First, you’re told a ‘low-fat’ diet is better than cutting out carbs then the next minute you’re reading that a ‘low-carb’ diet is the way to go.
So are we.
Traditionally, the concept of eating a low-fat diet was associated with weight-loss, yet recently the concept of cutting down on carbs has come to the forefront of recent weight-loss diets. A recent study took place where obese men and women were put on either an intense low-fat or low-carb diet over 6 days. The results showed that a low-carb diet led to more weight loss, but the low-fat diet was more likely to lead to fat loss – which doesn’t really settle the long-standing debate.
So, what do the experts think?
“The key point to note is that you want a healthy diet to follow for life, not just a diet that focuses solely on weight loss. If you start cutting out unhealthy processed food and empty calories that come from junk food and alcohol you are likely to lose weight and feel better.
“Choosing food rich in protein and fibre will keep you fuller for longer as well as helping to stop your sugar cravings. By doing so people are more likely to not feel deprived and more likely to stick to the new plan for longer. A weight loss plan should be a whole lifestyle and diet change for life to avoid crash dieting and the yo-yo effect,” explains Natures Plus Nutritionist Michela Vagnini.
Michela adds, “It would also be interesting to see the effect of a low-fat and low-carb diet on long term health. A low-fat diet has been recommended for over 30 years now to reduce or prevent cardiovascular issues and weight loss but we now know that it wasn’t very successful. Since the introduction of low-fat or fat-free foods in the market, we have seen diabetes rising as a pandemic disease, cardiovascular health problems getting worse and obesity getting higher than ever.”
We’ve asked our health experts for their top tips on sustaining not only healthy eating habits, but healthy lifestyle habits to help improve your overall health over a long period of time.
Eliminate your sweet tooth
A spoonful of sugar in your coffee? Reaching for the biscuit tin at that 3pm slump? Take the challenge of culling out sugar-filled treats from your diet.
“As you eat, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released. If you are eating refined sugar and carbs they will hit your bloodstream fast and cause an imbalance in blood sugar. Your body will release more insulin to deal with this rapid rise in blood sugar. Once dealt with, the blood sugar levels will drop, but because you’ve generated the release of so much insulin, the levels will drop too low and you will soon feel like snacking on a bar of chocolate. The more sweets you eat, the more you will crave them – it is a catch 22,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, Leading Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
“Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, which contains protein as well as carbohydrates (scrambled eggs with rye bread) and continue later during the day with vegetables; this helps to maintain a steady flow of blood sugar. This means, that by the time you get to 4pm, your blood sugar should not have dropped so much that you need that quick sweet fix,” suggests Dr Glenville.
Take up Pilates
Eleonora Sansoni, instructor at the new holistic wellness boutique, Maître of Thyme “Pilates has a strengthening component making you feel taller and leaner, but due to the nature of its exercises, it doesn’t specifically address lipidic compositions. However, I believe that the plethora of benefits that Pilates has like an increase in strength and flexibility, better postural awareness and becoming more body-aware can have a positive impact on people’s beliefs and attitudes towards sports and activity. More confidence with movements could lead to approaching activity designed for weight loss with a reduced risk of injuries and faster results. There isn’t a specific move that achieves this; just regular, consistent and bespoke Pilates training.”
Eat to feel full, not to clear your plate
“Pay attention to how your stomach is feeling and eat slowly, don’t get sucked into the pressure of clearing every scrap of food on your plate. Eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed,” advises Nutritionist Cassandra Barns.
If you feel like you are constantly grazing through-out the day, then you could be adding unnecessary calories to your diet. “Snacking is important as it maintains my metabolic rate and staves off awful hunger pangs, which can sometimes lead you into temptation. The key is to snack often, but ensure that you are eating healthy snacks in small portions. Midmorning I have a small handful of nuts which are a rich source of protein, helping me to stay fuller for longer. Mid-afternoon I like have an oat biscuit or two with a generous topping of avocado, cream cheese or hummus,” tells Alix Woods, nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma.
Yoga can increase your mindfulness and as a result, we will become more aware of what we are eating and make better eating choices. Yoga helps with increased flexibility and muscle strength, improved respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a healthy metabolism, weight management and cardio and circulatory health.
Protein is key
If your diet is lacking in protein then you may be more inclined to go back for seconds. “Including protein in your meal helps to slow down digestion, leaving you feeling more satisfied and fuller for longer. In-turn, this can help with weight loss as you’re less likely to have as many calories. To ensure you’re getting your daily dose of protein, try a plant-based protein powder. They are easy to digest and can be kept low-calorie. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savory foods such as stews and soups. I’d recommend Natures Plus Almond Protein Powder (£40.50, www.naturesplus.co.uk),” suggests Cassandra.
Lower your stress levels
Do you struggle to control your stress levels? This can have an impact on your waistline. “After a stressful event cortisol levels in the blood often remain high for a while, effectively increasing your appetite because your body thinks you should refuel after all this fighting or fleeing. This means people under constant stress quite often feel constantly hungry. Worse, their body urges them to stock up on the foods it thinks will be most useful after all that ‘activity’ – carbohydrates (like sugar) and fats,” says Marilyn.
For extra support, try NHP’s Tranquil Woman Support capsules (£24.77, www.naturalhealthpractice.com). These capsules provide nutrients that help with hormone balance, digestion and immune support to help you manage a busy lifestyle.