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So, what’s the problem with ‘diets’?   

Well, most diets suffer from a number of issues but possibly two of the most common are: 

  1. They are only a short-term solution to a long-term problem – you can’t live on one forever.
  2. Tough diets require both self-control and self-denial  – the very lack of which may have created the situation.

However, we live in the real world.  We understand that some people will always feel the need to ‘go on a diet’.  They want to be told what to do: eat this, don’t eat that; do this form of exercise, not that.  But it’s not our preferred way of helping anyone to get in shape.  Why?   Because we believe in teaching people how to think for themselves.

Although this may sound contradictory to the title of this article, we have no issue with any of our clients following other diets, such as the Paleo diet or Weight-Watchers, etc.  Again why? Because we’re firm believers that if something works for you, no matter what we, or anyone else says, then great. We view our clients as grown-ups and our job is to offer guidance and support, not criticism.  

Psychology  (getting your head sorted) plays an enormous role in any successful weight-loss plan.  Therefore, it certainly helps if you can easily identify with the concepts of any given plan. For example, we actually think Weight Watchers is a bit of a con.  It promotes its own products and focuses on weight loss, not fat or inch loss. However, the accountability of feeling part of a group is essential for some some people.   So, if this helps, then in our books, it’s worth looking at.

Unfortunately, what most people don’t understand is that all weight loss plans follow the same principles: reducing your calorie intake to less than your calorie expenditure.  It’s how they achieve this that raises our concerns. Nevertheless, there are some good diets on the market and some bad ones. There are not however, any perfect ones. All diets, including the ones we use, have pros and cons.  The trick is find the ones that suit you as an individual.

So, what criteria do we use to determine a good diet?

What is a good diet?

Well, the underlying principle is simple:

  • You cannot measure the true success of any weight-loss plan in days, weeks, months, years or even in a decade, but in a lifetime.  Because once the weight is off, it’s got to stay off.

Yes, you can lose weight for the short term, e.g., a holiday or a wedding.  But unless you fix the issues that caused the weight gain in the first place, it just comes back – often with a vengeance.  This is especially true if you lose the weight too quickly. It’s like borrowing money from a payday loan shark: the repayments are high, and the interest is extortionate.  

In fact, we recently came across a perfect illustration of the after effects of a badly designed, rapid weight-loss diet.

When diets go wrong.  

We had a consultation with a potential male client who’d decided he wanted to get in fantastic shape.  To give us an idea of what he wanted to look like he brought with him a photo of a friend.  He also brought along a copy of the diet the friend had followed.

The guy in the image was in exceptionally good condition.  Tightly-packed and well-defined muscles, with a full six-pack on display (what we call in bodybuilding terminology, ripped or shredded).  And his diet plan was a straight-forward, competitive bodybuilding plan: twelve weeks of extreme low-calories, lots of protein and about six to ten hours per week of hard training.

As fat as a pig!
A fat cartoon pig eating crisps. "I'm on the seafood diet: I see some food, then I eat it!

“Can you get me into the same condition?”, he asked. “Yes”, we said, “it can be done”.  But we could see his face change when we explained some of the sacrifices that he would face.  However, he thought he could manage it and said he wanted to think it over.  Just before he left, I had a sudden thought: “Is this a recent photo?”, I enquired.

“No”, he replied, “it’s a couple of years old”.  “So, does he still look like this?” I asked.  “Oh, no” the guy said without realising the irony of what he was about to say, “he’s as fat as a pig now!”.  (Unfortunately, the guy never came back so we don’t know if he ever tried it).

This is just one example out of hundreds that we’ve come across over the years.  Incidentally, it’s also why we’re rarely impressed by the before and after photo.  It’s not to say that the ‘after’ photo doesn’t deserve merit, because it certainly does.  It’s just we’d prefer to see the ‘twelve-months-later’ photo to see if the diet and training is still effective.  Whilst we have no scientific study to back us up, we would say that if you try too much, too soon, then you will regain all the weight, plus a further ten percent, in about half the time it took you to lose it.

So, let’s see how to avoid becoming as fat as a pig.  

Good diets will:

  • Teach you how to eat, not how to starve.
  • Focus on fat loss and reducing inches rather than just losing weight
  • Promote lifestyle change, increased activity and healthy eating.
  • Improve your relationship with food and not create an eating disorder
  • Provide a plan for long-term weight control.

On the flip-side, they will not:

  • Permanently ban any food group.
  • Promise a beach body in weeks
  • Use pseudo-science to establish its claims (e.g., chanting burns fat or carbs are calorie-free on weekdays when Leo is rising in Sagittarius).
  • Have its own range of foods or arcane kitchen gadgets that you must buy.

If a diet plan can cover all the ticks and avoid the crosses, then we would say go for it.  As long as you can fit it into your lifestyle, then it should be successful.

“Dieting is like living in a world of soup, armed only with a fork”. Ann & Paul

On a final note, many diets advocate cutting out certain foods or entire food groups.  This is okay, but only as a temporary measure.   It’s important to realise that simply avoiding something only offers partial control.  Yes, stopping having your chocolate digestives delivered by the pallet-load from Biscuits R’Us is a great start. But until you learn to eat just one or two – and not half the packet in one sitting – you haven’t got full control of your diet.  This is the reason why diets that ban foods entirely eventually fail because they only reinforce the negative, i.e. the things you can’t eat. In fact, telling you that you can’t have something often just increases your desire for it.

Just something to bear in mind.

Keep up the fight and win the inch war.

Paul & Ann, Get Physical personal training

Related reading: How does alcohol affect my weight?: The melting body-fat myth: Winning the Inch War


We (Paul and Ann, Get Physical Ltd) are not doctors, nor are we licensed medical professionals. This website and blog is not here to diagnose any medical condition or replace your health care provider.

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