IT’S THAT time of the year when everyone you know and their nan vow to go on a diet.
From slimming clubs to keto, cutting out anything worth actually eating to wishing on a “magic pill” that might see you shed the pounds once and for all, there are so many options out there.
So if you’re one of the estimated 26million Brits that jumped on the dieting bandwagon last week, you can be forgiven for feeling confused.
With so many methods claiming to be the “best”, diet culture has muddled the simple foundations of fat loss, leaving many of us with larger waistlines than before.
Graeme Tomlinson, known as The Fitness Chef to his one million Instagram followers, rose to popularity for cutting through the nonsense and giving people the tools they need to lose weight without becoming miserable.
Previously a personal trainer but now a best-selling author, Graeme is against any strict rules with weak scientific evidence that tell people to cut out food groups or offer a quick fix.
Here, he outlines the key fads to steer clear of in his new book, Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind…
1. DIET FAD: Eat only in a small window
Fasting diets have become increasingly popular, for telling people to only eat on certain days of the week, or between certain hours of the day, to cut back on food intake.
Grame said “when you look at the body of evidence, there’s actually no difference between intermittent fasting and just reducing calorie intake”.
“If you reduce the window in which you eat, say to just 12-8pm, you’re less likely to eat more calories, which makes perfect sense,” he said.
“However, if somebody chooses to eat thousands of calories within the window, then it’s kind of counterproductive.
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“It’s not really based on anything kind of biological or physiological. It’s more just kind of a byproduct of reducing the amount of time you can eat.”
Graeme said it’s just another strategy to cut back on calories which “can absolutely help with weight loss” – but it’s “not some kind of magic formula”.
2. DIET FAD: Don’t eat past 6pm
Some of the slimmest people you know might tell you “I just don’t eat past 6pm”.
Coincidence? Graeme said what time you have your dinner is not proven to have “any relevance to losing body fat”.
“What’s important is over the 24 hours, how many calories come in and how many calories you expend.”
Limiting late-night eating may help you sleep, however, an often overlooked pillar of health that can promote healthy weight.
3. DIET FAD: Cut out refined sugar
A cookie and a mango both have high contents of sugar. But somewhere along the line, the cookie has become the devil.
Graeme said: “People put food into boxes and think that you should never eat the cookie because it must be bad, and the mango is good.
“But actually, they’re both very different kinds of foods that you can include. It’s just about understanding the simple differences.”
The mango has vitamins, nutrients and fibre. The cookie, while having little health value, is quite simply, delicious and brings you joy.
“You can absolutely include both in your diet,” Graeme said. “A lot of people say there’s good sugar and bad sugar, but there isn’t. It all metabolises the same. What I would say is just moderate your intake.”
4. DIET FAD: Stop eating carbs
The same goes for carbs, which are thrown out in diets like keto.
Graeme said: “Why would you want to cut out bread, pasta and rice when there’s no evidence to suggest that they will result in more fat gain?”
The argument is that refined “white” carbs are not as filling due to being lower in fibre.
But Graeme noted a study in which participants only ate white rice and fruits for a period of time and lost an average of 10st each.
“Why did they lose so much weight? Because they were in a calorie deficit,” Graeme said, adding that carbs are a “fundamental part of the diet”.
5. DIET FAD: Follow a meal plan
That new cookbook you got for Christmas has outlined a strict 12-week diet and exercise plan that promises you a new figure.
But be warned – following a very strict regimen could see you run out of enthusiasm fast, and you might not actually learn anything in the long-run.
Graeme said: “When you get to the end of the meal plan, you’re kind of stuck and end up going back to what you’re used to.
“The other aspect is that these meal plans don’t cater for a social life. What happens if you have someone’s birthday dinner, are you going to just not go? Or are you going to enjoy something which is not on the plan and then technically, you have failed?
“It’s just not very flexible and conducive to a kind of horrible living.”
6. DIET FAD: Follow an exercise plan
Exercise is a cornerstone of health. Sure, find a way to get active in a way that you enjoy, and reap the benefits of weight loss as a side effect.
But don’t get stuck doing something you hate, just because you think it will fast-track your weight loss.
