Does eating fat burn more fat? Will stopping eating before 6pm magically prevent us from gaining weight? Is Weight Watchers witchcraft or a waste of time?
These are just a few of the many claims made by fad diets and named ‘weight loss programs’ alike.
But trying to get a straight and unbiased answer about which diet is the best for us can be infuriating.
Where diet is concerned, everyone has a different agenda – whether that’s devotees of high carb, keto, vegan, carnivore, fasting or paleo protocols.
Everyone seems to think they have found the secret that all others before them missed (even those that have spent decades researching and experimenting in nutrition).
Luckily, Ultimate Performance has no agenda other than helping every individual find the dietary approach that suits them best.
So, we are going to let you into a secret about nutrition…there is no secret.
In this first part of our ‘Diet Reviews’ series we will break down and give an objective analysis of the most common diet architypes.
We will equip you with the tools and knowledge you need to see beneath the hood of each diet and understand the underlying principles that make it tick.
This means you will be able to detect what truly matters when it comes to diet and avoid years of wasted time and energy.
Why do so many diets end in failure?
It is no surprise that diets are such hotly debated topics and that new fad diets come out of the woodwork on a near daily basis.
The worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, and as of 2016, more than 2.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.
To combat this, people regularly attempt to restrict their diet to lose weight. A 2016 review showed that nearly 50% of individuals worldwide attempt to lose weight each year, and that another 20% alter their diet to prevent further weight gain.
What’s more, most individuals who lose weight while dieting fail to maintain their new body weight.
The numbers make pretty depressing reading. Research shows that as much as 50% of weight lost is regained within two years, and by five years, the average individual is back to their original bodyweight.
So why is this?
Weight loss is simple in theory – eat less and move more. But in reality, it is a challenging and complex process that requires the balancing of many plates, the most important of which is adherence.
As the saying goes, ‘compliance is the science’.
This is why it is absolutely critical to understand the nuts and bolts of a given diet and the principles that overarch it.
Rules versus tools: The key to long-term weight loss success
Whereas fad/named diets provide rules and restrictions, a proper understanding of the principles of nutrition gives you tools that can work universally.
Rules work for some people some of the time; tools work for all people, all the time (if they know how to use them).
Most of us have many higher priorities in life than the food we put into our mouths: personal relationships, career goals, and financial concerns all require time and attention.
Our diets should fit into our lives rather than dominate them. With their overly restrictive rules and regulations, fad diets are rigid and are only tailored to a given goal, not the ever-changing landscape of your life and its inevitable ups and downs.
That’s not to say that weight loss dieting comes without sacrifices. It’s just that giving up things we enjoy and thrive on for no good reason is self-sabotage.
The modern world and a perfect storm of weight gain
Why do fad diets even exist? Why isn’t all nutritional information transparent? Looking at it from a cynical perspective, fad diets appear to take advantage of how challenging it is for people to lose weight in the modern day by providing the latest new solution to the problem on everyone’s lips (and hips).
The mechanisms driving weight loss and weight gain have been known for decades. In the simplest terms, we need to consume fewer calories than our body requires, for long enough to lose weight.
The problem with simplifying weight loss like this is that it doesn’t do justice to the many specific challenges each individual might face.
Multiple factors feed into our drives to overeat, including our environment, our culture and our genetics. These all influence how we behave and whether we act in a way that promotes weight loss or causes weight gain.
Today’s ‘obesogenic’ environment, in which prevalent food advertising, cheap processed foods, and almost immediate gratification from a whole host of delicious and calorie-dense foods, means that it is harder than ever to say ‘no’. Obtaining more calories than our ancestors could ever have dreamed of is as simple as opening the fridge or ordering food from an app on your phone.
Genetic factors mean that we have an evolutionary drive to eat when food is available. In hunter-gatherer times, we would have consumed food whenever possible, not knowing when our next meal would come.
What’s more, we are genetically predisposed not to lose weight, which would signal starvation and render us unable to defend ourselves against predators historically.
We have not had time to evolve to deal with the change in food availability. We still have our hunter-gatherer wiring when it comes to our desire to consume food in an environment where food is available almost anywhere, any time.
In addition, modern society doesn’t place a premium on factors that strongly influence our health and ability to control caloric intake, such as sleep and stress management. Instead, we are conditioned to use food and drink to cope with our hectic lifestyles where we are often under-slept and overworked.
All of this creates the perfect storm. Our evolutionary instincts and obesogenic environment collide, making it almost impossible to avoid the hyper-tasty calorie-filled treats shoved in our faces.
Fad/named diets take advantage of the continual battles we have with our weight, and our magpie-like instincts to seek out novelty, continually streaming us a feed of the ‘next best cure’.
Helping you find a long-term solution
Trying to successfully lose weight and keep it off in the face of incessant advertising and ubiquitous temptation might feel like a losing battle.
But there is a way you can successfully navigate this fraught fitness landscape and find a path to lifelong fitness that works for you.
All you need is the right tools and understanding to be able to pick the bones out of diet and nutrition.
We have helped tens of thousands of clients globally over the years find a sustainable approach that works.
Our goal is to empower you with the necessary skills to do the same and be able to rise above the never-ending cycle of dieting and relapsing that so many people find themselves trapped in.
Over the next 12 months we will be deep-diving on diets from ketogenic and intermittent fasting to Atkins and Paleo. We will teach you everything you need to know, how and why each diet works, and the benefits and pitfalls of different approaches so you can understand the foundational principles to make educated choices around your diet and lifestyle. So stay tuned!
- The worldwide prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, and as of 2016, more than 2.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.
- Over 40% of individuals worldwide attempt to lose weight each year, and another 20% change their diet to prevent further weight gain.
- As much as 50% of weight lost by dieters is regained within two years, and by five years, the average individual is back to their original bodyweight.
- Whereas fad/named diets provide rules and restrictions, a proper understanding of nutritional principles provides tools.
- Fad/named diets take advantage of the continual battles people have with their weight and our magpie-like instincts to seek out novelty to continually stream us a feed of the ‘next best cure’.
Here we examine the Ketogenic Diet and delve into the pros and cons. Read here to find out if this is the right diet for you.