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     Volume 7 Issue 19 | May 9, 2008 |

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Straight Talk

Less is More

Nadia Kabir Barb

‘Hate' is a very strong word and I am forever telling my children not to use it lightly, so if they happen to read this article they will definitely accuse me of hypocrisy because I just HATE diets! There is no other expression that can describe my feelings towards the word 'diet' no, wait I could say 'loathe', 'abhor', 'detest', 'really can't stand'...

I have spent most of my life being very anti diets, probably because I have absolutely no will power at all when it comes to food. "I'm on a seefood diet - I see food and I eat it" Resistance is definitely futile in my case.

Girl: I'd like a triple vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate syrup, nuts, whipped cream, topped off with a slice of cucumber.
Waiter: Did I hear you right? Did you say top it off with a slice of cucumber?
Girl: Good heavens, you're right! Forget the cucumber I'm on a diet.

But there are times when you need to be careful about what you put into your body, not necessarily for losing weight but to ensure that what you are eating is part of a healthy and balanced diet. These days people are more health conscious and seem to be aware of the nutritional value of different types of food and greater awareness enables us to lead a healthier lifestyle.

However, if weight loss is an objective, then there are a multitude of different diets out there to choose from. So, I decided to put my cynicism aside and do a bit of research on some of these diets to see whether any of them had anything more to offer than what common sense might dictate to us. What better way to do that than read up about these diets on the internet and see if they shed any light on the benefits of what I categorise as fads, most of which sound like a con if you ask me. One of the websites I visited only increased my scepticism as they had a list of fifty different diets. There was the “Fat belly”, “Hallelujah”, “Fat Smash”, “Eat This not That” and “Cheaters” diet to name a few! Call me unadventurous but I decided to give those a miss and read about the diets I have actually heard of.

Every couple of years a new fad appears and creates a sensation where the rich and famous don't waste any time and jump onto the bandwagon singing its praises till the next revolutionary diet comes around. The GI diet seems to be the latest diet making a buzz. According to what I have read, the GI diet is relatively easy to follow and adapt to. It uses the Glycaemic Index (GI) as a guide, and no food groups are excluded so it takes the best fats, carbohydrates and proteins and offers a diet that allows weight loss as well as an improvement in health, while eating satisfying foods. It suggests that the GI diet is particularly suitable for people with an underactive thyroid, have type 2 diabetes, and people who have polycystic ovaries. This is because following the plan helps to slow down the release of energy from food and stabilise insulin levels.

The theory behind diets based on the Glycaemic Index is that foods with a low GI value slowly release sugar into the blood, providing a steady supply of energy, leaving a feeling of satisfaction over a longer period so that you are less likely to feel like snacking. In contrast, foods with a high GI value cause a quick - but short-lived - rise in blood sugar. This leaves you lacking in energy and feeling hungry within a short time, with the result that you end up wanting to eat something. If you do this often enough, you are likely to gain weight as a result of constantly overeating. People also claim that the GI diet is not just meant for people who want to lose weight - a low GI way of eating can be beneficial for everyone, including people who want to maintain their weight and people wanting to eat healthily.

So far this diet does not seem to suggest anything too radical and if the diet can deliver the results it professes to be able to, the GI diet may not be as faddish as some of the other diets and actually have some merit.

Then of course there is the Atkins diet which was developed in the early '70s by the Robert C. Atkins, M.D. and where people have claimed that one can shed unwanted pounds quickly and easily while still being able to tuck into 'fry-ups'. However, there are also those who have tried the diet and given up stating that they felt ill and hungry throughout the diet. I have to admit the report that the founder of this diet was overweight when he died is not an altogether confidence building piece of information.

Atkins' theory is that the way our body processes the carbohydrates we eat -- not how much fat we eat is what causes us to gain weight. By lowering our carbohydrate input, and eating high protein food, our body should enter a state of Ketosis. This is where our body burns fat as fuel. The diet has a strict regime that needs to be adhered to. The Atkins Diet is more suited for people who like to eat a lot of meat, as it forms a big part of the 'acceptable' diet, while in the first few weeks, pasta, and even certain vegetables and other carbohydrate-rich foods are banned. The downside to this diet is bad breath and headaches. So far, from what I have gathered, this would definitely not be the diet for me!

Now if you want a quick fix there is always the Cabbage Soup Diet which is supposed to be for those people who only have a few pounds to lose. Unlike most other dietary programmes, it does not encourage a long-term change in the way you eat, as it is more a way of shifting surplus pounds in the short term. Many people go on the Cabbage Soup Diet in the week leading up to a big event where they want to that little bit slimmer. The programme lasts for seven days (and must not be exceeded) which for many is an achievable goal especially if they do not have a huge amount of weight to lose.

Basically, you eat as much cabbage soup as you want for a week, plus a very limited amount of other foods. To stay on the programme for longer than a week is counter-productive and can affect your health and energy levels. To me it sounds like misery on a plate.

Nothing in what I have read so far has persuaded me to relent in my cynicism about fad dieting. I think I might just have to stick to the tried and tested method and just maintain a balanced diet and throw in a bit of exercise for good measure. It sure beats cabbage soup and bad breath!

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