Friday, 20 July 2012

Does dieting make you fat?

Many women notice that their weight starts to gradually increase once they have gone through the menopause, and in particular that their waists are thickening.  Some women accept this with resignation "it's normal at my age" and start filling their wardrobes with baggy clothes.  There's nothing wrong with this, as the important thing is to feel comfortable both with your body and with what you wear.   In particular do not get stressed about your weight - stress is bad for your blood pressure!  As we get older, we usually look better if we are slightly over-weight rather than being thin to the point of looking haggard.  The only danger is in being too complacent and allowing your weight to increase to the stage where it becomes a health risk.

Other women's reaction is that it's time to go on a diet.  If you decide to do this you are spoilt for choice and your main problem is deciding which of the latest diets is the most suitable for you.  How about the 5-Factor Diet, supposedly followed by Lady Gaga, Megan Fox and Kate Beckinsale?  Maybe you like the sound of the Zone Diet or South Beach Diet, both of which are also favoured by many celebrities?  The Dukan Diet has its followers, and of course there are the old favourites, Weight Watchers and Slimming World.  The best overall diet of 2012, according to 22 experts in diet and nutrition in the US, is the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diet is also ranked highly, which is good news for those of us living in Spain!

Wait a minute though before you begin your brand new diet - and reflect on the title of this post: Does dieting make you fat?  Surely it makes you slim? Geoffrey Cannon wrote a book in 1983 with the title "Dieting makes you fat", which became an international best-seller.  The basic premise was that, although initially you lose weight on a diet by consuming fewer calories, dieting also lowers your metabolism, meaning you are more likely to put on weight again.

This goes back to the days of our cavemen ancestors when our bodies were programmed not to starve.  If you don't eat enough food, your body tries to conserve its fat stores by lowering your metabolism until you get enough food again. When you get back to eating normally after a diet, this lower metabolic rate means you usually put the lost weight back on again and sometimes you gain even more weight.  So you then decide to go on yet another diet.  Yes, it's that infamous yo-yo effect.

Even worse, diets that exclude specific food groups may be endangering your long-term health.  Low fat diets, for example, can ignore the fact that our bodies need a minimal amount of fat to be healthy and that some fats are actually essential for good health.  High protein diets diets may be fine for short-term weight loss but long-term they can be prejudicial for your health.

Most diets are based on the simple premise that if calories consumed are greater than calories burnt, you are going to gain weight.  If on the other hand calories consumed are less than calories burnt you should lose weight, the problem being that the emphasis is usually on consuming less calories, with just a passing reference to exercise, and too many diets start with a very restricted phase one.

I am not medically qualified and I am not a dietician, however many so-called dieting "experts" are no more qualified than I am to advise you.  What I do know from my research is that a combination of healthy eating and exercise is the best method of gradually losing weight and then maintaining a healthy weight for life and that the worst thing you can do is go on a crash diet.  Losing weight slowly and healthily should be your aim, combined with a sensible exercise programme.  If you have a particular health problem such as high blood pressure or diabetes, consult your doctor as well as looking on specialised websites such as these: and

I would love to hear about your dieting experiences and welcome any tips to help others.

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