Research shows that nearly 86% of people who go on “diets” later default and abandon the programme before completion.
This is according to Eastern Cape clinical dietician Solomzi Tshona, who says that the focus should be on adopting a healthy lifestyle, which is a sustainable, long-term way of life and not defined by a “one size fits all” diet.
“The term dieting or slimming is not official in dietetics as it refers to fad diets (quick fixes) for weight management or weight loss,” says Tshona.
Ditch the diet culture – it doesn’t work anyway
A major reason for people abandoning their fad eating plan is that they usually aren’t sustainable. They eliminate foods that provides us with essential nutrients. They can be costly too, says Tshona.
“The diet culture is dangerous and harms people of all sizes by perpetuating eating disorders and making a full recovery almost impossible.
“People who wish to lose weight and improve their overall health should consider this lifestyle instead of fad diets as there is a big risk of becoming deficient in most nutrients and the harm caused may in some instances be difficult to reverse.
“A healthy lifestyle is a way of living that lowers the risk of illness or premature death, while improving your overall health.”
So, what’s better than a diet?
Tshona suggests people ditch diet culture and adopt a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable and practical instead.
A healthy, balanced diet consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and the proteins of your choice. A healthy lifestyle is also easier to maintain and is affordable for the average South African as it promotes a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
“Adopting a healthy lifestyle is better, because it allows you to enjoy all food groups without the guilt.”
Unlike a diet, you do not have to restrict or cut out certain foods or spend hundreds of rand on slimming teas, meal replacement shakes and “superfoods”.
Tshona further warns that healthy eating is also about how much you eat. While nothing is restricted, it is important to watch your portion sizes, should you wish to shed a few kilos.
When it comes to health, there is no “one size fits all” approach. It is important to see a registered nutritionist or dietician for a plan tailored according to your individual needs and health goals, he adds.
Tshona’s top tips for escaping the diet trap:
- You should be aware of misinformation, quacks and fallacies out there to keep you from falling in the trap of fad diets. It has been proven now and again that fad diets and slimming aids do not work, are temporary and cannot be sustained.
- The one size fits all approach does not work: It is very important to get individualised diet advice rather than dishing out ready-to-read nutrition pamphlets, as food preferences differ culturally.
- Body mass index (BMI) is not always accurate and does not work for everybody because it does not provide all the anthropometric information about the nutritional status of a person. For better results, combine healthy eating with exercise.
- Eating large quantities of food is risky to your health. Try to manage portion sizes and do not overdo it.
- Even if we all ate the same diet and followed the same diet plan, our bodies would still look different. Being thin isn’t synonymous with being healthy.