Dieting Minefield

Health professionals and food manufacturers are always asking us: Are you getting your five a day? Are you eating low salt? Low fat? Low sugar? Do you eat too much red meat? Not enough fish?

We are more educated than ever about what is healthy for us and what is not, but with obesity on the rise and becoming more ‘normal’ it is clear that we are not following all this advice. Are we ignoring the facts? Is the temptation of unhealthy food too much? Or are we misinterpreting what the experts are telling us?

Whatever the causes of increasing obesity, it seems that if people want to ‘get back in shape’ they are more comfortable following some sort of weight loss plan or diet, than simply cutting down on ‘unhealthy’ foods, increasing ‘healthy’ foods and doing more exercise, like the experts advise.  One thing is certain, if you’re looking for a diet – it’s a dieting minefield out there!

Here are the five of the most popular diet plans of 2012 explained!*

Atkins Diet

The Atkins Nutritional Approach is a low carbohydrate, high protein diet. The premise of this diet is based on the fact that consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, sugar) raises our insulin levels rapidly (a sugar high) and then these levels fall rapidly (crash). The rising insulin level tells our body to store as much energy as possible, and prevent us from using our fat stores for energy. However, if you control the levels of insulin in your body through diet (i.e. cut out carbohydrates), your body will start to use your fat stores for energy and you will dramatically lose weight. Most people on the Atkins Diet will consume a higher proportion of proteins and fats than they normally do.

Zone Diet

The Zone Diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% protein each time we eat. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which result in more successful weight loss and body weight control. The Zone Diet encourages the consumption of good quality carbohydrates – unrefined carbohydrates, and fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

There are various types of vegetarian – The majority of vegetarians are lacto-ovovegetarians, in other words, they do not eat animal-based foods, except for eggs, dairy, and honey. Several studies over the last few years have shown that vegetarians have a lower body weight, suffer less from diseases, and generally have a longer life expectancy than people who eat meat.

Veganism is more of a way of life and a philosophy than a diet. A vegan does not eat anything that is animal based, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans do not generally adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental and ethical/compassionate reasons. Vegans believe that modern intensive farming methods are bad for our environment and unsustainable in the long term. If all our food were plant based our environment would benefit, animals would suffer less, more food would be produced, and people would generally enjoy better physical and mental health (vegans say).

Weight Watchers Diet

Weight Watchers focuses on losing weight through calorie controlled diet, exercise, and a support network. Weight Watchers Inc. was born in the 1960s when a housewife who had lost some weight and was concerned she might put it back on, created a network of friends. Weight Watchers is a huge company, with branches all over the world. Dieters can join either physically, and attend regular meetings, or online. In both cases there is a great deal of support and education available for the dieter. With this diet you can eat anything you like, but in moderation! Calorie content of foods are converted to a simple points system.

Ok, so you’ve been dedicated, hard working, strict, and it’s paid off! You look and feel terrific! Hooray!

What now? Well, this is where the hard work really starts. You can never go back to the way you lived your life before. Or you will put the weight back on again. This is where you need to follow the health experts’ advice, but more importantly, you have to self-regulate. You can’t follow a plan or diet forever.


Low fat. Low salt. Low sugar. Five a day. Omega 3. 150 minutes of exercise a week.  Well……. sometimes!

*source: MNT


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