Healthier eating is more important than fad diets

Healthier eating is more important than fad diets

Each week seems to usher in a new food fad. But, says our Health & Wellbeing editor Patsy Westcott, enjoying an abundance of fresh foods is really where it’s at.

With an army of svelte young things vying for attention on the likes of Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms, food fads are riding high. The fact is, however, that – unexciting as it sounds – being confident enough to say ‘No’ to the fads is the best way to stay fit and well.

The world on a diet

Like most of us, I’ve spent more years than I care to remember fretting about my shape and size. Even in my teens and twenties when I was what would these days be classed as a size 8, I was convinced my waist was too wide and my bum too big (this was long before the Kardashian-effect made an ample rear an object of desire). After years of yo-yo dieting, however, I’ve discovered that, while diets do work (and incidentally there’s evidence aplenty that it doesn’t matter which you follow as long as you stick to it) they don’t bring lasting results or guaranteed health benefits. That’s because, of course, sooner or later every diet must end. And it’s what you eat when you’re not on a diet that really counts.

My story

I was 16 when I went on my first fad diet, forgoing the hearty stews, potatoes and stodgy suet puddings, favoured by my Yorkshire mum, for an apple and a cube of cheese. Yoghurt, then just starting to appear in supermarkets, became my go-to dessert instead of the usual home fare of apple crumbles, puddings and pancakes. I wasn’t even overweight. But Twiggy ruled the fashion pack, I was a Saturday girl in a trendy boutique, and we were all after that stick-thin frame. A few years ago I decided to return to university to find out more about nutrition and what I learned put paid to my dieting mentality. The truth is, there are no miracle nutrients or magic superfoods. In fact, like the ebony and ivory of the Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder song, nutrients work best together in perfect harmony – what the experts call ‘dietary synergy’.

Eating well and wiser

While fad diets all claim a single solution – be it filling up with fibre, cutting carbs, living on green smoothies, cooking with coconut oil or whatever the latest fancy – the healthiest, most delicious ways of eating insist on a wide variety of different ingredients.

Mediterranean, Japanese and Nordic cuisines are all now hailed for their ability to reduce our risk of heart disease, arthritis, cancer, dementia and more, include abundant fresh veg, fruit, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, plus a smidgeon of meat, dairy, herbs and spices. And, unlike fad diets, they never become boring because there’s virtually no end to the number of ways you can put all these together. This realisation has given me a new freedom to eat what I want without worrying about cutting out this, that or the other. I love cooking and cookbooks – I’ve even written a few – and am never happier than when I discover new takes on familiar foods.

My tip for you

I’ve discovered that if you listen – REALLY listen – to your body it naturally balances out what you eat and you don’t pile on the pounds. So, now’s the time to accept yourself as you are, throw out the diet plans, stock up on the fantastic variety of fabulous foods we’re lucky enough to have access to…?and enjoy eating.
Bon appetit!

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