The truth about four of the summer's most popular dietary fads
With the help of a Dubai-based nutritionist, Sara Taher exposes the truth behind four popular fad diets this summer
With summer holidays upon us, the urge is stronger now than ever to brace our bodies for the beach. Many of us turn to quick-fix solutions, including crash diets. But just how safe are they and do they actually work? Sometimes we throw ourselves into popular remedies without ever considering their real risks. Here, with the help of Dubai-based nutritionist and owner of Powwer Eat, Ahlaam Ali, we reveal the truth about some popular diets and highlight the flaws and solutions.
Negative Calorie Diet
The theory that fuels this popular diet is that certain foods need more energy to burn than they actually contain; essentially allowing you to eat yourself thin. Foods that one can eat on this diet freely include celery, onions, grapefruit, kelp, lettuce and most green vegetables. While very nutritious and high in fibre, eating them exclusively does pose certain risks. ‘Your body will go into starvation mode due to the fact that it hasn’t had enough calories as fuel,’ says Ali. ‘Being on a negative calorie diet for too long can actually not just slow down your metabolism but also create vitamin and mineral deficiencies which in turn will lead to a lot of complications later in life.’
How to do it right: ‘Build in some negative calorie snacks during the day and a couple of meals a week. This way you are still getting the basic number of calories that your body requires to function normally,’ says Ali.
From Atkins to the Ducan, all protein diets promise fast weight loss by eliminating carbohydrates. While it is true that one’s weight will drop dramatically, the health risks inherent with this regime are plentiful. Sticking to the protein diet could cause high cholesterol, kidney stones and even organ failure. ‘We have all tried the high protein diet at some stage in our lives and let’s be honest, we have put the weight back on immediately after introducing carbs back into our diets,’ says Ali. ‘It is a well-known fact that fat burns in the flame of carbs. So some carbs are critical to your weight loss programme and for sustaining that weight loss.’
How to do it right: ‘Have a carb free dinner but include the good carbs with a low glycaemic index, such as grains, oats, brown rice and quinoa, into your other two meals. If you are an active person, you’ll need complex carbs such as vegetables and fruits. Make these a part of your daily diet and you will lose the weight,’ says Ali.
Liquid diets come in all shapes and forms; however most work by severely restricting your calorie intake. The biggest pitfall with all liquid diets is that the weight you lose on them is gained back exponentially faster as soon as you reintroduce solid food. Additionally, the body might also start burning muscle mass as opposed to fat, which could cause heart problems. ‘Liquid diets are great for a short period of time – a maximum period of three days,’ says Ali. ‘They’re great as cleansers and metabolism jump-starters, however not as a regular way of life.’
How to do it right: ‘Do a one- or three-day liquid diet per month. This will enable you to stay healthy while also kick-starting your metabolism. If you want to do it longer term then make sure you introduce some raw vegetables and fruits to the liquid diet,’ says Ali.
Low fat diets
The range of diets in this family promise results by eliminating or severely restricting the fat content in your food. Issues start to arise when people don’t discern between good fat and harmful ones. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function well, fats help us absorb vitamins and produce energy. ‘Most of us will eliminate all fats from our diets when trying to lose weight,’ says Ali. This is really lethal as your body does require good fats to keep the various metabolic functions going. They’re critical for your heart and other organs to function well. Omegas are also required for keeping your hair, skin, nails healthy.’
How to do it right: ‘Good fats are in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds and fish. Include these in your daily diet in small doses to ensure you keep your body working efficiently. By including good fats in your diet, you will be better equipped to break down the belly fat,’ says Ali. Ahlaam Ali is a lifestyle consultant and owner of lifestyle and weight management company Powerr Eat, www.ahlaamali.com.
The latest fad The 5:2 ratio diet involves eating normally for five days and fasting for two. ‘The smart way to do it is to keep your diet fairly healthy over five days with not-so-naughty treats and on two days aim for 600 calories of healthy options.’ says Ali.