How to make your diet work

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Every nutritionist knows, and every dieter must unhappily agree, that crash diets are no good. They are nutritionally unbalanced; they make you weak, irritable and dizzy. Worst of all from the dieter’s viewpoint, they don’t work. After the first thrilling plummet of the scales, the needle inexorably creeps upwards again.

The slow and steady loss of weight by sensible dieting should work, however, in the way arithmetic works. Half a kilogram of fatty tissue is the equivalent in energy of roughly 3500 calories. So every time you eat 3500 calories less than you expend, over a period of days, you should use up nearly half a kilogram of fatty tissue.

Cropped image of a girl eating fruits

A deficit of 500 calories a day ( eating 2000 calories and using up 2500 for instance ) should lead to a loss of half a kilogram a week or 26 kilograms a year. Double that deficit to 1000 calories a day, and you can lose 52 kilograms a year – surely enough for almost anyone.

The reason people keep on crash – dieting, inspite of all the medical warnings, is that for them sensible dieting has not worked. They kept counting calories, cutting them, presumably meeting their daily deficit – yet stayed the same weight, or very near it. What is wrong?

The problem lies in several specific misunderstandings about dieting. Here are ways to side-step the traps into which so many well-meaning, determined dieters fall.

Beware of “non-fattening” foods. Because unfortunately there is really no such thing- with the possible exception of celery, at seven calories stalk. Every other food contributes to your calorie balance.

Too many people believe there is one big category of food that is non-flattening, another that is fattening. Thus, the dieter stops worrying about arithmetic or the size of portions so long as he sticks to the first group- for instance, lean meat, yogurt, orange juice- while scrupulously avoiding foods in group two: bread, potatoes, bananas.

Tis utterly disregards the plain facts: a slice of lean meat- barely enough to cover a slice of bread- contains 260 calories, a lemon yogurt ( made with skimmed milk ), about 120 calories for a small carton, and unsweetened orange juice, 110 calories a glass, while white bread is mere 60 calories a slice, and a medium-sized baked potato or a banana only 100.

Calories do count. Those three little words should be recited morning, noon and night by anyone who seriously wants to reduce.

Be prident about portion size. Few people distinguish between an 85-gram and a 150 gram hamburger. Yet the larger one contains about 200 more calories.

A tall glass of orange juice, instead of a small one, changes the figure from 55 calories to 110. This hidden surtax on the large portion can destroy a calorie budget as completely as an obvious splurge. So keep your eyes on portion size.

Count every calorie. Many people forget to take into account “small snacks” especially if they are nibbled over a long period.

A mere 100 grams of salted cashew nuts, unconsciously devoured while watching a film, does not seem worth thinking about. Yet it represents 620 calories !( Peanuts? 560 calories per 100 grams).

Cook lean. It is surprising how much the fattening ability of food changes with different methods of preparation. A potato contains only about 100 calories. Add 30 grams of butter or margarine and you treble the count. Have 250 grams of potatoes chipped or mashed with butter and milk and you push the total to about 350.

You can similarly double or treble the calorie content of your 80 calorie egg by frying it in generous amounts of butter or fat, or of your 60 calorie slice of bread by loading it with butter or jam.( Incidentally, toasting simply drives out the water and changes the bread’s colour and texture; it does nothing to calories.)

You can cut the calories in chops by using a grill that allows fat ( and calories ) to drip out of the meat.

Beware of “wet” calories. Calories in drinks are as easily over-looked as those in the nut dish. There are 250 calories in two single martinis. A small glass of after dinner liqueur may add 100 calories. And the two beers you drink with the cashew nuts add about 300 calories to their 700- so you gained 150 grams of fat between lunch and dinner and never once had a mouthful of real food.

Watch that protein. Many sensible people have been inadvertently misled into thinking that protein contains few calories, or that it somehow “burns” fat. Actually, protein contains about four calories per gram, the same carbohydrates. ( Fats are more costly, about ten calories a gram. )

The idea that protein burns fat started out as a misunderstanding of an old laboratory experiment; it showed that comes close to that ), about 30 percent of the energy eaten would be dissipated as heat shortly after the meal. The problem is that if the meal contains any fat or carbohydrates, as all meals do. the “burning” effect is cancelled.

It is also widely believed that meat is pure protein, and that you can therefore eat it ad infinitium. In fact, all meatwoman with fruits rejecting junk food contains fat.

Cut down on sugar. Sugar contains four calories per gram, just like other carbohydrates. It is absorbed by the body fairly rapidly but this makes no difference to its contribution to weight gain.

Don’t worry about water or salt. Attempts to reduce weight by cutting down salt or water are futile. If you are overweight, it is a good idea to go easy on salt to guard against high blood pressure. And for some people, particularly middle-aged women, decreasing salt may allow a more regular weight loss by preventing temporary water accumulation.

But cutting down on salt, however desirable for other health reasons, will not by itself reduce your weight. As for water, it is the only calorie-free fluid and a generous consumption of it is good for you.

Balance both sides of your calorie expense account. The final widespread fallacy that stands in the way of successful dieing is the believf that food intake alone determines how much gain or lose. In fact, like your bank balance, your weight depends on how much you put in.

It is far more difficult to reduce if the only muscles you ever move are the chewing ones. It is easier and healthier to lose weight by a combination of calorie reduction and exercise, than by calorie cutting alone.

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