A quick bit of background for context, bear with me…
People ask me why I went to university for 8 years to study two back-to-back Honours degrees, they say I am mad and how could I afford it, how did I maintain the motivation etc etc. Truth is, my WHY was so strong that those points really didn’t matter.
I was desperate to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives be it for weight loss, right through to their battle with Diabetes, Coeliac disease or Cancer. In order to do this I HAD to do another degree to become a Registered Dietitian, the gold-standard in nutrition practitioners…so that’s exactly what I did. The NHS won’t let a ‘Nutritionist’ work for them, you have to have proven breadth and depth of knowledge to safely practice.
After a few years in the NHS from training through to practicing, I grew sick and tired of seeing people aimlessly wading through the quagmire of ‘nutrition experts’, ‘nutrition plans’ and ‘5-day Fat Burn’ plans that I decided enough, lets change the way people approach healthy eating. So that’s what I did.
Here’s what I decided to do, I committed to taking my training and using it to work with patients/clients to methodically identify the BEST diet plan for them. This took time, it relied on discussion, investigation, application and adjustment UNTIL we found a way of eating and drinking that worked.
Then and only then did we find the best diet for them…
What the science says…
Here’s what the science say’s… George, A, Bray, (2018) and a team of leading researchers from Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center found there to be no one set ‘best approach’ to weight loss or obesity treatment.
They concluded that the best approach for each individual depends on genetics, health and how well they can adhere to a particular regimen. They note that weight loss clients are justified in expecting to regain weight once they come off of a diet because facts are…most do.
However this isn’t good enough, so the focus has to be on training the individual to remain motivated to make the right dietary adjustments to their diet, and that relies on practicality and sustainability, oh and a bit of a mindset shift too!
The researchers looked into the effectiveness of various common weight loss methods such as Weight Watchers, exercise, obesity medications and types of bariatric surgery. The results were completely variable depending on the individual, and in the case of Weight Watchers, the management of ‘safe’ weight loss is less likely due to a lack of legitimate expert input. These programmes thrive on social pressure and accountability.
So, what is the best diet?
Well, we now know that picking a low-carb, low fat, high protein, high fibre diet in isolation is no more or less effective than the other, that in fact, all of these could successfully encourage weight loss, support lean muscle mass and improve health markers if done properly.
Why do these diets work? Well, because it is clear that they succeed at placing you into a calorie deficit, which is undoubtedly the main ‘rule’ for weight loss.
To be more specific then, the best ‘weight loss diet’ is one that places you into a calorie deficit without being at the expense of the key nutrients your body needs to thrive, however you go about getting them in.
So guess what, the safest way to achieve that is macronutrient balance and variety between all food groups. Too simple? Nope, that’s the way it’s always been…we just get blinkered by all the ‘Soup diets’, ‘Juice diets’, ‘Intermittent Fasting’, ‘Paleo’, IIFYM’s and so on…Baffling!
Arguably the diet that covers the above criteria best to date is the so-called ‘Mediterranean Diet’ simply because the only food group excluded from the diet is high sugar, high fat foods, specifically ‘man-made’ refined sugar/added sugar and processed food (trans fats, added salt and sweeteners etc).
Play it safe with this…
So to play it safe and stand a chance of being able to stick this one out, go with a modestly modified Mediterranean style of eating. I say ‘modified’ because one of the first things on the ‘Mediterranean diet is… Bread and pasta = refined.
Instead, steer clear of this where possible and go for other forms of starch such as sweet/white potato, basmati/brown rice, gluten free grains such as Quinoa, Amaranth and bulgar wheat. By all means get some bread and pasta in from time to time, but don’t treat as a staple as too many do (the evidence is out there now).
Definitely up the fruit and veg content of your diet, 7-10 portions a day…seriously! 7 portions of veg and 3 fruit when and where possible. Work towards this.
2-3 servings of fish a week, ideally 1-2 consisting of the oily variety e.g. salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines etc.
Reduce total meat intake, especially red meat, 1 serving of red meat a week should suffice and actually, this could be replaced with plant protein sources and non-haem sources of iron.
Choose products made from vegetable and plant oils, such as olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil (not necessarily a staple of Mediterranean diet…but it should be).