Is 2022 the year to say goodbye to fad diets?

It's time for some real talk - the discussions around the coffee table have probably already happened. You’ve already told your friend and family that your diet for this year’s resolution is going to be the one that helps you lose weight. You’ve told them that it will work. Well, I have some news for you: it won’t.

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Why? Because contrary to popular belief, diets actually do work - most people do lose weight when on a diet. The problem is what happens after a diet. 95% of all people who diet gain all their weight back, and then some. Why? Because they have engaged in a diet, that is unsustainable, super boring and cuts out all of their favourite food unnecessarily.

The truth is, nothing strict or ultra-restrictive will work long-term. When we put foods on a ‘forbidden’ list, all of the sudden, everything on that list is very tempting, Yes, you may be able to hold off the temptation for a while, but you will reach a point where the temptation is too great. And you give in. And then you are back on a vicious cycle where you give in, binge out and then feel guilty. Over and over again.

I have a solution for you. What if 2022 is the year you stop engaging in fad diets but start engaging in healthier eating habits which will then likely lead to safe but sustainable weight loss over time? What if you can still enjoy your favourite foods, but instead of indulging every day, enjoy them mindfully and when you really want?

Ultimately, no matter how much the scales say you weigh, the most important factor to keep in mind is your health as diets often consist of rules that restrict food groups which play important roles in health and the prevention of disease. This is because whilst many diets promote weight loss, they may not actually be so good for our health.

The problem with many of our diets is that they tend to be overly processed, very high in carbs, very high in fat, and low in fruit, veg and whole foods. So, what health-promoting eating behaviours can you be engaging with in 2022?

1. Plants are your best friends

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, pulses, beans, wholegrains, nuts and seeds offer a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant chemicals called phytochemicals which have been suggested to have anti-inflammatory, anti-toxic and anti-cancer activities. 

Since they are also generally low in calories (although, you may want to watch out for higher calories ones - I’m looking at you, nuts/seeds and avocados!), they can also help with your weight loss goals whilst still providing all the goodness you need. When attempting to lose weight, you should aim for about half of your meal to be made up of salad/roasted veg/sautéed veg, etc.

2. Protein is not just about the gains

Yes, we need protein to build and maintain muscles but that is not it’s only function, despite what the fitness bros will have you believe. Other important functions of protein include:

  • Helping to support the growth, development and repair of all tissues in our body.
  • Provide structure to cells and tissues and so give them strength, protection, flexibility and resilience.

Additionally, out of all the macronutrients (fats, carbs and protein), protein is the most satiating, which means that it helps keep you full for longer and so reduces the chance of you overeating later on. It also needs the most energy itself to be digested which is why people trying to lose weight are advised to have more protein in their diet. For example, if having 100 calories of fat or carbs, you will absorb around 90-100 of those calories. When you have 100 calories from protein, you will actually only absorb 70 of those calories. 

3. Minimally processed food

Let’s get something straight here first - not all processed foods are inherently bad for us. In fact, processing can sometimes mean that nutrients are more readily available for us to absorb and also makes our food safe to eat! However, it is fair to say that the kind of processed food our society tends to rely on is one that has too much salt, fat and sugar added to it (which is what makes it so calorific), and is often stripped from its important nutrients, so try to stick to whole foods!

4. Fats do not make you fat

I’ll repeat, eating fat will not make you fat. That’s a fact. It’s when you are overeating and you become in a calorie surplus, often combined with a sedentary lifestyle that will lead to an energy surplus - this means you are taking in more energy than you are using. Doing this chronically over time is what will make you gain weight.

So, first things first, why do we need fats in our diet?

Fats are vital for human health. They are needed by every cell in the human body, help our body to absorb vitamins and help to maintain the function of our cells. However, there are different types of fat in food - some of them not so good and some of them better. They can be split broadly into two categories - saturated and unsaturated. 

The majority of people in the UK are eating too much saturated fat and not enough of the right type of fat. Although most foods that contain fats will have a mixture of both types of fat, the dominant form will be the type to characterise the food. For example, there is a higher percentage of saturated fats found in red meat, fatty chicken, processed meats and dairy products like butter and cheese. Unsaturated fats tend to come from plant sources like nuts, seeds, avocado and fish and it is these types of fats that you want to have more of in your diet.

So, why is fat an issue when it comes to weight? Well, the truth is that it contains nine calories per gram (regardless of whether it is saturated or unsaturated) whereas carbs and protein have four calories per gram. This means that if you have high-fat foods regularly in your diet, it will be much easier for you to be in a calorie surplus.

Bottom line: limit the amount of saturated fat you have in your diet and aim for the majority of the fat to come from unsaturated sources. However, be mindful of how much unsaturated fats you eat as too much can lead to weight gain.

5. Carbs aren’t your enemy

Ok, so I know carbs have been the enemy of the people for several years and are touted to be the source of all evil. This is absolutely not correct. Carbs are in fact our body’s number one source of fuel, particularly for our brain. They are not nutritionally void and actually contain a host of important minerals and vitamins, particularly when consumed in their whole form, with the added fibre.

When it comes to gaining weight, people often blame carbs as the culprit, but again, this is incorrect. Carbs in isolation will not gain weight. However, carbs and fat often go very well with each other (think pasta with olive oil, potato with butter, bread with butter, etc). The combination makes hyper-palatable foods which leads to us overconsuming. Overconsuming results in a calorie surplus which will eventually lead to weight gain if it occurs over and over again.

And there you have my top health-promoting eating patterns that you should try and engage with in 2022. Leave the fad diets behind and I promise that you will reap the rewards. Need some guidance on how to implement the above? Why not reach out for a free discovery call where you can find out more on how I can help you reach your 2022 goals?

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London SW14 & E18
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Written by Rania Salman, Registered Dietitian, PgDip (Merit), BSc (Honours), MBDA
London SW14 & E18

Rania Salman is a trained dietitian who uses an evidence-based approach to support you in reaching your goals. Her areas of expertise include Fertility, PCOS, weight loss/gain in addition to general health and wellbeing. She has worked in some of the most well-known NHS trusts, in addition to working for the private sector.

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