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Better Nutrition Column - April/May 21

Diets Are Dead!

By Gilly Brunton - Registered Nutritionist (MSc, BSc, RNutri, PGCE)

I recently hosted a series of workshops for women who needed ‘time out’ from work, home and stressors. My nutrition Q&A had the highest attendance as the hot topic was ‘Diets & Dieting’. I did some research and started listing all diets including everything from clinical to extremely faddy (eg: the lamb chop and pineapple diet). I’m serious, I listed over 130 different approaches.

The question on every attendees’ lips was, “What’s the best diet”?

My answer? “Give up dieting, period”.

You might think it’s incredibly strange for a Registered Nutritionist to be telling you not to diet. But deep down, we all know diets don’t work for long. And often, they don’t work at all.

I’m the ‘anti-dieter’. Why? Diets are restrictive, non-sustainable and can work against your goals, digestion and metabolism. You end up with hormonal imbalances which lead to further cravings, hunger and a reduction in energy. Eventually your head says, “Go on, have the doughnuts” and your body agrees (physiologically, your cells need energy, and your body worries that you are starving it of vital nutrients). We are pre-programmed to survive so we have to understand our bio-chemistry and our psychology.

Is your gut ruling your head?

Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach? These sensations swirling around in your belly suggest that your brain and gut are connected. This communication network is referred to as the gut-brain axis. Neurons are cells found in your brain and central nervous system that tell your body how to behave. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain and 500 million neurons in the gut, connected to your brain through nerves in your nervous system. The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain. It sends signals in both directions.

Feel good vibes:

Your gut and brain are also connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are produced in the brain and control feelings and emotions. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps control your body clock. You can't directly get serotonin from food, but you can get tryptophan, an amino acid that's converted to serotonin in your brain. Tryptophan is found primarily in high-protein foods (including turkey and salmon). I allow you to refocus and relax, in order to preserve as many ‘feel good factors’ as you can.

No matter how much you exercise, what you eat will determine how you look and feel. Worse still, diets add needless stress and complication to your life. No one wants yet another thing to manage and worry about. We’re all busy enough as it is.

It’s important to assess every aspect of your life, make things simpler, understand ‘the science’ and check in with someone (like me) who will make sure you are really OK. In a nutshell, make it simpler than you would expect and ‘specific’ to your needs. If you want lasting success:

  • Don’t count calories
  • Don’t get all crazy about food
  • Don’t follow fads
  • Don’t listen to media reports about how one specific food will kill you while another will cure you (a list which seems to change every week)
  • Don’t add stress to your already busy life
  • Don’t try to change too many things at once
  • Stay consistent and steady
  • Add accountability (in a safe and supportive way)

The catch? It takes time and we live in a “now, now, now!” culture. The benefit is, it works better than you can possibly imagine.

Here is where I come in. I assess 6 simple principles which ensure that you become the best, healthiest person of you without “dieting” another day in your life. Want more info?