Graeme said: “The key is enjoying exercise so that you are more likely to carry on with it. If you’re not into strength training, try walking or climbing hills, or other activities at school you stopped doing.”
7. DIET FAD: Crash diet with shakes and soups
A diet that replaces meals with shakes or soups may give you fast results.
But, aside from being – let’s face it – depressing, there is no longevity to the diet “unless you plan on drinking shakes for the rest of your life,” Graeme said.
He said people end up going back to their old diet because they haven’t learnt anything about healthy eating, and get stuck yo-yoing.
“They’re not building sustainable habits that are going to last for the rest of their life, which is what they need,” Graeme said.
8. DIET FAD: Take supplements
Most supplements are unnecessary, Graeme said, warning against things like “fat burners” and “metabolism capsules”.
“There’s very, very little science to back that up,” he said.
“The only supplements I would sort of recommend for people, especially living in the UK, for general health would be things like vitamin D and high quality fish oils and maybe a multivitamin.”
9. DIET FAD: Join a slimming club
Your best pal wants you to join a slimming club with her in the New Year, and you’re keen, having seen the before and afters in the promos.
But, fundamentally, these diet groups “do not educate their members on the simple premise of calorie deficits and portions – which is key for improving health and weight loss”, Graeme said.
In Grame’s opinion: “They’re taking you away from the principles that you need to know so that you become reliant on them, so they keep getting money.
“It’s just like a conveyor belt of people who may have lost a bit of weight, don’t understand how it happened because there was no education, and then for the same reason they gain the weight back. Then they go back to the slimming club… and it’s never ending.”
Diet clubs usually get people to step on the scales each week, with the whole room watching when the number doesn’t go down.
Graeme explained the fault in this, saying: “Over seven days, weight can fluctuate quite a bit. It could be part of your menstrual cycle, you could be wearing heavier clothes, or you might not have been to the toilet yet that day. And so for a consultant to tell somebody that they’ve gained weight, it’s quite flawed.”
10. DIET FAD: Stick to “good” foods, and away from “bad” foods
Graeme warned against labelling foods “good” or “bad” because it could lead to a distorted view of food.
He said: “You might feel really bad for eating a chocolate bar because you think that it’s high in calories and has no nutrients.
“But in the context of your overall week, it’s 200 calories. It’s not the end of the world. It’s what you do over the long game that really counts.”
Meanwhile, this way of thinking can mask that “good” healthy foods can also be very high in calories.
Take trendy peanut butter – 40g on a slice of toast amounts to 340 calories compared to your favourite “naughty” jam, which comes to just 195 calories.
- THE FITNESS CHEF – Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by Graeme Tomlinson (£16.99), published by Ebury Press and out January 20.
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TINY TWEAKS: The number-one rule of losing weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn, called a “calorie deficit”. Graeme says counting calories can be a “wake-up call” and doesn’t need to be something you do long term.
“A chicken salad seems healthy before you realise the 25ml of olive oil you’re adding is 200-300 calories,” he explains. You can reduce that to 5ml without starting a whole new diet, it’s just a small tweak.”
GO SLOW: You’ll have to trust Graeme on this one – the slower you take things, the better and more long-lasting results you’ll likely get.
He suggests making gradual small changes, such as buying 50 per cent lower fat cheddar cheese or switching to diet fizzy drinks, rather than overhauling your diet overnight. That way, he says: “You’re able to keep going with it. It’s more sustainable.”
FLEX IT: You ate a huge takeaway pizza on Saturday night, but it doesn’t have to be a “failure”. Just get back on track and make better choices the next day, says Graeme. You could “have a light lunch” and go for a walk, he says. Graeme focuses on calories over a week, rather than day by day, to allow for flexibility.
THE F-WORD: Foods that are dense in fibre and protein will keep you full because they are harder to digest, says Graeme. Focus on fitting some form of fibre and protein – be it green veg, lean meats or eggs – into every meal.
LOVE TO MOVE: Hate the gym? Then don’t go! “The key is adhering to and sustaining exercise, long term,” says Graeme. If you enjoy walking and you can hit 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day, then you’re probably doing more to achieve your goal than if you went to the gym, which you hate, and hung about for 45 minutes and then left.”
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