It’s that time of year when we’re encouraged to embrace ‘clean eating’, do a detox and cut things out of our diets. Why can’t we just eat everything in moderation and enjoy mealtimes more?
Since Christmas, I’ve seen a gym chain advertising how much exercise is needed to burn off the typical Christmas dinner, numerous self-appointed nutrition experts extolling the virtues of ‘clean eating’ on social media, and I’ve been sent an email for a juicing cleanse.
Another year, another diet
At this time of year, we’re bombarded with messages about detoxing and using fad diets to lose those extra pounds we might have gained indulging over the Christmas period. Each new year brings the release of several new ‘revolutionary’ diet books claiming that they’re the silver bullet.
But do any of them actually work? And are they healthy on a long-term basis?
Too many restrictive diets
Put simply, diets ‘work’ by limiting what you eat. If you expend more calories than you consume there’s no doubt about it – you will lose weight. However, you can’t sell many books telling people that.
Instead, complex plans are drawn up with a set of rules about what you can and can’t eat. An example in point is the Paleo diet, which cuts out complex carbohydrates, dairy, starchy veg, fruit and legumes, resulting in you naturally consuming less food. It can be effective for weight loss, especially in the short term. However, it can be hard to maintain long term and as you’re restricting so many foods, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Similarly, the ‘clean eating’ brigade often advocates cutting out all dairy, as well as starchy carbohydrates. Cutting out dairy can lead to calcium deficiencies, which can have long-term implications for bone health.
Other ‘experts’ encourage us to stop eating sugar and replace it with honey or syrups such as agave – yet these are all still sugar and treated the same way by our bodies. The only difference is that these replacements are all significantly more expensive.
Let’s enjoy ALL food
I’m fed up with being made to feel guilty for eating certain foods – I believe that food isn’t just about fuelling yourself, but also about enjoyment. As long as you’re not eating biscuits, cakes, chocolate, crisps (or all of them) every day there’s no harm in having them occasionally.
The Mediterranean diet, which is what the government’s Eatwell Guide is based on, is consistently heralded as the most successful for health. Many people say it’s nonsense, as we’re getting bigger and bigger as a nation. However, in my opinion, the problem isn’t the guide but rather that most people don’t follow it properly.
Are you changing your diet for the new year, and if so, what changes are you making? Or do you prefer to stick to my rule of ‘a bit of everything is OK’?