Dieting in All it’s Forms
Dieting whether it’s calorie counting, restricting foods or eliminating foods completely, is something I have been meaning to write about for a while; even more so since a patient brought in a list of foods that are ok to eat with Slimming World. It also introduced me to a phrase I have seen mentioned on social media – ‘syn foods’, so not knowing what this is I have looked at the Slimming World website. The last thing I want to do is to make anyone feel bad who follows a diet similar to this when trying to make positive changes to their health. I think the thing that irritates me most is that in order to be healthy you have to follow a specific diet. This makes people worried about food and what they are eating which is not good.
I want to start by saying that calorie counting and restricting certain foods can be an amazing thing for people to do when obese and morbidly obese. Reducing weight when you fall into these categories is essential for your health and wellbeing. It also starts to teach you about portion control and the calorie content in foods. I did some calorie counting a few years ago and was horrified to discover that a Costa coffee chocolate brownie has over 500 calories in it, and it goes in about 3 bites! That’s nearly a third of the average female daily allowance! I would also like to add that I very rarely eat them, but on the odd occasion that I do, I do.
Calorie counting, by and large, doesn’t work because it doesn’t necessarily relate to the impact the food has on the body – unless you are talking about sugar/puddings/deep fried food etc or just eating too much regardless of what it is. (It is, however, very hard to overeat celery in the same way as chocolate buttons). Calorie content of food is also determined by how long a piece of food takes to burn, which is not how we metabolise food. It doesn’t acknowledge the content of fat, protein, carbohydrates or the quality of these macronutrients on your health.
The body also needs foods with a high-calorie content. The good fat for example (read my blog to find out more) that is essential to our health making sure all sorts of body functions work. But calorie counting won’t take this into consideration; all we will see is that a food takes up a large number of calories rather than assessing if the calories are needed or not. Calories and fat from butter or full-fat yoghurt, in the right amounts, are needed. Calories from a chocolate brownie are not.
Restricting or eliminating foods can once again be a brilliant thing to do. All forms of sugar should be restricted, even fruit. You don’t need more than 2 fruits a day in the 5 a day, and you should be aiming to have 5 vegetables a day. If your body doesn’t like wheat, dairy or nightshades, for example, then obviously eliminate and/or highly restrict them.
So, to Slimming World. I think it’s really great that they are moving away from calorie counting and moving towards encouraging the eating foods, but what I have been shocked to see is that their free 7-day menu is full of foods I would never recommend as part of your diet. What I simply don’t understand is following a diet plan that restricts your good fat intake, loads you up on wheat when there are other options that are better for you, (such as quinoa and buckwheat), and tells you that you can have Dairy Milk as a snack. The muesli they recommend has sugar in it, low-calorie cooking sprays are not good for you, and fat-free products such as yoghurt suggested, have been processed to remove the fat, are nutrient deficient and have extra sugar in. Also, Heinz baked beans are full of sugar. Nibbling on a punnet of grapes also implies that you can eat the entire punnet in a day which is a monumental amount of sugar. Yes, better than a multi-bag of crisps or a family sized bar of chocolate, but in my mind, this is all pretty low-quality dietary advice.
How I eat
Don’t get me wrong, I am not ‘perfect’. I eat wheat and chocolate, but it’s the quality. I make my own mixed flour organic bread (a bread maker is £50) and a small loaf lasts me a week. I also eat chocolate but 9 times out of 10 I buy 75% of 85% organic dark chocolate, and when making stews etc, I tend to use pulses or lentils rather than couscous to get a wider range of nutrients. As I said earlier, I do occasionally have a brownie from Costa or a pudding when out. But I am doing this from a place where I am fully aware of the impact of these foods. I also eat an 80% organic, mainly plant-based diet. (Follow me on Instagram to see the foods I make).
I know that I am starting from a very informed place and most people are just doing the best they can to make better changes. What upsets me is companies like this, making it seem like part of a healthy diet to eat poor quality foods. And that the focus is on reducing fat which is actually so important to the body.
I encourage my patients to make the best decision they can in the moment and to change the way they eat so they eat a healthy balanced diet that suits them. For some, this means no wheat and for others, it means not eating tomatoes and red peppers. The thing that I make sure for everyone is that they are getting essential nutrients from a variety of food sources, that often get ignored in weight loss plans or other forms of diet. I can also promise hand on heart, that by cutting out refined/processed foods, most sugar, limiting wheat, and eating more vegetables, good for you full fat, and protein from good quality fish and meat (if you eat it), you will lose more weight, keep the weight off and feel better.
If you want to book in for a nutrition consultation click here to contact me.