Diets, Diets, Diets - Which One's For Me?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Posted by Meeta K

It’s funny how the new year begins with good intentions to eat better: eat less, more nutritiously, less- sugar, more vitamins. I presume that several of us have “loosing weight” as one of the resolutions on our list. Don’t worry you are not alone! January and February are probably the months when people start more diets than any other time in the year.

After the Holidays, I too have been feeling a little unsatisfied with myself. Too many sweets, too much eating and my pants were giving me signals that I needed to take action. I have always been very careful with what I eat. Being a mum of a 6 year-old I pay close intention that our meals are healthy and nutritional. So, a little indulgence here and there, when the bigger picture fits, is OK. However, my weakness has always been sweet desserts and treats and especially over the period of Thanksgiving right through to New Year’s I tend to indulge more than I should.

The result is often that besides my scales showing me things I do not want to see, my energy levels are at a low, I feel down and am often easily irritable. It’s not surprising really – because the more sugary foods I eat the more I crave and these bad sugar and carbohydrate treats simply causes me to feel bad.

Sound familiar to you? If it does than it I am sure you have certainly considered going on a diet to get rid of the extra weight and to start a new regime that will make you feel better.

Generally there is nothing wrong with a diet but one really should consider the contents of the diet and exactly what it preaches. A diet that revolves around drinking powder mixed shakes all day and a big meal in the evening cannot be a healthy option.

It should not be only about loosing weight, it should always be about keeping your body fit and healthy. My dad, who has paid meticulous attention to his food and nutrition, always tells me that our bodies are the running motors and we have to look after this motor throughout our lives. No wonder at the age of 68, he still weighs exactly the same as he did 25 years ago and has the energy of a powerhouse (bless him)!

For me a diet has to be something where I know I am eating sensibly and my food options are healthy. As I reviewed several diets over the past 8-9 months I was amazed at how many were promising a loss of a lot of weight in the shortest of time. We all know that these crash diets are not effective. As soon as we begin to eat “normally” again we put all the weight back on, if not an additional kilo or two. To avoid the yo-yo effect a sensible diet will offer you a better eating plan, offer you loss of weight over a longer period of time, recommend sport and exercise and explain that the diet is more about integrating a healthier meal plan into your lifestyle. It is something you then live by.

As I mentioned above I have been looking into the subject of diets for several months now. Mainly because I was interested in Ayurveda cooking, the glycemic index and the South Beach diet. The more I read about these topics the more I became aware that it was not a “diet” in the way we would consider it to be – it was a lifestyle. These programs do not promise you “loose 10 kilos in 10 days!” but rather promise you a healthier lifestyle when we change certain aspects of our eating habits.

What I have tried to do in this post is summarize a few of these healthier dieting options, listing the advantages and disadvantages of the respective diets. Please remember I am not a dietician or a professional nutritionist and these ideas, recommendations and thoughts are based on my research and common sense!

Ayurveda Diet

This diet is based on the 3500 year old traditional Indian treatment methods. According to the Ayurveda teachings, the human is one entity of body, soul, spirit and the environment.

Three biological forces, called Doshas, interact with and effect every human: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three forces define the physical health of the person. With overweight people, for example, it is often the Earth force Dosha Kapha that is strongly distinctive.

The Ayurveda diet consists mainly of salads, vegetables, milk and dairy products, oil and ghee (clarified butter). Meat, fish and eggs are allowed in moderation. For those wanting to loose weight alcohol should be avoided, instead drink a lot of warm water and herbal teas.

Nevertheless, there are no strict dogmas in the Ayurveda philosophy. One should simply enjoy each meal and keep in mind that with the consumption of food they should establish a balance with body, soul and mind.

Advantages

Those who like exotic spices and flavors will love the dishes and food in the Ayurveda diet. Positive is certainly the higher proportions of raw vegetables and fruit – the vitamin and mineral supply is covered. Ayurveda is a lifestyle and the engagement with ones own body and nutrition, the meditation and massage leads to a relaxed relationship with ones own body. This in turn motivates to really think about the healthier aspect of dieting.

