Healthy Diet
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Millions of us have tried to lose weight with a diet in the past year

However, seeing as so many try and fail, are diets in fact a flawed concept? Mintel estimates the diet industry will be worth more than £1.9billion by 2017. There are diet apps, books, online plans, supermarket ranges and home delivery services, all enticing us with promises of weight loss.

Yet despite the popularity of the countless eating plans on the market, in 2007, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles concluded dieting actually makes you gain weight. People on diets typically lost five to ten per cent of their starting weight in the first six months – but up to two thirds regained more weight than they had lost within five years.

We asked four industry experts to thrash it out in our big diet debate:

Yes, diets are a waste of time, says Steve Miller, a weight loss and motivation hypnotherapist

When someone embarks on a diet, all they think about is food. As such, diets do nothing but exacerbate an unhealthy obsession with food, making dieters feel guilty. Some diets may even become dangerous, as they starve the body of essential nutrients, while there are horror stories of bad breath and fainting linked with extreme regimes. Many diets require you to spend a lot of money too.

Sensible eating is much more cost-effective. The main problem with diets is that they do not deal with the underlying issue of why someone is overweight. This is particularly important if someone is struggling with emotional eating. People should be looking at ways to increase their self-esteem and confidence so their reliance on food lessens.

Weight loss is all about motivation but diets do nothing to inspire you.

Instead, the rigidity can deflate you as you feel restricted. Diets do not train your mind towards sensible eating. People are much better at learning how to adopt the 80/20 rule, where 80 per cent of the time you eat well, and 20 per cent of the time you can have something naughty.

Lastly, diets can confuse people. Dieters are told to eat certain amounts of carbs and protein and weigh it all out but we don’t have time for that in today’s society. Instead of dieting, people should ditch all the excuses they have made for being fat. Then they should begin to affirm their control over food. Finally, they should make adjustments to their lifestyle so they begin to experience positive emotions.

Yes diets are a waste of time, says Clark Russell, nutritionist and author of e-book The Fat Loss Puzzle

The diet industry is the most successful failed business in the world. Some of the weight-loss organisations are actually owned by food companies – such as Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which also owns Slim Fast – so it makes you think about who really benefits from their advice.

Diets that promote calorie restriction don’t work. A study by the American Psychological Association in 2008 concluded that calorie restrictive diets are not sustainable. It’s the quality, rather than quantity, of calories you consume that matters. Essentially, your body lowers its metabolism as a survival mechanism in response to taking in fewer calories. As a result, it tries to retain fat rather than burning it.

Most diets also promote a high-carb, low-fat approach, which doesn’t leave you feeling full. A high-carb diet also promotes high insulin levels (insulin is the fat storage hormone) as carbs get broken down into glucose. Any excess glucose not used for energy will be stored as fat.

A high-fat diet, in combination with moderate protein, promotes the secretion of the gut hormone peptide YY, which helps regulate appetite, as well as suppressing the secretion of grehlin, a hormone that stimulates hunger.

There have been at least 23 quality studies which have concluded that it’s best to eat low-carb, moderate-protein and high-fat meals for sustained weight loss and optimal health ( Moreover, most diets advocate snacking but this upsets your biological clock, interfering with hormone signalling, including leptin, our key appetite-regulating hormone.

When too much is circulating, the receptors don’t hear the message to stop eating because you are full.

No, diets aren’t a waste of time, says Dr Bijal Chheda-Varma, a cognitive behavioural therapist at Capio Nightingale Hospital, London

It is important to stick to a nutrition plan because it provides internal psychological stability around eating and steers people away from unhealthy thoughts and behaviour patterns such as ‘all or nothing’.

A structured meal plan reduces impulsivity linked to binge eating or eating for emotional reasons. Several studies show structured eating improves the stability of glucose levels (sugar in the blood) by balancing insulin. Both the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the NHS promote a meal plan with healthy snacks.

A key study in the Obesity research journal in 2001 (Food Provision As A Strategy To Promote Weight Loss) stated that nutritional planning meant people stuck to diets, increased nutrition knowledge, reduced unnecessary snacking and ate better quality foods.

Finally, structured eating regulates two essential sensations: hunger and satiety. These are our body’s self-regulatory mechanisms to help us manage the intake of food. These sensations are crucial in helping us develop eating behaviours.

No, diets aren’t a waste of time, says Lovisa Nilsson, nutritionist for free health app Lifesum

Diets undeniably work for weight loss because if, one way or another, you create a calorie deficit (the difference between your normal calorie intake and your diet intake) you will lose weight. To an extent, the larger the deficit you create, the more weight you will lose. However, I do not recommend creating a larger calorie deficit than 1,000 kcal per day as your body will go into starvation mode, slowing weight-loss.

Ideally, you need to find a diet you can sustain over a long period to keep the weight off. You must also be committed to your chosen diet – willpower is vital.

It is important to remember that weight loss does not always lead to improvements in your health, as proved recently by a group of researchers writing for the Social and Personality Psychology Compass. They found diets do indeed lead to weight loss but that exercising and increasing your fruit and vegetable intake play a larger role in improving health.

So make sure you are tailoring your diet to your individual goals. If this goal is weight loss, then it is my belief that committing to a diet will work.