Maverick Life

WELLNESS

It’s official — there’s no weight-loss diet that’s better than another

It’s official — there’s no weight-loss diet that’s better than another
No weight-loss diet has proven to be superior to others. Image: Diana Polekhina / Unsplash

A balanced diet remains the best way to nourish and help our body and brain to function optimally.

A friend who confesses that she cannot resist carbs says that after trying many diets, she decided to follow a high-protein, high-fat eating plan; within a few months she shed 20kg.

Compliments about her trimmed shape boosted her self-esteem, and she joined a gym and felt confident. All was going well until she went on holiday; being with friends made it impossible to stick to her eating plan. Soon she regained all the weight she had lost; she’s now too embarrassed to go back to the gym because she fears people will judge her.  

New research confirms that most people regain the weight they lose within six months. Your weight is influenced by many factors. One component is the weight set point, which is determined by the genes you inherit. This means everyone is predisposed to being a certain weight and if you lose kilograms, the body tends to revert to that weight set point.

No weight-loss diet has proven to be superior to others. Whether one prefers to follow a ketogenic diet, replacement formula, vegan diet or practise intermittent fasting, the long-term results are the same. One will lose weight if one eats fewer calories than one uses and according to research, the more extreme a diet is, the less sustainable it will be, especially in the long term.

Ria Catsicas, a registered dietician, says that for long-term success, it’s important not to fixate on one’s weight set point, which determines only about 30% of one’s weight. The interplay between factors including genetic, biological and psychological, the environment and behaviour determine 70%.

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Ross Stuart, a registered dietician with the Gauteng Department of Health, explains that losing or gaining weight easily will depend on the individual, and some will lose or gain weight more easily than others, even if they follow the same diet and exercise programme.

The body has a highly complex signalling system: gut hormones that are determined by genes control satiety levels. If you follow a very low-calorie diet and consume fewer calories than you burn, hormones send signals to inform the brain that you are eating fewer calories. The body then goes into starvation mode. The metabolism slows down, leading to feelings of hunger and deprivation. This triggers a craving for food that’s rich in carbs, fat and sugar. It leads to overeating and putting on the weight that has been lost. This cycle has a negative effect on physical and mental health.

Fortunately, Catsicas says, most people can maintain a healthy weight if they follow a diet and lifestyle that offset the impact of their genes. The increase in obesity today is largely the result of environmental factors such as the availability of high-calorie foods and sugar and a sedentary lifestyle. Processed foods, high in calories and low in volume, take longer to activate the gut hormones’ signalling process. As a result, more calories are eaten before one feels full. A high-protein, high-fat diet, on the other hand, will make one feel satisfied sooner and therefore one will consume fewer calories.

Stuart believes that no fad diet will give lasting results. Images of perfect bodies on social media create a skewed picture of what people should aspire to, but they are often photoshopped and don’t represent reality. He advises maintaining a healthy lifestyle and accepting your body type rather than continuously dieting.

Catsicas says that long-term, one should be conscious and mindful of what one eats, at least 80% of the time and adopt a balanced diet that will provide nourishment for the body and brain to function optimally. DM/ML

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  • Peter Geddes says:

    Over-simplified views typical from a dietician. I’ve been doing ketogenic for over four years now and it works well for me, simply because I experience much less hunger pangs or cravings, so it’s easier to eat less and to occasionally fast.
    I don’t follow the rules religiously and enjoy the occasional croissant or pasteis de nata, and lots of fresh fruit.

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