Or …is it time to “get real?”
It’s easy to get sucked into the promises of the latest wonder diet. The amazing pictures of trimmed, toned, glowing celebrities who put it all down to their new diet are very enticing and hard to escape.
Of course the hottest new celebrity diet will usually “work:” Maybe not what you were expecting me to say but for those who can stick to the often gruelling demands of the regime you will probably lose weight. In fact of course the very appeal of so many of these diets is that you will probably lose a lot of weight very fast – not something I recommend for many reasons bad breath, dizziness and dehydration being just a few.
Of course good nutrition is about so much more than weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight and many popular diets would not be safe for people with certain medical conditions or for use over a longer period of time. However if you are otherwise healthy and quick fix, fast weight loss is what you are looking for you might read about the latest diet and think: “box ticked!”
But before you click out and head off into cyber space to buy the latest diet book take a moment for what I like to call “realness.” Over the next few weeks I will be exploring four ways we can “get real” about eating well.
“Realness” is unique to each individual and consists of people, routines, responsibilities, beliefs, traditions, values, loves, revulsions, existing illnesses and risk factors for developing illnesses. In the midst of this messy “realness,” any diet, celebrity or otherwise will often feel like a square peg in the round hole of your life.
Everyone’s journey to a healthy lifestyle is a “get real’ journey. So whether you’re a mum who has struggled to lose that post baby weight with a “foody” husband, an autistic picky eater son and a daughter with ADHD who gorges sugar straight from the bag or a single business man working long hours, spending half your life in hotels but desperate to be socialising when you’re back at base or the owner of any other set of real life circumstances here are four “get real” tips that we will be chewing over one by one over the coming weeks.
- Get well informed
- Get more self-aware
- Get organised
- Get supported
Get Well Informed
In my experience knowing “what’s what” is pretty critical to success. Please don’t get me wrong, knowledge is not the be all and end all – that’s why “get well informed” is just one of four tips that I use. However the science of human nutrition is complicated and advice has to be based on what we know, honesty about what we don’t yet know with an encouraging smattering of what we are just starting to understand. As a science, nutrition is still a baby – the first nutrition experiments only really started at the beginning of the last century – so we still have a lot to find out. The problem is that it doesn’t make great headlines to talk about what we don’t know and to make matters worse emerging information is often presented as if there is definitive proof ,which can cause confusion.
So how can you work out what to believe? Well sometimes it’s just pretty obvious so here are a few “no-brainers” to look out for:
- All new discoveries should be fully documented and open to scrutiny from the scientific community before becoming part of any advice or guidelines. So if someone is spreading new diet advice through popular media without having first published studies in scientific journals, don’t trust what’s being said.
- If the success of a diet is simply backed up by testimonials on a website then that gets nowhere near constituting scientific proof of effectiveness.
- If the only people promoting a diet or supplement are those who are selling it, then again that should raise your suspicions.
- It also worries me when people put all the ills of the world down to entire food groups whether it be fats or carbohydrates or dairy or proteins. Once you start wiping entire food groups from your diet or even several food groups as some diets suggest we should, you really do risk serious nutritional deficiencies.
Many of the controversies around nutrition and health tend to stem from quite technical arguments about the type of research that led to a recommendation. See my post “Find out once and for all what to eat.”
The best advice really is not to be frightened by sensational claims that say dietary recommendations are wrong and we have been damaging our health for years. Talk to your GP or Dietitian. If you have a science background get hold of the original research papers and think it through critically. If you don’t have a science background the NHS Choices website has a great section about the science behind the headlines. Here scientists try to explain the science in a straightforward way so that you can decide what to believe. If you read somewhere that the advice on NHS Choices in wrong then ask a question in the comments section to find out more. Here is the link.
So take the first steps towards getting real about getting healthy and get well informed. That said I know many of you will not be able to resist the allure of the latest diet – just make sure it’s safe for you first and get back to a more normal but healthy eating pattern as soon as you can. Tips 2-4 should help you with that.