I heard on the radio yesterday morning that Lily Allen’s recent weight loss has been down to the latest diet craze………………….jars of baby food! I have just been looking at this on the internet and am actually a little confused; this does not appear to be ‘hot off the press’, but I have obviously been oblivious to this news about Lily Allen, as perhaps was my local radio station? Still, hearing this hit a nerve so I am going to have a moan anyway
The ‘baby food diet’ has been around for a little while and its rise to fame is down to the endorsement by the likes of Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, Reece Witherspoon and Madonna. Why oh why would someone come up with this idea and think it is a safe way to lose weight? Tracy Anderson dreamed up this one – a personal trainer to the stars (who is supposed to be a responsible professional / likes to see $$$), renowned for her ‘success’ in slimming down celebrities to lean and svelte figures with extreme regimes of very low Calories diets combined with intense exercise. I get infuriated by the hype these type of diets get and how they are promoted as the latest, easy answer to all our weight loss prayers, particularly when they can influence the young and impressionable.
People are often desperate to conform to unrealistic, set ideals and will try almost anything to achieve it. No one should say weight loss is easy but it can be relatively simple. Yes to fewer Calories and more exercise, you can even try smaller, blue plates and large cutlery (yes someone did find that helped us eat smaller portions) but the more extreme methods of severe dietary restriction or even placing painful patches on the tongue to stop us eating are entirely unnatural. If only there was a soap that washed the fat away…… 😉
So I feel a certain level of responsibility to put the facts straight:
1. Celebrity diets or any other fad diet for that matter enable weight loss because by following them, you reduce your Calorie intake – it’s as simple as that!
This is not rocket science – if you eat fewer Calories than your body uses, you will have to breakdown your body’s own energy stores, hence you lose weight. A jar (or pouch of baby food) will only contain around 50-100 Calories, so there’s your answer. What I don’t understand is who in their right mind would want to eat them because they liked the taste?! Not that I have ever eaten one myself (not for about 40years anyway!)
2. What they don’t tell you is some of the potential health problems you might experience by following them:
Following low or very low Calorie diets unsupervised (without seeking help or guidance from a qualified health professional) can mean you experience very unpleasant and potentially serious side effects:
- low blood sugar
- light headedness
- weakness and fatigue
- loss of concentration
- electrolyte imbalances
- heart arrhythmias
- drop in blood pressure
This is in addition to the nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath and irritability you can experience…..nice!
Rapid wight loss (of more than 1-2lb per week which is the ideal rate) is not recommended – when losing weight you cannot dictate or select which body tissues are going to be broken down first. Pure fat loss just does not happen; it will always be a combination of muscle and fat tissue; somewhere around a 25% : 75% (muscle:fat) to a 50:50 split depending on the size of your fat stores and if you exercise or not. The destruction of this muscle means that you lose the tissue in your body that is responsible for burning Calories – the amount of muscle you have very much determines your metabolic rate. Losing muscle results in a fall in metabolic rate, which slows the rate you burn Calories; making it more difficult to lose weight.
3. These diets do not educate you how to eat healthily.
As soon as you stop the diet (having achieved your weight loss goal or you fall off the wagon) you regain your original eating habits and therefore regain the weight, plus a bit more (particularly if you have lost muscle mass as I explained above). This is the yo yo dieting problem that so many people experience and essentially this is what keeps the diet industry going. Failure of one diet means we try a different one next time; that fails so we move onto whatever the latest craze is.
So what questions should we ask to determine if the diet is a goer?
1. Who invented/developed it? Do they have a scientific or medical background? On what evidence do they base their dietary recommendations?
More than likely they do not! I have looked at so many websites that are promoting weight loss diets and I am shocked at how manipulative they can be! They report Dr This and Dr That who in actual fact are not Drs at all – not in the medical sense anyway. They are so creative with the truth and provide misleading information, but they sell their product amazingly well – it’s no wonder people are drawn in by their claims.
2. Is it realistic / practical / achievable?
No doubt they promise dramatic and rapid weight loss but I expect there is no way on Earth anyone could stick to this diet for any length of time – it will certainly not be teaching people why certain foods should be limited or why we should be eating more of others. I can’t see how quick fix diets promote sustainable lifestyle changes at all. I am even doubtful about the point systems some diets use.
3. Is it nutritionally balanced? Are all food groups represented? Does it use powders or liquid formulas rather than foods? Does it attempt to make people dependent upon certain brand products?
Some diets are extremely limited (the cabbage soup or the grapefruit diet. Don’t even ask about the egg and wine diet!) and cannot possibly offer all the nutrients we require. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are certainly a reality of repeatedly following such restricted diets long term.
Many diet plans use meal replacement shakes which a) mean we lose our relationship with REAL FOOD and b) we are required to spend money on products that are in fact no better, if not worse than real food. Weight Watchers products come to mind here – yoghurts, snacks, bread, processed ready meals, even wine bear the Weight Watchers label. They are over priced and often are no healthier than the non-diet version; if anything their lower fat / reduced Calorie nature will mean they are higher in sugar and salt than non diet versions.
So this brings me back to the baby food………….Pureed baby food in a jar is essentially processed mush – very easy to eat and digest. And by eating these purees, we lose the very signals that help us control our food intake – feelings of satisfaction and fullness are associated with chewing our food. This quick fix is completely the opposite of mindful eating in my mind.
So you probably get it that I am not a fan of the baby food diet or any other fad diet. Please don’t fall for the images you see of impossibly achievable figures (unless you earn X Million per year, have a chef, personal trainer, house keeper and nanny), the bottom line is………….if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Apologies for the long rant but I feel better for getting that all off my chest 🙂