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Diet therapy

Does your diet tick all the boxes?

shutterstock_256068049Many people now search the internet for dietary advice to lose weight or find cures for food related health issues.

Often they seem to prefer to follow the advice of bloggers and celebrities before they seek professional help from their doctors or Dietitians.

When it comes to nutrition, everyone is now an expert.

Why is this?

  • Nutrition research is constantly challenging the way we treat health and disease. As new discoveries are made and reported in the media people complain that medical science can’t make up its mind. So rather than celebrating breakthroughs in science and professional advice some people remain sceptical of it.
  • Social media and interest in the details of the “rich and famous” has created an audience. People are fascinated with what others are doing. Regardless of how logical a meal plan is, if somebody famous promotes it and swears that it altered their body shape or weight then followers will want to try it too? Nutrition and fitness programs are right up there with the perfumes, makeup and endorsements. It’s all big business. Food is fashion.
  • People are better informed today. They use the internet to gain free information and facts on anything from how to fix their car or broken TV set etc so why not their health? We rightly have freedom of choice and when diet is concerned there is no “one way” or so it seems.

Weight loss is not just about calorie deprivation

While we do have freedom of choice when you read past the marketing hype all diets and food combinations are based on protein, fat or carbohydrate as these are the components of life on this planet.

We now know that weight loss is not simply reliant on the number of calories eaten being less than those expended.

Rather nutrition researchers are now looking at the combination of foods we eat, and how they interact with each other. How long they take to digest, the effect some foods have on our insulin and blood sugar levels and also the stress certain food combinations have on different parts of our bodies.

Are some combinations wearing us out too soon?

Is dieting still fun if it ages you?

Every day Dietitians teach people how to use nutrition to heal their bodies not to destroy them. Dietary fads are not for the faint hearted and while the body may seem to be pretty resilient, especially when young, there is a limit to how long one can stand dietary insufficiency. e.g.

  • Are you accelerating your bone loss because you avoid milk products and what other healthy options are there for you?
  • As a young women who has lost her periods through excessive exercise regimes and calorie restriction could it be that you may develop osteoporotic bones before your mother?
  • Is your trendy high fat diet slowing your brain function as well as fattening your liver?
  • Are all the protein shakes and supplements adding excess sodium to your diet, reducing your bone density, increasing your blood pressure and risk of stroke?
  • Is your juicing diet reducing your dietary fibre intake thereby depriving your bowels of work and the growth of the healthy bacteria that help to reduce fat absorption and bowel cancer?

Dietary check list

If you are trying to weigh up the pros and cons of a new dietary regime or product what sort of boxes should you be ticking?

  • Can the product be trusted?

Check to see the product is backed by people who are qualified to make claims regarding it’s efficacy?

If you are unsure talk to a Dietitian as in New Zealand they are the most highly qualified nutritionists in the country. Unlike general nutritionists, Dietitian’s are clinically trained not only in the application of nutrition for health but also its application to the treatment of disease.

They are very strictly governed by a Code of ethics monitored by the Dietitian’s Board, regulated by the Ministry of Health and audited to ensure they: adhere to evidence based practice; attend conferences; maintain continuing education and competency and are mentored.

However, like finding a new doctor or dentist it’s important to find somebody you like and trust.

  • Is the plan nutritionally adequate?

Find out if this product/plan meets your daily minimum nutritional requirements for life from each of the 5 food groups i.e. breads and cereals; fruit and vegetables; protein foods such as meat, fish, eggs, beans; milk and dairy; fats and oils. If one of these groups has been removed then what has been put in its place?

  • Can you use real food?

Does this product/plan rely on processed foods or chemicals such as supplements in order for it to work?

  • Is the plan sufficiently versatile to live on?

Will it suit your lifestyle to enable you to travel, to go to restaurants, to socialize with your family and friends, to celebrate birthday parties and family celebrations without having to feel “on a diet” all the time?

  • Is the plan suitable for your family?

On a daily basis can you continue to eat the same food as your family or do you have to cook two separate meals entirely? If parents are doing this what message does this send to their children?

  • Is the plan nutritionally flexible?

Can you leverage this diet to suit your changing nutritional needs such as for exercise, training and competition. Is it suitable for your current age and activity level? Will you still be able to eat in this way if you are pregnant or breast-feeding?

  • Is this plan suitable for body maintenance?

    Is there sufficient allocation of nutrients to maintain my body’s daily needs for repair, growth and replacement of tissue while at the same time strengthening your immune system etc?

  • How practical is the plan

Is this diet easy and practical, are there cheaper versions/foods you can use and is it quick to prepare?

  • Is the plan psychologically appealing

    Does this product/plan fulfil your needs to enjoy the flavour, texture and aroma of food. Does it taste and look good and do you enjoy eating it?

  • Is the product safe?

Does this product provide a support service and one on one help if you run into trouble? Is it also safe on the environment?

If you have found a dietary regime that works for you but would like to ensure that it is safe to continue with long-term then do contact us for a nutritional assessment and if necessary tips on how to improve its results.

For more information read other articles Lea has written on this topic:

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

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