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Diet and weight loss cliches that can get in the sea.

I've been increasingly ranty lately. I suspect I'm reaching that point in a woman's life where "behaving" is a less appealing option. And while it is true that I like to be measured, balanced and not throw the baby out with the bath water, there are still plenty of things about the fitness industry that still get on my wick. So buckle yourselves in....

Diets with names.

Ok, just diets really.

A few days ago a friend messaged me and asked "what to you thing of "The ____ diet?" I get this exact question a lot, it's not a surprise.

My first reaction though, before even looking it up or seeing what it entailed was.... it's rubbish. I don't even need to see what is in there, it's a scam. [Note: I did check, for science, it was rubbish. Both nutritionally and in terms of sustainability. This is an empty victory for me.]


Because someone gave it a catchy name. Why does a diet need a name? It's not like you need to call it when it's lost in the woods. Well, it's marketing. The catchy name is there so make it easy to talk about and easy to sell.

Another question I often encounter is "what's the best way to lose weight" and inevitably the answer is a role call of diet names:

The toast art diet.

  • The cabbage soup diet
  • The Atkins diet
  • The boiled egg diet
  • The ketogenic diet
  • The South Beach diet

You know what you almost never see?

"A balanced mix of macro and micronutrients obtained from minimally processed foods in a manageable caloric deficit in accordance with your activity levels"

Which is odd, seeing as this is the most proven, successful and medically backed fat loss method. And indeed the only one a fitness professional (in the UK and many other places) is actually allowed to advise.

Now I'm not angry at the people who try these diets, or who recommend them to their friends. I'm angry at the people who present themselves as health or fitness professionals then take advantage of people's fear, desperation and lack of understanding to make a quick buck on something which anyone with a clear understanding of nutrition or lifestyle change psychology knows isn't the best answer.

What's so wrong about diets with names.

Well, in order to be relevant, or fashionable, or unique enough to be trademarked, a diet has to be complicated. It has to involve things that other diets (or just sensible nutrition and eating like a damn adult) don't involve.

That makes it harder to follow. It forces you to make life changes you might not be able to make, which sets you up for failure.

In order to make this seem worthwhile, they then have to explain why you should do this. Usually this is done with Bad Science. And there is nothing I hate more than Bad Science.

  • Evidence taken out of context (this study showed lab mice lost weight when we fed them nothing but tofu, so eat more tofu for weight loss.... no one has replicated this result since...)
  • Dietitian designed diets taken out of context (people with this illness eat this way in order to control their symptoms, so lets use it for something completely different and call it "dietitian approved).
  • Lone scientists with questionable credentials lending endorsement (Dr Quack PhD says that for weight loss you should drink these shakes. He also has shares in the company that makes them).
  • Impossible claims ("Lose up to 10kg a week" based on one person who had an amputation on the diet once.)

They often claim a "quick fix" which I will come to later...

You might be expected to "invest" in shakes, supplements, meal plans etc as if this is going to help you reach your goal and stay there. In truth for many people, these plans are so far off what is achievable for them.

While we are talking about buying things...

Weight loss clubs

What? She's coming for THEM. Yep, I am. Bring it.

I know some people are big fans of weight loss clubs, some people are very happy with their results. For many people it is an easily accessible introduction to a healthier lifestyle.

But I still have a problem with the way most weight loss clubs are run. OK. A lot of problems.

There's the complication of nutrition, days with colours, counting that doesn't make sense. There's also the fact that the programmes are designed to be effective while you are a member and paying out, and notsomuch when you break out on your own. There is little to no education outside of how to use their system - it's non transferable. I could probably make a living simply taxing people I hear say things like "I must go back to 'Look at my Fat' meetings because I've put back all the weight I lost last year".

The big issue I have with weight loss clubs is the shame culture. I don't believe that shame is useful or helpful when supporting people, through lifestyle changes. In fact from coaching diet club survivors I would suggest it is deeply damaging.

The concept of "good" and "bad" foods and eating them somehow being a reflection of your character. The culture of idealising slim physiques and ridiculing others. The public weigh ins.

I've spoken to women who starve themselves before weigh in day, or who joke about having been ill and therefore having an "advantage". I've spoken to women who have the worst self-talk... "I failed", "I've got no discipline", "I'm going to be fat forever because I'm weak". It's heartbreaking and I can't condone any system which leaves people this damaged in the name of "improvement".

Cut it out

Cut what out? Who knows? What's fashionable today?

Sugar, carbs, fat, gluten, dairy, eggs, fruit, eating after 6pm....

Let's get this straight. There is no foodstuff that a healthy person can eliminate from their diet and magically start losing weight.

No food is so terrible that it breaks the laws of thermodynamics and makes you gain/maintain weight as a moderate part of a healthy diet with a caloric deficit. For most people, laying the foundations of a healthy diet and being kind to themselves within reasonable parameters is all they will ever need to maintain a healthy weight.

Worse still, people cutting major food groups from their diet without a real understanding of why, or what the consequences might be are potentially risking their health.

Do you have an intolerance, have taken medical advice? Or really, strongly feel you can do without a particular food and have done your homework to make sure you can compensate for missing nutrition? A balanced, wholesome diet with a sensible approach to less-healthy inclusions will do you fine.

Eating a load of bread makes me feel bloated and grim. Should I cut gluten? Or should I eat bread in sensible portions?

There's no great mystery to fat loss, but learning the habits and skills to eat well, as well as understanding ourselves and how food fits into our lives, is a commitment. Supporting people through the process takes time, patience and connection - there's no fast bucks to be made there.

Need some help?

Got questions? Give me a shout! Head over to my Facebook page. You could even join my free fitness community for exclusive information, support and accountability.

You can also start out with my completely FREE reset, by signing up to my mailing list. In this 7 day programme I take you through some of the most important changes you can make to your lifestyle, to make you feel better, through building healthy habits into your lifestyle.

Making big changes is scary, Lotus Bloom coaching is nutrition and lifestyle coaching for long term, sustainable change. I take on a small number of clients who I support through a life changing 12 month process. Claim your spot now.


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