Everybody these days seems to be obsessed with this question, but sometimes asking this question seems to raise more questions than answers. Official government guidelines seem to be out of touch with the latest science on this, but are we any closer to knowing what the ideal diet consists of? Opinions seem to be so random and varied, with many of the official experts discredited, but no one diet receiving unreserved acclaim from everyone.
Maybe the truth is that we are all individuals with differing goals, differing bodies, differing emotional needs etc etc. Maybe there is no ‘one size fits all’. Much depends on your aims, no doubt. There seems also to be an assumption that thin I s healthy and fat is not. This is clearly not always the case, as the starving children of Africa or the victims of the concentration camps would testify. Nutrition is an incredibly complex topic, where nothing is clear cut. Practically nothing is universally good or 100% bad – it all depends on what you want to achieve, short term or long term.
Most of the clients I talk to are mostly concerned about how to manage their weight rather than how to fuel an Ultramarathon or a 100metre sprint. Most do not want to radically change what they consume, even if they know a lot of it could be improved nor do they necessarily expect changing their diet to make them feel better. Usually they will tell you they love their food and don’t want to change it, but just lose weight. It’s not my job to try to convert them to a different way of eating if they don’t believe it will make them feel better. Furthermore, I’m not a qualified nutritionist so I run risks in doing so.
All I can say about weight loss through nutrition and exercise is from what I’ve experienced myself and learned from many different sources, many of which are not unbiased. Indeed, it is almost impossible to find truly independent scientific evidence in this field because most of it is funded by vested interests. The main principles I have discovered in losing weight that work for ME are:
1. Eat unlimited quantities of fruit and vegetables.
2. Reduce starchy carbohydrates and refined sugar as much as possible.
3. Eat only when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. Don’t deprive yourself because it won’t be sustainable, but fill up on the good stuff, not sugary snacks.
4. Avoid snacks.
5. Avoid fizzy drinks and limit alcohol consumption.
6.Eat real food and avoid processed foods and supplements.
7.Drink plenty of water.
8. Move around more – long bouts of low intensity activity work better for weight loss than working out like a maniac for an hour then doing nothing for the rest of the day. Also, you’re less likely to eat when moving around and busy. Gentle walking uses around half the calories of steady running, but, for most people, 2 hours of walking is a lot easier than an hour of running.
9. Don’t bother with ‘low fat’ products – sugars make you fat, not dietary fat and sugars include starchy carbs. Also fat helps with the digestive process.
Again, I stress that these are just my opinions, from my own experience of weight loss and gain only. The same will not apply to others necessarily and I’m not advocating any particular diet. It all depends on you and your goals.