I see a lot of people from different walks of life in my consulting practice. Most of my clients approach me because they are looking for help with managing feelings of stress and anxiety that have become overwhelming for them.
Some of these clients also have problems with their weight. When you think about it, it’s no surprise the two often go hand in hand. Feelings of emotional discomfort can send all of us to raid the fridge at the best of times, but for some people, overeating becomes a normal response to stress, and they find themselves putting on weight, often adding to their feelings of unhappiness.
I am a great believer in the power of good nutrition to combat stress. A diet that is full of nutritious, real food (as opposed to junk food) will leave you feeling fuller for longer, and with more energy. I also believe in supplements where relevant especially to help manage pain, combat joint stiffness that prevents us from getting enough exercise, and keeping our gut healthy which in turn digests food better. The benefits of turmeric or curcumin are highly regarded for this purpose and well researched. You can read more about it here:https://lyfebotanicals.com/health/turmeric-benefits/
If you want to lose weight and make lasting changes to your eating habits though, it helps to examine the triggers behind your emotional eating. This is an area that we’ll cover in more detail in the next blog – today I’ll focus purely on the physical aspect of losing weight.
With every year, it seems that yet another celebrity-endorsed, “miracle” diet pops up that promises to help you lose excess weight very quickly. But with often contradictory messages (should you eat carbs? Avoid them altogether? Fruit or no fruit? Feast or fast?) it can be hard to work out what’s going to be best for you.
Luckily, the BDA (British Dietetic Association) has done a lot of that legwork for you – on the NHS choices website, it reviews the most popular diets of 2015, listing their pros and cons from a nutritional perspective. I won’t list all their findings but to summarise:
- The popular 5:2 diet (where you eat normally for five days of the week and severely restrict your calorie intake on two of them) gets a relative thumbs up, although the reviewers recommend following one of the versions written by a dietician (such as the “2-Day Diet”) which is more nutritionally balanced than some others.
- The Alkaline Diet is rubbished from a scientific point of view (the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet) but, due to its inclusion of lots of fruit and vegetables, gets a warm reception from the BDA.
- Meetings-based diets (such as Weight Watchers or Slimming World) are praised for their balance of protein, carbs, fruit and veg, as well as the emotional support provided by the meetings. However, the BDA warns that you need to make sure you’ve educated yourself about portion sizes and calories counts once you leave the confines of the programme or you may end up piling the weight back on.
- High protein diets like Atkins, the Paleo diet and Dukan get high scores for rapid weight loss, but the BDA warns that the side effects can be very unpleasant, and include bad breath, tiredness, dizziness and constipation. It also warns that cutting out key food groups such as carbohydrates can lead to nutritional deficiencies in the long term.
- Meal replacement programmes such as Lighter Life and the Slim-Fast diet are easy to follow as all the guesswork is taken out, but don’t educate you about good nutrition. This makes it more likely that you’ll put the weight back on after finishing the programme unless you seek that information out elsewhere. You’re also in trouble if you don’t like the taste of the meal replacements! However, the counselling side of the Lighter Life diet gets approval for helping you look at your emotional relationship with food.
- Rosemary Conley’s diet and fitness plans get the biggest thumbs up. The low fat diet, combined with exercise, portion control education and support from clubs and long-term weight management programme is considered the most helpful – the main negative from the BDA is that some low-fat products aren’t always healthier as they can still be high in sugar and calories.
I’m not a big fan of short term, rapid weight loss diets, except in medically advised circumstances. But I understand that sometimes you need to see results in order to get going and then stay motivated. For my money, the NHS’s own 12 week weight loss plan is the best option. Not only is it free (which, in a world where the diet industry makes billions of pounds a year is not to be sniffed at) but has been created by specialist dieticians so you know you won’t be missing out on any crucial nutrients. You’ll get 12 weekly information packs which include diet and exercise advice including challenges to keep you motivated and can download free podcasts such as the Couch to 5K.
In the next blog, I’ll look at the psychological side to losing weight, and give you some hints and tips as to what’s worked for my clients when they’ve taken a more holistic view of their eating habits.
Until next time………..