Paleo, Clean 9, Weight Watchers, Special K, Fast Diet/Intermittent Fasting, even borderline anorexia... I've done it all. Each time thinking I had found the diet of my dreams. They seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately they were.
Your body needs a certain amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates (macronutrients or 'macros') for all your bodily systems to function to the best of their ability. Most diets involve restriction which usually leads to a deficiency in one or all of the macronutrients. I try and eat in line with my macronutrient requirements. I have seen some amazing results and I will keep it up!
I'll explain a bit about each diet I've done and why I didn't keep it up.
This is probably the best of a bad lot. I really do like the foundations of following a 'paleo' lifestyle. It is based on the idea of eating like the people of the Paleolithic era, before farming and grains entered our diet. All food should be as unprocessed as possible. There are several different "rules" if you look online but essentially it is wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free. I started off well on it and found so many recipes online but a lot of them had some crazy ingredients and I spent a fortune in the shops on stuff like almond butter, pink himalayan seat salt and the tears of a unicorn. I may have made that last bit up, but it felt like every recipe had some mad ingredients. For me, everything was classified as 'paleo-friendly' or not. It meant that if something was paleo friendly I would eat as much of it as I wanted. Most red wine is paleo-friendly... At the start I lost some weight and I felt healthy from no processed rubbish going into me. Looking back now, I was probably way over eating on calories because of all the high fat content food I was having. I was still having a cheat meal at the weekends and I would feel sick after it. I felt like I was making myself gluten intolerant because I was restricting myself unnecessarily. In the end I wasn't losing weight and I was spending a lot of money.
Fast Diet/Intermittent Fasting/5:2
I thought I had found the ideal diet here. Just have 500 calories twice a week and then eat whatever you wanted the other days (you may find different rules depending what you read). I remember my first fast day very well. I was in bed at 5pm with a splitting headache even though I had been lashing the water into me. I was so excited to get up the next morning and go for the buffet breakfast in the hotel across the road. This was a regular thing. I would starve myself one day and then get a breakfast roll or muffins the next morning. Do I need to delve deeper into why this is not a healthy way to lose weight?!
I did two major stints with weight watchers. The first time was when I was aged 20. I joined because a friend of mine had lost 5 stone and looked great. I didn't think I needed to lose that much weight but I went along anyway and was given a goal weight. I found it easy. I was really active so I earned a lot of activity points which I saved and would use at the weekend to go out drinking or eating. Through WW I learnt about portion sizes and I realised how much I could eat when I used clean, natural food. However, I was eating a 6 pack of walkers baked a day because it fit in my calories. I never understood the difference of 100 calories from nuts rather than 100 calories from a weight watchers bar so I would always go for the bar. I feel like there is not enough education given in weight watchers or other slimming groups. If I knew more at the time, about macronutrients and micronutrients, I might have been able to do it healthier. Both times I did it, I got to a point where I thought I had lost enough weight... and then what? I knew nothing about exercise except that cardio = more food. I didn't know anything about food except it's value in WW points. As soon as I left WW, the weight creeped back up on me.
This is probably one of my biggest frustrations. You are paying somebody, usually with zero knowledge about nutrition, for a program to starve yourself. Refer back to my older blog post about damaging your metabolism by starvation diets. Now I'm sure aloe vera is good for you but look at the ingredients on the meal replacement shakes... But they sell it well, I'll give them that. I paid for it. Twice! Its a panic diet and you may see the scales go down in the short term but in the long term you are just damaging your metabolism.
Remember the Special K diet? Eat Special K twice a day and a balanced meal for your other meal and you will fit into your lovely red dress? I think everybody is a bit more educated these days to fall for something like that but I was a teenager who needed to lose weight and had absolutely no knowledge about nutrition. I was seeing these ads on the telly so gave it a go. All I was eating was cereal. I was eventually skinny and malnourished. I really think it is so important to educate kids in healthy eating from an early age.
At the end of the day, it's about finding something sustainable that suits your own lifestyle. I'm not saying everyone needs to be counting and tracking specific macros but I'm hoping to help my clients make small changes that will give big differences. It helps that I can relate to people who've tried lots of different diets too. If you are interested in personal training or online coaching, you can register your interest here.