The 5 worst dieting fads to avoid – dietitian Orla Walsh on the diets that don't work and the strategies that do

Some 80pc of resolutions fail by February and just 8pc of people are thought to achieve their New Year’s resolutions, studies have found. A common goal is losing weight. So why do so many people find this resolution so challenging?

Well, one of the reasons is setting out on an unsustainable path. If it’s not something you can continue to do, you’re setting yourself up to fail. The diets vary so much and range from the sensible to the downright ludicrous! A person wanting to lose weight may feel vulnerable, making them more susceptible to myths, misleading claims and bizarre diet plans. The following are particularly hazardous to health.

1 Juice diets

Juice diets are incomplete diets. They provide carbohydrate in the form of sugar with very little vitamins and minerals as well as no fat or protein. Considering this blatant fact, juice diets are not a long-term solution. The lack of protein makes this diet unhealthy, even in the short-term. Protein is needed to feed our muscles and bones, which are responsible for a big chunk of our metabolism.

Unfortunately, if you don’t feed these tissues, you start to lose them. The speed of which you lose these important tissues increases with age. As the idea behind losing weight is to become leaner, the focus should be on losing fat, while retaining muscle. Therefore, eating adequate protein is so important during the weight-loss process.

2 Weight-loss pills

Weight-loss pills can be very unsafe. Every year there are people admitted to hospitals after becoming very unwell after consuming weight-loss pills. For example, they may contain a heart stimulant called higenamine, which can cause breathlessness and dizziness. In a study released in 2018, 24 products containing higenamine were analysed. The quantity of higenamine within the supplements varied significantly. Worryingly, five products listed an amount of higenamine, but none were accurately labelled; and some had twice the dose stated.

People need to be away of the hidden dangers. So, what about all the weight-loss products that are deemed safe? The truth of the matter is when it comes to weight-loss supplements, if they’re safe to take, they probably won’t work.

3 Weight-loss tea

The weight of a body is made up of organs, muscle, bone, fat and of course water. In fact, over half of our body is water! Weight-loss teas can cause a person to urinate more. Yes, this results in weight-loss, but not fat-loss! Some teas contain laxatives. Yes, this makes our bowels open more regularly, but this doesn’t result in fat-loss either. Weight-loss teas are a con. Celebs endorse them for a lot of money without thinking about the damaging effect they’re having on people’s relationship to their body and diet. They may get paid to endorse them. However, their followers and fans lose money on buying these gimmicks.

4 Very low-calorie diets

Very low-calorie diets are not sustainable. If a person follows such a diet over a long period of time, each and every system in the body will not be fed enough fuel. This leads to physiological dysfunction, or in other words, each part of the body won’t work as it should.

The problem with extreme dieting measures is that weight cycling is associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes and a great risk of death, according to a new study following over 3,5000 people for 16 years. Weight cycling, or the constant losing and gaining of weight, leads to adverse health outcomes. It does not lead to health.

Although estimates vary a lot, it is thought that 80pc of people will gradually regain the weight they lose and end up at the same weight or even heavier than they were before they went on a diet. Part of the reason for this is that the body can adapt to run on less. For example, less calories will be needed at rest, when going about daily activities and during exercise. Reports even suggest an increase in hunger. A reduced need for calories combined with feeling hungrier then promotes weight gain. This is one of the reasons why sustainable change is needed.

5 Detox diet

Cleansing the body to improve health and remove toxins is all the rage in January. It’s a pity for all those selling detox products that the body naturally does this all-year round, without help from these gimmicks. Supporters of these absurd products claim the goal of cleansing is to promote healthy intestinal bacteria, boost energy and immunity loss.

It’s amazing that people can be so strong on their views without any actual evidence. Detox diets vary and include using a herbal, medicinal or laxative preparation, following an elimination diet cutting out important food groups or consuming unhealthy amounts of water, juice or fibre. Truth be told, some forms of cleansing can be harmful.

Unpleasant side effects include the likes of cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, headaches, lack of energy and dizziness. Cleansing diets can also change the healthy bacteria in the large intestine, leading to more serious side effects. The intestines, lungs, liver and kidneys effectively remove waste from the body all day, every day and for all months of the year, not just January. Money is better spent on more vegetables.

5 tips for eating better

With all the nutrition myths floating around at this time of year, it’s important for people to go back to basics rather than succumb to the nutribabble. Here’s five top tips to get you back on track.

1 Drink more water

The human body is about 60 to 70pc water. We need water to help us digest food, move nutrients and waste through the body, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance thereby keeping blood pressure normal, cushion and protect joins and organs as well as control body temperature. Signs of dehydration include being thirsty, having dry lips or mouth as well as experiencing headaches, dizziness, low blood pressure, increased heart rate or dark, strong smelling urine.

The good news is water, tea, coffee and milk count towards your fluids requirements each day.

Generally, people guess eight glasses of water when asked how much they think they need to drink. However, how much water we need depends on a lot of factors including a person’s age, gender, activity levels and natural sweatiness. So if one cup = 250ml, work out below what you should be drinking:

⬤ Women (19 years and up): 9 cups

⬤ Pregnant women: 9 cups

⬤ Women who are breastfeeding: 12.5 cups

⬤ Men (19 years and up): 12 cups


2 Half of the food you eat needs to be fruit and vegetables

A healthy diet is where half of the food eaten is fruit and vegetables. What do fruit and vegetables do for your health? Quite simply, they protect your body from ill health. Often, a traditional Irish dinner contains potatoes, meat and two vegetables. In other words, half the plate is vegetables. This is spot on. However, when it comes to breakfast and sometimes lunch, fruit and vegetables can be lacking. Aim to eat at least two pieces of fruit and or vegetables at each meal or quite simply aim to ensure that half of each and every meal is fruit and vegetables.

