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Did you really need to diet?

Did you really need to diet?
Written by
Our Resident GP

This month our resident GP talks to Wikizine readers about dieting... With the New Year firmly under way and our resolutions soon to become a distant memory, now is the time to examine an aim which is dear to so many hearts. Weight loss.

For those who achieve it there are some who develop a ‘holier than thou’ attitude or even worse, an evangelical fervour. Contact with either of these groups, for those for whom a diet has brought about temporary or zero weight loss, can cause the dieter to be disheartened or even give up.

The TV schedules are awash with food and cookery programmes and no colour supplement is without the obligatory food section. When you see the various ingredients so liberally supplied to some of these culinary creations you can see that dieting is not the aim! That is not to say that you will be hard pressed to find a diet. Googling for a weight loss diet gave more than thirty million hits in 0.3 seconds!

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In 1958 Dr Mackarness published his book “Eat fat and grow slim” which helped quite a few people to lose weight but many dieters in later years baulked at the fat content. Many people regard this diet as a precursor to the Atkins Diet which has also fallen out of favour amongst many dieters. There is no end it seems, to the very long list of diets – cabbage, fibre, fruit, liquid. All have been the basis of weight loss with varying degrees of success. There has also been a potato based diet and the interesting and perhaps tempting Mars bar diet.

A doctor some sixty years ago said that it did not matter what you eat providing you took whiskey with it! Another comment is that people are what they eat. Then there was another doctor who, when asked for dieting tips, advised an acquaintance not to torture the system. There is a lot of advice for the dieter some of it helpful, some incredible and some of it daft. There will be more about advice and tips later.

The main point of this article is whether or not you really need to diet in the first place. Obviously there are some people who are clinically obese and those in that category rarely delude themselves yet often seem to lack motivation. They ignore the health risks and carry on with comfort eating. The need to fold down two seats on a bus should give a clue but to be charged extra fare by Air France should provide motivation! The answer to the posed question is that dieting is necessary and hopefully there will be some help from the tips later in the article.

Another group comprises mainly women who want drop a dress size in time for a holiday or a particular event. In fact dieting amongst adults is 70:30 women to men. Dieting in order to regain or achieve a desirable figure for the first time, by either women or men is a respectable enough objective. If the need for a slimmer figure is a ‘one off’ and the dieter has a history of relapsing, then perhaps torturing the system should be avoided. Developing a better personality and using a corset may be a better bet!

Those who worry about health problems brought on by excess weight can take comfort from the fact that getting fit is highly beneficial. Providing the excess weight is not excessive this is an excellent alternative to habitual dieting. It should also be borne in mind that becoming overweight in a previously slim person is rather more dangerous than for someone who has always carried a few extra pounds. There are many ways of getting fit without much expense. Walking, cycling and swimming have proven benefits. Dancing is an option which will appeal to some people especially those with rhythm. Joining a gym is another option but only buy an exercise bike if it is not going to be somewhere to hang a coat. If not living in a bungalow going up and down stairs is good way of getting in some exercise.

Nearly every diet does work and the dieter will lose weight but unfortunately it is usually short-lived. They work because the dieter alters their eating habits and perhaps lifestyle. They also work because the amount of calories consumed is much reduced. In fact in most cases just eating usual foods but less of it will also reduce weight.

The reason why dieters eventually revert to their former weight is because motivation, like willpower cannot easily be kept to the required level. Nor is it easy to make lifestyle changes permanent. The temptation to comfort eat is always there after a bad day at work or at home. Stress levels should be allowed for if a diet is to succeed. The problem of eating out with friends has been the downfall of many. The answer to the question in the title should really be a resounding NO!

All is not lost however. There is another approach which has a lot of merit. Avoid making drastic changes to eating habits and lifestyle. St Augustine (or maybe St Thomas) urged people not to go at once into the great ocean but by way of the little streams. This is good advice for dieters. It means do not go headlong into changing eating habits and lifestyle. Just a small change will be enough and one which can be lived with. There is one medic I know who believes that simply developing the habit of continually drumming the fingers can burn off energy and therefore calories! It does make sense though, to walk to the next bus stop along. Avoid lifts unless carrying a weight. Park your car a long way from the supermarket entrance. Put your food on to a smaller plate. Chew your food slowly, drink plenty of water, and do not do your food shopping whilst hungry. Avoid eating too late at night. Buy lower fat milk and cheese. Use foods with reduced sugar and salt content. Remember that to maintain a gradual loss of weight is more likely to bring about a permanent reduction.

If after reading this article, you still wish to go down the dieting route, there is a Super Fat Burning Diet which is used at the Sacred Heart Memorial Hospital in America for heart patients who need to lose weight before surgery. It will work but when you eventually put the weight back on, read this article again!

Finally to those who decide to adopt the habit of drumming fingers, wait until you are alone – nothing is guaranteed to raise stress levels more than that!

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