January 8, 2015

Now that the end-of-year busy-ness is over, many have embarked on New Year’s resolutions to change a behaviour or two. Naturally media outlets jump on-board to help, and the number of new diet and exercise plans advertised is bewildering. And problematic.

Given the limited amount of space available for a single article in a newspaper or TV program, it’s no wonder that the advice given is brief. This appeases the editors, advertisers and readers, but is it really doing anyone any favours?

A popular weekend newspaper featured a campaign to help people lose weight and get fit. It sounds great and the advice featured was sound, but like the brevity of the article, the brevity of options meant that the same diet and exercise program has to suit all.

One diet doesn’t work for all, and every diet works for some. On this basis, the newspaper’s recommendations will work for some. But what about the rest of us?

The nutritional breakdown of the foods in the newspaper campaign showed that calories were very low (lower than dietitians recommend), protein was quite low, fat low, and carbohydrates high.

As carbohydrate intake stimulates the release of insulin, and insulin is the major fat storage hormone, the recommendations are likely to leave most people hungry, tired and gaining fat. Exactly the opposite of what they’re aiming to achieve.

So those trying to follow a program that doesn’t suit their body will fail, and unfortunately most will blame themselves (for being weak or lacking willpower or whatever) rather than acknowledge that the program was wrong for them.

To make a weight loss resolution work, some research and planning is required. People need to investigate options, look at programs, and see what might work for them. They need to ensure there is flexibility within the program to allow for different tastes and eating preferences. There needs to be a wide range of food options. There must be a process to adjust the program according to the results obtained. There must also be a process where support is supplied as part of the program.

Anything less is unlikely to succeed.