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  • Writer's pictureMollie Maxwell

Why are some diets so SAD?

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Dieting fads are not new, they have been around for quite a long time and even over my lifetime I have seen plenty come and go. There was the grapefruit diet in the 70's, the Hip and Thigh diet in the 90's, the South Beach diet, the F-plan diet, the Paleo diet, Keto and so on. We have developed an unhealthy relationship with diets and appearance that has made a lot of people very rich and many more very unhappy.

Think of the Reubens style of painting in the early 1600's where rich people were always portrayed as fat and flabby because it showed their power and wealth, while the poor were skinny. In the 1950's the traditional curvy model was suddenly outstripped by the TWIGGY model, which was an almost overnight about-change from what was the norm. The 1960's really began the fashion to be thin, thinner and thinnest and this spawned the beginning of popular weight loss diets and a surge in cases of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Young people were dying to be thin, literally.

How come then, do we have a world wide epidemic of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and the chronic health problems that go with it, such a heart disease, stroke, cancer, kidney disease and dementia, most of which a largely preventble with diet and exercise. From the twiggy stick-like model of the 1960s came diets that largely made us fatter and unhealthier.

The SAD diet; Standard American Diet of burgers, fries, coke, cakes, highly sweetend cereals, highly salted chips, juices of every possible type, deep fried chicken laden with flavour enhancers, heat processed oils, margarines, preservatives, colourants, the list goes on and on. The reaction of the body to this style of eating is to constantly raise insulin levels which causes a metabiolic dysregulation . The synergistic effect of eating high carbs (especially white sugar) and fat together causes storage of excess fat in the body and makes us put on weight.The high fat / high sugar combination is particularly harmful to the body.

Generally young people can deal with this combination of foods and they use high levels of energy which can burn it off. They are able to deal with the insulin production and therefore are insulin sensitive. As we age we tend to use less energy and also our bodies often can no longer deal with large amounts of carbohydrate and fats together and we become insulin resistant. This is what often is the beginning of the problem with weight gain and the metabolic dysregulation of insulin resitance, often leading to Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.

This is all a complicated metabolic process of the body trying to use its energy sources as best it can and to store the excess for later use, which is a system that our bodies have adapted to for millions of years. However, the more poor quality carbohydrate diet we have the more our bodies try to use it but end up storing it in the fat cells, and when they are full in the liver and around the organs ( visceral fat) . By poor quality carbohydrate, we mean white sugar, white flour and products made from these ingredients, white pasta, white rice, commercially produced cakes and biscuits, juices and fizzy drinks and lollies.

Along with the rise in Obesity came Weight Watchers , Jenny Craig and a whole raft of diet planning clubs and tools that undoubtedly helped many people to return to a healthy weight but also became a multi million dollar industry that has fed upon our insecurity with food and our desire to weigh less. There is no doubt that tools such as these are beneficial, but there is so much more to it than just getting on the scales in front of a group of people.

For many people, who have become insulin resistant, weight control is not just about taking more exercise and eating less calories, although this will help, they are metabolically challenged and become almost unable to lose weight no matter how much they try. The body has gone into survival mode and will not release its stores of fat. The hormoes that control appetite and the feeling of fullness are out of kilter and do not work the way they should leading to increased appetite and the inability to know when to stop eating.

Weight loss is no longer about will power, calorie control and eating less, it is more about how we eat and what we eat.

If you have become insulin resistant and are suffering from Obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which is primarily a disease of carbohydrate intolerance, the body has to be encouraged to release fat stores and this cannot be done by consuming poor quallity carbohydrates. It can however be done by eating good quality oils. Yes, we have all been made aware of the probems of consuming fat, especially saturated fat like butter and cheese but this is partially in conjunction with carbohydrates which make them so much more damaging to the body. By consuming good quality fats like olive and nut oils without carbohydrate, the body learns to release fat from cells by a method called ketogenisis.

Low carbohydrate high fat diets could be seen as just another fad diet , but the science is adding up and it has a proven track record for reversing type 2 Diabetes and controlling weight amongst people who are insulin resistant. It can also help to reduce the advancement of Alzheimers and is often used. for treating extreme cases of epilepsy.

Like any method of weight control it is important to consult with your general medical practioner first, get blood tests done to find out exactly what your blood markers look like and to consult with a dietitian/ nutritionist for the best advise for an eating plan.

Weight control is never going to be easy and there is a mindset that helps to overcome the rigours of having a lifelong good relationship with food. Binge eating, and comfort eating are particularly hard to overcome, but with the right support it is possible to come to terms with this.

The general consensus amongst scientists and nutrititionists that specialise in healthy weight control is that a Mediterranean style of eating is probably the most reliable long term method of eating well and staying well. This way of eating consists of a good deal of cold pressed olive oil, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables in abundance, fruits and small amounts of red meat. In addition to this the Mediterranean enjoy small quantities of red wine, a sense of community, sunshine, a relaxed lifestyle and low stress. It is a total package that cannot be eaisly replicated outside of the Mediterranean, although in some parts of the world Blue zones have been set up to try and do just that.

Blue Zones are areas of the world that see increased longevity, low stress, healthy lifespan and great community support. Dan Buettner studied these areas for many years and looked into their secrets for longevity. You can read about him here.

Professor Grant Schofield from AUT has been researching the low carb high fat diet for many years and you can read more about him here.

The NZ heart foundation also has some good information which can be found here.


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