Magazine article The Spectator

Fad Diets Are Just Junk

Magazine article The Spectator

Fad Diets Are Just Junk

Article excerpt

Eat good fresh food and ignore health bloggers and nutrition gurus

Why do we do it? We really need to stop supporting the snake-oil industry. We know there is no such thing as a miracle diet, a magical health cure, a mystical practice or a strange (and always expensive) product that is going to make us youthful, happy and, above all, thin.

When Planet Organic first opened in Westbourne Grove, it was a great shop, with a butcher, fishmonger and baker as well as a good range of veg and groceries. Now a third of the shop is shelf upon shelf of supplements, beauty preparations and diet books; another third is a café; and what meat and fish there is comes in vacuum packages.

You can't blame the owners. We are addicted to coffee and a cup of it nets the shop about £2 in profit. And they wouldn't sell all those unnecessary supplements if we didn't buy them. The profit on a £100 bottle of seaweed detoxifying purge is a lot more than on a £100 basket of real food.

We all know that the way to lose weight is to eat less. If it doesn't go in, it can't go on, as my husband John says to me when I reach for a biscuit. Keep under 2,000 calories a day if you're a woman, 3,000 if you're a man, and you won't gain weight. Keep under 1,500 and you will slowly lose it.

All weight-loss diets, however dressed up, boil down to eating less. The Blood Sugar diet, Dopamine diet, Paleo diet, Juice diet, Gut diet, Body and Soul diet, 5:2 diet, Lean in 15 diet, Raw Food diet, Cambridge diet, the New Atkins diet -- all restrict one food group or another and so limit calories. The truth is any diet will work if you stick to it, but our only hope of staying slim is by training our bodies to be happy with fewer calories, every day, for ever. Boring but true.

If you want to be healthy as well as thin, you need a balanced diet -- which means a lot of fresh veg and fruit, some carbs (preferably unrefined), not much protein and very little fat. And you have to stay off sweet and salty junk and cheap processed food. This is all common sense of course. If you spend your 2,000 calories on chips and ice cream, they'll be gone by lunchtime and you'll be hungry again. Just a single maxi milkshake can be 1,000 calories.

And then there are the dietary fads that unfortunately come and happily go. Only 1 per cent of us, at most, are gluten intolerant, and yet you seldom sit down to a meal with six people without one at least demanding gluten-free food. Or grain-free. Or sugar-free. Or dairy-free. Or fat-free. Or something-free.

It's largely about fashion, I think. Even foodstuffs have to be fashionable. …

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