Fad diets busted

By the Independent, - Annemarie Quill


You've heard of Dukan, scoffed fat on Atkins, fainted from drinking only honey and lemon water and lost friends from the noxious side-effects of the cabbage diet. Now there's a new one, this time designed to inspire jealousy and help you to ``get skinnier than all your friends''

Six Weeks to OMG. It has knocked the Dukan Diet off the top of the iTunes diet book chart and a subsidiary of Penguin has bought it for a seven-figure sum. The book, by British sports scientist and personal trainer Paul Khanna, (who goes by the pen name Venice A. Fulton) offers controversial tips, such as skip breakfast, take cold baths and drink black coffee.

But for short-term weight loss, can the OMG diet really help you shed pounds?

indulge asks personal trainer John Templeton of Mount Cross Fit, and dietician Rachel Scrivin to comment.

Skip breakfast?

Fulton says skipping breakfast will help to stop you becoming a ``fadult'' (fat adult ). ``Breakfast is for wimps!'' he writes. He recommends exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and then eating once three hours have passed, so your body is forced to burn stored fat.

The expert view

John: ``Skipping breakfast and waiting until lunch is a foolish way to start the day, as your body needs food and water to function properly. You may well lose weight following this diet, but it is not a healthy way to do it. If you like to train early, try eating breakfast immediately after your workout while your body is still burning stored fat.''

Rachel: ``This advice has no scientific rationale and most literature will support eating breakfast. It is the `most important meal of the day' to boost metabolism and avoid overeating at the next meal. It would be a very big challenge to exercise hard in the morning without breakfast and then not eat for three hours. You are more likely to store the energy from the next meal consumed due to feast and famine.''

Drink black coffee before exercise?

Fulton says the caffeine in a cup of black coffee will help to boost your exercise routine: ``It's nature's cheap and secret potion,'' he writes. But he warns against adding any milk or sugar because ``either would tell your body that food's arriving'', preventing it from burning fat stores.

The expert view

John: ``I agree. Black coffee does kickstart the fat burning process and boosts your performance. But remember, no sugar.''

Rachel: ``I agree that a small amount of caffeine can increase mental alertness and delay fatigue during exercise, which leads to more energy burnt in a session _ however, this is very individual and some people do not tolerate caffeine.''

Take cold baths?

Fulton recommends taking baths of between 15C and 20C to ``help you lose calories fast''. He says the cold boosts adrenaline, which he says is particularly good for burning the fat stored in women's thighs.

The expert view

John: ``I've heard about this one and I have a cold shower every time I wash. Does it help you lose calories? Possibly, but I doubt significantly.''

Rachel: ``Sounds tortuous! Most research indicates that in the winter when we are colder we tend to eat more and gain weight due to the body's natural way of wanting to keep warm. Good luck having cold baths in the winter _ this could potentially be dangerous for some people with heart conditions, too!''

Eat less fruit?

Fulton says you should eat as little as one piece of fruit a day during the diet period, although after the six weeks are up he encourages more balance in your diet. ``Fruit can be a cheeky devil,'' he says, because it contains fructose, which can turn to fat if it isn't burnt off.

The expert view

John: ``I'd highly recommend eating five-plus a day. However, fruit contains sugar (fructose). Sugar causes insulin levels in the body to rise. Insulin is a hormone in the body that aids in the storage of fat. Keep in mind that some fruits have more effect on insulin levels than others so choose carefully. You can also make up your five a day with veges.''

Rachel: ``Complete nonsense. Any diet that says eat less fruit you have to question why, as fruit is one of the cheapest and most nutritious snacks possible.''

Swap broccoli for Coke?

Fulton says eating unhealthily in the short-term is okay if it makes you thin. ``[For some people] to get skinny,'' he writes, ``it makes no difference whether they get their daily carbs from cans of Coke or from broccoli ... for six to 12 weeks there's no harm in using this knowledge to get super-skinny.''

The expert view

John: ``Highly disagree! To get the same amount of carbohydrates from broccoli that you would get from a bottle of Coke you would have to eat two plates full of broccoli, which you would never do ... On top of that, coke will spike your insulin resulting in more fat storage. Also, what good is a diet that lasts six to 12 weeks?

``Consistency is key with everything in life, especially eating habits. It gets said time and time again. If you want to lose weight just eat healthy foods, it's that simple. For example, meat and veges, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.''

Rachel: ``Hilarious. This diet is a dietitian's nightmare ... the positive health benefits from eating broccoli are sound _ but drinking coke is very unhealthy on a regular basis even if it says six to 12 weeks (costly, bad on teeth and very high in calories _ sugar).''

***

If you don't like the sound of OMG, there are other diets that also promise fast weight-loss. These include The Headspace Diet _ 10 Days to Finding Your Ideal Weight (Hodder & Stoughton). This is where you think deeply about every mouthful you eat and therefore, as the theory goes, consume less.

John says: ``I'm no expert on the headspace diet, but I couldn't think of a worse bit of advice to give someone that wants to lose weight.''

Rachel says: ``There is some positive research around eating mindfully, but little about whether this is possible on a regular day-to-day basis due to most people eating in social atmospheres which make this diet seems impossible to follow.''

Then there's the Baby Food Diet, which involves just eating jars of baby food in place of your normal, adult-size meals, the idea being baby food is full of nutritious vitamins, which are easily digestible.

Rachel says: ``This would work as you are eating baby-sized portions and therefore very low-energy diet. Would not recommend as adults nutritional requirements hugely different to a baby and this could involve losing lots of rapid weight and regaining it all once you introduce normal food.'' And what about the Raw Food Diet?

John says: ``This concept sounds okay as raw food is definitely better than processed food. But, I'd recommend a more balanced approach. For example, try cooking a steak with some raw vegetables on the side.''

Rachel: ``Yes, this could work if the overall energy consumed was less than energy output ... raw food does not necessarily have less calories than processed food. Could make some people eat more nutritious health food and less processed foods.''

Finally, The Dukan Diet. Like the Atkins diet, the Dukan Diet involves eating mostly protein for a few weeks and then gradually introducing other foods.

John says: ``Phase one of the Dukan Diet is a protein-only phase, which is okay, phases three and four are where carbohydrates (the biggest cause of obesity around the world) are introduced and things start going downhill. ``I don't understand why you would start adding carbs again after you have done all the hard work.''

Rachel says: ``This diet generally gets good results but can be difficult to follow in social situations due to only eating certain foods at certain points of the diet. I'm still not a great fan of low-carb diets _ in order to get results from cardiovascular training, carbohydrates are an important nutrient to get results ... muscles require carbohydrate in order to work in most aerobic sports!''

In conclusion, our Bay experts say ...

John: ``In my opinion, if your goal is to lose weight and be generally healthy then you can't beat Paleo-inspired diets. Meat and veges, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar!''

Rachel: ``Overall, people cut out the extras and lose weight; again, the energy-in energy-out principle needs to be followed in order to lose weight. Eat less and exercise more for a healthy body and healthy mind.

 

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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