Fads, food, fasting and expensive urine…

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One thing that annoys me as a Nutritionist is the prevalence of faddy diets- in particular the liquid meal replacement or fasting/cleansing ones. You know the ones, where you drop your calorie intake to a ridiculously low level which is barely enough to keep your metabolic functions going. Ones where you drink shakes instead of meals and because they are so fantastic and filling you end up having to supplement with sugar pills to keep you from lapsing into a hypoglycaemic- induced rage and chewing your own arm off…

Others profess to being healthful and even more nutritious than eating a balanced diet and are so good that they even do away with the need to get your nutrients solely from food and have these drinks instead. I personally thought that was what multivitamins were for and they seem quite a bit less expensive. You can now drink your fruit and veg in the form of powder- freeze dried fruit and veg so you don’t have to juice, squeeze or blend to drink them. You can have added protein (usually from Soy –don’t get me started!) to make it a complete meal. On one of the sites you are still encouraged to eat plenty fruit and veg and snacks each day, so why not just eat more fruit and veg in your daily eating habits then and address the problem at its root? If you struggle to get your 5, 7 or 10 a day buy a multivitamin –it’s a lot cheaper than these drinks but nothing beats the nutrients from foods in their natural form.

We need to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg- that is a given, but how about we show and encourage people with how to cook them, how to prepare them and how to enjoy the health benefits they give us as part of a balanced diet.

We have teeth to chew with, we don’t need to be on liquid diets like we are on some sort of drip feeding. We have sophisticated digestive systems where the digestive process begins from the moment your mouth starts to water. Although I haven’t ever salivated at the thought of a meal replacement shake! When your mouth waters digestive enzymes are secreted and the process of digesting carbohydrates begins. Fruit and veg are complex carbs by the way at least in their natural whole form. When you drink them to be able to do so, you have to remove the fibre and pulp and turn them into simple carbohydrates.- the type of carbohydrates we are told to moderate due to the effects on blood sugar levels (which is why people are encouraged to eat oranges rather than drink orange juice etc.).

But these meal replacement shakes have Protein making them a complete meal” and “it makes weight loss so easy” I hear you say! – Then cook a bloody meal instead. Eat more fruit and veg and take a multivitamin if you need, get plenty of exercise and clean up your eating but don’t do this temporary, disingenuous fix for weight loss. This is a temporary fix because no-one can do this indefinitely. Very low calorie diets like this damage your body and your metabolism in the long term. Your body adapts to the lower calorie regime anyways but because it is so hard to eat like this for very long, most people have gone back to eating normally and assume they would have kept losing weight at that rate had they continued. If you don’t believe me then there are a wealth of other qualified professionals out there in agreement. www.target-zone.co.uk/blog/juice-plus-herbalife-the-truth

Let’s go back to the liquid weight loss diets for second, go onto any of their web sites and you will see that these plans also offer supplements to go along with the “meals” (the cost is starting to rack up now isn’t it?) These supplements you end up buying because you have already purchased your months’ supply of liquid meals and you so desperately want to lose weight and you want to lose it quickly. You have spent your hard earned cash on a months’ worth of liquid meals and you need results. These supplements have wonderful ingredients to help your efforts along. Ingredients such as Glucomannan. Glucomannan I have previously written about www.ross-holistic-nutrition.co.uk/catergory/reviews . Basically it is a fibre from the Konjac root that expands in the stomach with liquid to make you feel full and help you go to the toilet too. Fibre- the thing you remove when you drink your calories instead of eating them. These meals are so filling and wonderful you need a Fibre supplement to quell your angry, growling stomach and to not spend all your day straining on the toilet.

Another ingredient Green Tea Extract. Now green tea is undoubtedly full of antioxidants and is a delicious, refreshing caffeinated drink. Yup it’s a caffeine source and green tea extract is used in many supplements to boost metabolism. Remember how I had previously said low calorie diets can ruin your metabolism? Well that’s why you’re going to need the green tea supplement. You could boost your metabolism the old fashioned and longer lasting way. You could get active and build some muscle tone. But I suspect after a week of living off shakes instead of meals I doubt you could lift your head off a pillow, far less lift a dumbbell.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for healthy lifestyle choices, being active and eating well. I’m also aware in this country we need to dramatically increase our intake of fruit and veg and make it affordable and easy to source for all. But I don’t think encouraging people to drink them addresses the fundamental issue of lifestyle change. It’s a change that needs to begin in the home and in schools. These shakes are a sticking plaster approach. Let’s keep it simple Eat more Fruit and Veg! Your urine will be less expensive too. Learning to eat properly in a balanced, consistent way will benefit your body and mind far longer than any quick fixes will.

Losing weight through a liquid meal plan will generate weight loss if you stick it but so will excluding anything in your diet that amounts to say 1000 calories a day – and you could still take a multi vitamin. But does this way teach you how to eat in a balanced way, does it address why you put on the weight in the first place? No it doesn’t because if it did they would only ever have 1 time customers. It doesn’t profit them if you learn for yourself how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Yes you may get titbits of info on their sites but they want you to keep coming back to them-especially as they have taught you how to ruin your metabolism.

I want my children to be able to and to want to get the nutrients they need from a wide variety of whole foods- not mass produced, artificially sweetened, pre-packaged, processed drinks. We need to remember food can be enjoyable delicious and nutritious and not to see it as something we should have to drink because we can’t be trusted to learn how to eat properly for ourselves.

Karen Ross Nutritionist BSYA (Dip), Dip (Nutri), AHCP REg, Hyno Dip (HPD). www.ross-holistic-nutrition.co.uk

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