Disadvantages

Generally speaking the Ayurveda diet does not do any harm – the only fact is that there is no scientific proof that backs weight loss with this diet. Furthermore there is some skepticism from dieticians with regards to certain aspects of the Ayurveda diet – for example eating ghee (pure clarified butter) for breakfast.
You might not notice a massive weight loss with this program, but combined with a regular fitness regime, this certainly is a very healthy approach to improve your eating habits.

Further reading tips:
- Ayurveda and Food for Skin
- Eating for Balance

Glycemic Index Diet

The Glycemic Index Diet is based on the Glycemic Index (GI). According to the Glycemic Index Diet all foods can be eaten as long as they have a low Glycemic Index. It is not necessary to reducing the amount of calories and fat- consumption on the Glycemic Index Diet.

Basically, the Glycemic Index is a a type of a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels.

The logic behind this is easy to understand. Carbohydrates with a high Glycemic Index are absorbed quickly by the body, which causes the blood glucose levels to rise rapidly. The body then releases large amounts of insulin in order to decrease the high blood glucose level. The excessive amounts of insulin lower the blood glucose level to such an extent that it can cause a mild form of hypoglycaemia. The reaction that your body gives you as a result of this hypoglycaemia is a feeling of hunger. Furthermore the higher levels of insulin make the decomposition of fat more difficult.

Those carbohydrates that have a low Glycemic Index are broken down slowly. This lower glycemic response means a lower insulin demand and a better long-term glucose control. This also means that the food fills you up for much longer.

In praxis this basically means choosing foods with a low glycemic index, which tend to be (but are not necessarily) healthier, nutrient-rich, less refined, and higher in fiber -- like whole fruits, vegetables, beans and whole wheat products.

Advantages

Following the Glycemic diet generally means a permanent change in your eating habits. Like the Ayurveda Diet, it is not a quick method to loose weight, but a philosophy one lives by, which not only will keep you at a steady weight over a longer period of time but also help to eat more nutritiously.

For this reason, here in Germany the Glyx diet (as it is called here) is often reviewed as a positive diet.

Another positive effect is that you are eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and fewer processed products. Therefore your body is getting the right amount of vitamins and dietary fiber.

Disadvantages

The fact that bleached/white flour products, pizza and chocolate bars are unhealthy for us is not a new concept for most of us. In this respect, the idea behind the Glycemic diet is not a passing fad, but a sensible diet plan.  However as in all cases one should use common sense when choosing food items from the Glycemic index - after all a Snickers scores 55 on the Glycemic Index!

One other point of critique is that the Glycemic index does not only vary from food to food but also other factors play a role in the value. The method of preparation and the combination of the foods that are eaten are some factors that can change the value of the food item on the Glycemic index. For example a boiled potato rates medium (56) but baking it raises the value of the potato to high (85).

Further reading tip: The Glycemic Index Diet (Low Glycemic Diet)

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet teaches a way of life where you rely on the right carbohydrates and fats. This new way of eating allows you to live contently without eating the bad carbohydrates and fats. In contrast, when a person eats bad carbohydrates and fats they feel hungrier, causing them to eat more, which causes weight gain.

The diet, which was created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston,  is designed to work with your body safely and effectively. This diet works in three phases, the first two for a specific timeframe and the third phase for life. There is no calorie counting and food portions are not weighed with this approach.

The South Beach Diet allows you to eat three normal-size meals and two snacks each day. The meal plans are designed to be flexible and a variety can be enjoyed, based on what sounds good to you on any particular day.

In phase 1 of the South Beach Diet potatoes, rice, pasta, fruit, sweets, baked goods and alcohol are to be avoided. Phase 2 allows you to introduce good carbohydrates and low glycemic index fruits. With the first two phases completed, phase 3 provides a change in diet for life.

The success of South Beach Diet depends on the glycemic index. Rule of thumb: always choose low glycemic index foods with good carbohydrates. Phase 1 of South Beach Diet consist of low glycemic food. In later phases, you can mix foods with higher glycemic numbers.

Advantages

The well balanced mix of fruit, vegetables and good carbohydrates with vegetables fats satiates well, without the hunger pangs. Furthermore, positive is the high portions of fruit and vegetables, and the recommendation to eat a lot of fish.

