Diet and Weight Loss News

Crash diet, you could actually be doing your weight and health more harm than good

Written By Betty van der Mark on Monday, June 2, 2008 | 2:18 AM

Chartered health psychologist Dr Kerri McPherson, a former lecturer at the Capital's Queen Margaret University, believes restricting your food intake and banning certain foods is a recipe for disaster. Not only are fad diets bound to fail, she says, but ultimately they are more likely to lead to weight gain. She also points the finger at our eagerness to accept the idea of comfort eating. How many people haven't, for instance, turned to a piece of chocolate cake to help heal the wounds of a relationship break-up?

Dr McPherson says: "When people, particularly women, are over-weight, there's a tendency for them to feel pressure to lose weight. We know that people who engage in yo-yo dieting are more likely to be over-weight.

"Restricting food intake is more likely to lead to people being over-weight and lead to disinhibition when a diet is broken.

"That cycle through restraint and disinhibition usually results in weight gain. People who diet cycle usually get stuck in a rut where one week they may have lost a couple of pounds then give up the diet and put it back on again.

"We see dieting very much as a short-term fix rather than seeing it as a long-term solution."

Food and nutrition experts encourage people who tend to fall off the wagon to try to identify the reasons which lead to them pandering to certain cravings.

IF stressful events leave people reaching for the biscuit tin, then they are encouraged to be aware of their emotions, and have a plan B on standby.

Dr McPherson adds: "There's a point after lunch every day where stress at work is high and we would encourage people to have healthier snack options available to them.

"There's a link between sweet food, and in particular chocolate, and the release of certain chemicals in the brain which assist with feelings of comfort.

"The way that we talk about comfort eating is as though it's widely accepted."

Dr McPherson also believes that people are piling on the pounds because of a genuine lack of knowledge about which foods are healthy and which are bad for you.

Again, she says, the diet obsession is encouraging people to buy products which claim to be that they think will help them lose weight, which is not always the best thing for them.

She says: "The reality is that people just don't know what is good and bad because nutritional knowledge in the UK is bad.

"The marketing of particular types of food as healthier options can be misleading for people."

With around three quarters of women admitting that they have been on a diet at some point in their lives, Emma Conroy, a nutritionist with Edinburgh Nutrition, says it's important to put it into context.

She says: "It's important to remember that being overweight isn't necessarily a health concern, it depends on what sort of fat makes up the excess weight, and where it is stored in the body."

Simply weighing yourself, she explains, does not paint a clear picture, with measuring your waist-to-hip ratio proving a more "crucial factor" in deciding whether your weight is a health risk.

She also stresses that women must remember that due to the demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding, the female body has evolved the capacity to store substantial amounts of fat, safely, giving a pear-shaped figure.

She adds: "Apple shapes beware. Fat that is stored in the abdomen, around the organs, is more metabolically active.

"It's put there for short-term use, readily laid down, and readily re-entering the blood.

"Fat stored away from the organs – in thighs, buttocks and breasts – is there for the long-term.

"That's why it's so much harder to shift, but the plus-side is that this more inert fat poses far less, if any, health risk."