We’ve all tried a diet at some point in our lives. Sadly, losing weight is the main reason why people try diets. But, I don't think diets should be used just for losing weight but also for promoting good health in a sustainable way. In fact, when you approach dieting with the aim of improving your health in your heart, you naturally lose weight if that's what your body needs to do. Whereas, when you eat to lose weight you sometimes strengthen an unhealthy relationship with food and decrease your over-all health.
The first of the 3 diets I've chosen has a specific application to certain people which are pre-diabetic. The last 2 are a great way to step into a healthier diet and lifestyle which is sustainable. I've included my favourite recipe book when I have one.
In the 5:2 you fast 2 days a week and eat what you want on 5 days of the week. You don’t have to not eat at all on fast days though, it’s important to keep up your water in take and you can have up to 500 calories. If you want this diet to really work it’s important you don’t go CRAZY with unhealthy foods on the days off fasting but that isn’t always made clear in the diet books which promote this way of eating. The aim of the diet is to lose weight by re-balancing your metabolic rate.
I was extremely dubious of this diet when patients started asking me about it. So before I could recommend it I had to do some reading. I found that actually as a human race we haven’t had this abundance of food for very long. We are much better adapted to feast and famine circumstances. We tend to store the calories we cant for later assuming we will go through some time before our next meal. But that doesn't happen anymore and so we see increasing rates of obesity in the world. For the first time in history there are more obese adults on the planet than underweight.
Now that I have the facts I do recommend this diet to people who are carrying a bit too much weight and need a catalyst to start things moving. I also recommend it to diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. I really wouldn’t recommend it to people who have a history of eating disorders because it involves the restriction of calories. My stories from patients tells me this is quite an easy diet to follow it just takes a little while to get used to fast days. But soon you find you can go without much food and feel fine.
The Palaeolithic diet
I love the paleo diet. It’s based on the idea that we aren’t evolved to deal with the grains we eat so frequently in our diet but rather should revert to what we ate in palaeolithic times; a lot of fruit and veg and some meat of fish. It’s gluten-free so great for those with gluten intolerance. Aside from cutting out grains and introducing a lot of nuts it’s quite easy to follow. It’s literally meat and two veg for the majority of meals. Of course, you can get more creative with your recipes than that though. The paleo diet claims many health benefits (most of which I think come from eating more healthily than avoiding grains per-se). Thinks like; increased energy, improved sleep, clearer skin and healthier hair, mental clarity, improved mood, less bloating, less headaches, less joint and muscle pain, and less infections.
The Paleo diet is easy to adhere to in my opinion and it seems to me that the paleo diet would complement the 5:2 both in terms of health as well as philosophy. The paleo diet doesn’t tend to be something you go in and out of and put on tonnes of weight but seems to be something my patients incorporate into their lives. Sometimes it’s followed to the tee day in day out sometimes to a greater and lesser extent. I think it’s perfect healthy to move in and out of the rules these diets impose till they become our own.
The sugar-free diet
Going sugar free is very fashionable at the moment but not many people understand what it really means. If you want the real-deal you should get Sarah Wilson’s 8 week programme. She talks about the addiction of sugar and explains that it takes on average 8 weeks to break the sugar cravings. Not only does she encourage you to cut out refined sugar but also fruit sugars. We all know the risks of refined sugar. It’s ability to increase diabetes and obesity but not many understand that fructose (the sugar found in fruits) does the same thing. So while you’re getting lots of lovely vitamins from fruit you’re also getting a fair bit of sugar.
I chose to follow this diet when I spent the time calculating my sugar intake one day and even though I snacked on fruit and biscuits a like I was going massively over my recommended sugar intake each day. I knew something had to change if I wanted to keep my hormones balanced, not put on weight, reduce my likelihood to get certain cancers, improve my immune system and improve my overall wellbeing. This diet is by no means easy to pull off but it is incredibly rewarding. If you want to take it on I’d really recommend Sarah’s book as she breaks it down week by week so you slowly transition in and slowly transition out. By following the steps she lays out you will break your addiction to refined sugars and be able to reintroduce fruits in portions which are healthy and in no way problematic.