Disadvantages

Phase 1 is a radical adjustment and that is why it is recommended to stick to it not more than 14 days as without fruit over a longer period of time you will be denying yourself nutritious vitamins.  Phase 1 is the strictest phase and eating eggs for breakfast everyday for 14 becomes rather monotonous. Furthermore, it is not recommended for diabetics and vegetarians.

Further reading tip: South Beach Diet - What is it?

This is just a basic summary of the three types of diets of several. It should be a used as a guideline to do your own research on these three diets. The reason I chose the three is basically because to me they are less of a diet to loose weight only, but a lifestyle - a philosophy to change your eating habits for a lifetime. The benefit is that you will feel good about yourself, you will naturally know how to make the sensible choices in life when it comes to food. The bonus is that you will be looking good the whole time.

I personally chose the South Beach Diet and have successfully completed phase 1 and really looking forward to phase 2. I have lost 2 kgs (approx. 4.5 pounds) already and am back to my "feel good" weight. The thing that amazed me the most was that it has shown me, I consume a lot of empty sugar. For example, I always took 1.5 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee - 3 cups a day that was 4.5 teaspoons per day. I've also become more aware of combining my foods correctly and controlling my carbs.

My eating habits previously were definitely not bad but I know how I can improve it for a healthier (maybe a sexier) me! In the future I will be orienting myself more on the glycemic index and choose the right type of foods that keep me filled longer.

One last word, any diet you do choose for yourself you have to remember that if it makes you feel weak, faint, or just not good then you might want to re-consider the concept of the diet. Exercising at least a half hour each day will improve weight loss considerably.

Stay healthy!

This post was written by Meeta

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6 comments:

HeHe! Great post!

South beach diet seems to work, not that I am "trying" or anything!! ;D

Asha said...
January 17, 2009 at 4:36:00 PM GMT+1  

Great post. I've seen a few other diet books for various types of "low-glycemic" diets but as you know I'm sold on South Beach. It's been keeping me at a size 10 (U.S. size) for nearly five years now! Sometimes I can even wear a size 8, but that's when I'm being ultra faithful to the diet! (And before I went on South Beach I was a size 18 at one time; that was the last straw for me. I don't think I'd ever go back to my old way of eating.

Kalyn said...
January 18, 2009 at 4:00:00 PM GMT+1  

that was a very informative and in-detail post. Its the time of the year for diet. Personally, crash-diet has never worked for me. So I moved to something where I had more control and accountability. Weight Watchers seems to be working for me great.However its tough to change a lifestyle you have been so used to.I take it one day at a time.
check my blog at sowhatsnewtoday.wordpress.com

superartsy said...
January 18, 2009 at 9:26:00 PM GMT+1  

Asha - thanks glad you liked it! It has worked well for me and I know it's something I can easily live with. I like the flexibility of it.

Kalyn - I've read your success story and believe me you are my big inspiration and SBD guru! The SBD concept is easy to work with and something at least I can very easily incorporate into our lives.

Supertasty - Weight Watchers is also a great program but I am not the type of person who looses weight in groups or have to weigh myself in a group or count points etc. It would not have worked for me. But I am glad that this is working for you!

MeetaK said...
January 19, 2009 at 8:55:00 AM GMT+1  

It's the scary 'D' word that raises it's healthy self at this time every year Meeta. Goes hand in hand with lifestyles...& what your Dad said is very true!!

January 19, 2009 at 5:11:00 PM GMT+1  

Meeta, you're absolutely right. And Deeba, I hear you about the "D" word!

Years ago, we were strict vegans and juiced faithfully. No animal products passed our lips, as well as white flour, refined sugar or salt. We never felt better. No illnesses, colds, aches or pains. And then I started catering. Prime rib, pork tenderloin, you get the picture. Not that meat is bad. Of course I had to try it all before I served it! It was all down hill from there.

Thanks for the post Meeta!
I'll have to pull that juicer back out again!

Donna said...
January 20, 2009 at 6:04:00 PM GMT+1  

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