Maintaining a good diet and getting enough exercise seems to be all the rage nowadays and rightly so. Data by IHME* shows that from1990 to 2010, there has been a massive increase in preventable non-communicable diseases. Stroke, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and severe mental health conditions are what is unfortunately going to be killing most of us in the future! A healthy diet and adequate exercise are two of some of the most important steps to preventing these diseases and shedding extra weight.
3 facts and 3 fads about weight loss and diet:
Fact #1: We all fall into four Body Mass Index (BMI) “weight” categories: Underweight, Ideal Weight, Overweight, and Obese. This is calculated using your weight and height. Although BMI is a very useful tool to track your progress, it should be used with care in pregnant women, people under the age of 18 and athletes, and should be used together with regular measurements of the waist.
Fad #1: Weight loss magic formulas. Rule of thumb: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is! Many manufacturers market us pills, teas, herbs and drinks that will help us lose weight. One “rainbow weight loss pill” sold in Brazil was found to have amphetamines, thyroid hormones, diuretics, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants as well as the sensational ingredient - all in one pill!
Fact #2: To help you lose weight, you need put less energy in, and use up more energy, eating fewer calories. But, cutting down how much food you eat is challenging and doing it incorrectly, for example by skipping meals, can be bad for you. Three key areas to focus on when trying to lose weight:
Fad #2: Quick and easy diets that promise instant weight loss are best avoided. The vast majority of fad diets involve avoiding certain food groups and may not provide all the essential nutrients your body needs. You may get quick results, but many people drop off in the long term as they are difficult to follow and just regain the weight. Fad diets you should avoid tend to:
Fact #3: Eat smart and set yourself SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-specific). To lose weight, the average man can eat or drink 1,800 kcal a day. The average woman: 1,500 kcal. Factor these numbers into your targets. Always ensure more than two thirds of your plate consists of fruit & vegetables, meat, fish, egg, milk and dairy. See the “Eat Well” Plate.
Fad #3: “I need to have a gym membership and a personal trainer to lose weight.” Yes, you need regular exercise to lose weight and remain healthy, but not necessarily a gym membership. For weight loss, you should aim to exercise everyday and accumulate at least 150 minutes of activity that makes you breathless and sweaty each week - aiming for up to half an hour a day. A mixture of cardio (walking, jogging, cycling, rowing) and high resistance exercises for example, push ups, weightlifting will do for those of us who can’t take up bodybuilding or have the resources for a personal trainer. Additionally, build activities into your everyday life like taking the stairs, cycling to work or gardening.
For those who do decide to go into bodybuilding, it is important to take care with the supplements you use to boost your workout. From Lance Armstrong, to Dwain Chambers to Maria Sharapova - high flying athletes have been using supplements and drugs to enhance their performance - even though there are a large number of “natural” supplements that are truly helpful like those in Table 1. Always check the labelling of the products you’re buying. Again, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is!
In the US, one study found that of 1500 manufacturers and around 50,000 natural products, 170 were found to have hidden drugs or steroids whilst only 33% had scientific evidence to verify they were safe. Harmful products you should avoid include (see Table 2). It is important to also understand the potential side effects of taking performance enhancing steroids: including yellowing of the skin, liver damage and severe acne. Always consult your doctor before starting to take any supplement if you’re pregnant, have a chronic disease or are taking other medication as some supplements can interact with prescription medication.
So go ahead, take the bull by the horns and start living a healthy lifestyle!Disclaimer and references