What is a portion? Approximately 80g in weight or 1 handful:

⬤ 2 mandarins ⬤ 1 pear

⬤ 2 sticks celery ⬤ 2 kiwis

⬤ 1 banana ⬤ ½ grapefruit

⬤ 1 apple ⬤ 3 tbsp fruit salad

⬤ 1 orange ⬤ 10-12 berries or grapes


3 Ensure there is a protein source with every meal

Protein makes us feel full and also keeps us full. A great example of the filling effect of protein is when a large bag of crisps is compared to a rich protein source. A large bag of crisps provides about 900 calories of energy, which is equivalent, in terms of calories, to 11 eggs or six chicken breasts. For most people it would be easier to eat the large bag than all those eggs or chicken breasts. It would also be easier to eat the crisps mindlessly. With protein, it naturally encourages mindful eating. Ideally, most people would aim to eat 20g of protein at each meal. Or put in simpler terms, ¼ of the meal would be protein.

⬤ 5 grammes

1 turkey rasher

30g nuts or seeds

3 tbsp nut butter

20g of cheddar

4 tbsp hummus

⬤ 10 grammes

200g tin of baked beans

⅔ tin of peas

½ pint of milk or soya milk

100g of Greek yoghurt

⬤ 20+grammes

1 tin/ fillet fish

1 breast chicken

150g prawns

100g red meat

½ block (200g) tofu


4 When eating carbohydrate, tailor the quantity to your needs and focus on quality

A low-carbohydrate diet is not required when aiming to lose weight. For most people, the best approach is to tailor your carbohydrate intake to your activity levels. For example, the faster you move your body, the further you move your body and the more frequently you move your body each day, the more carbohydrate you need.

The only other thing to consider is your size and weight. The smaller you naturally are, the less you need. The bigger you naturally are, the more you need. In other words, a shorter, smaller women or man does not require the same amount of carbohydrate to fuel their brain and body as a taller, broader woman or man. After you’ve considered quantity, focus on quality. If the carbohydrate looks similar on your plate to when it grew out of the ground, it’s a healthy choice. If buying a carbohydrate that is processed, the lower in sugar and higher in fibre your carbohydrate choice is, the better! Use the chart below to guide you.

⬤ Nutritional information per 100 g

⬤ ‘of which sugars’ = less than 5 g

⬤ Fibre = greater than 6g


5 Add a little fat!

Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. In fact, some fats are essential to life! Not only that, the body cannot make these essential fats, so in order for our body to have these vital ingredients to health, you must eat them! Myths around fat have been circling for years. The most important thing to note is that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Fat does contain just over twice the calories per gramme that carbohydrate and protein contain. However, this just means that when trying to lose weight, and even maintaining weight, a person must be mindful of the amount of fat they’re eating.

Higher-fat foods that provide about 100-110 calories:

⬤ 1 tbsp olive oil⬤ 25g of pesto

⬤ 15g pecans⬤ ⅓ avocado

⬤ 20g flaxseed⬤ 45g salmon

⬤ 1.5 eggs⬤ 50g mackerel


Trends to avoid in 2019

Every year, some of us jump on the bandwagon when it comes to food trends. Orla Walsh has the top 10 crazes to steer clear of this year…

When it comes to nutrition, no two people are alike. They not only have different bodies, but different mindsets. Sweeping recommendations do not work. However, when it comes to nutrition, it is a science and not an opinion. There is either evidence supporting a food or product – or there isn’t. When there is evidence supporting a food or product, it’s not always applicable to everybody. Fads are trends and often have no evidence behind them. Here’s are my top 10 fads to drop in 2019!

* Bulletproof coffee – Butter added to coffee is high in calories and is not a balanced breakfast or snack.

* Taking random probiotics – Most probiotics do not have evidence supporting their use. Only a few brands have been shown to make it to your gut to help improve its function.

* Apple cider vinegar – Despite having lots of perceived health benefits, the evidence is lacking.

* Vegetable juice – To get the full benefit of vegetables, you really must eat them and not drink them.

* Coconut oil – The evidence suggests that although coconut oil is tasty, it shouldn’t be eaten as often as other healthy fats such as olive oil.

* High-fat, low-carbohydrate diets – Why must it be high or low anything? Can trends not follow the evidence and support moderate amounts of everything?

* Almond milk – Not only are some brands very high in sugar, almond milk is nutritionally inferior to cow’s milk. One big downside is that it contains only minute amounts of protein. If vegan, soya or hemp milk is a better choice. If lactose intolerant, try lactofree cow’s milk. Almond milk can be enjoyed for its taste, but it is not nutritionally superior.

* Alkaline water – “If alkaline water worked, we’d be out of a job”, report your kidneys.

* Weight-loss teas – More likely to be a tea containing a diuretic or laxative. If you’re after weight loss, the health benefits come from losing excess fat, not urine and poo.

* Going vegan without preparation or thought – Vegan diets can be healthy if the nutritional gaps created from removing all animal produce are filled. This takes education and dedication. Going vegan without thinking it through can lead to serious health consequences.

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