins throughout the week to maintain any state of health, and subjecting your body to a tide of alcohol at the weekend could end up causing immense damage. If you’ve starved you body through the week you’re going to be feeling pretty tired and run-down come Friday, and drinking heavily is only going to make you feel worse.
This complex and rigid diet is reportedly followed by Jennifer Lopez and the Duchess of Cambridge’s mum, Carole Middleton, and was invented by Pierre Dukan (Dr Dukan until 2012). The plan has repeatedly featured as the number one diet to avoid by the British Dietetic Association, yet still continues to attract followers. You’re given different phases to follow, and a restrictive list of foods to eat, with the focus on high protein and very low carbs. Again, any weight loss results from this diet will be down to a reduced calorie intake, rather than any complicated combination of foods. There is a risk with this diet of not getting all the nutrients and vitamins needed for good health, as well as constipation from the lack of fibre, and bad breath. Lovely!
The truth about diets is that there is no quick-fix miracle weight loss plan, but there’s plenty of clever marketing out there to make you believe there is. The best thing you can do is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, watch your portion sizes, and be physically active. That’s all there is to it!
The British Dietetic Association has some fantastic resources about healthy eating and weight loss and, unlike all those complicated celebrity diets, they are free!
Weight Loss: www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Want2LoseWeight.pdf
General Food Facts: www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts