Whenever I think diets, I can’t help thinking of Bridget Jones (I know I’ve mentioned her before), Helen Fielding’s scatterbrained singleton heroine who obsessively counts calories and is yet constantly unable to reach her dreamed of weight loss goal. At the end of Bridget Jones’s Diary, we learn that Bridget has consumed, in a single year, 11,090,265 calories. That is by her own admission, and Bridget’s mathematical skills may not be the strongest, but even so, she has consumed close to 30,000 calories per day, whereas the recommended daily count for a woman her age (early 30s) would be 1,940. As for her alcohol consumption, the count is a staggering 3,836 units per year, which means more than 10 units per day. Is it any wonder she leads a dysfunctional life?
So Bridget and her ilk need a diet plan, obviously. The problem with that is you never know if a diet plan is good for you until you give it enough time. Susanna Giles, a homemaker who trained in nutrition and food science to create the perfect diet for her four growing children, says the problem with diet plans and dieters is that it is a now-on-now-off relationship. “The common belief among people is that a diet should have immediate impact, but that is just so unreasonable. You have to give any diet at least three months to make its presence felt,” she says.
When was the last time you planned your diet?
That was a serious question, requiring a serious answer. When was the last time you carefully planned your diet starting from breakfast to mid-day snack to dinner keeping in mind all the essential nutrients that your body required? “Far too often, and even when they are handed a diet plan, people tend to make what they see as slight adjustments to the plan and then blame the diet for not having any effect,” says Wendell Harvey, a consultant nutritionist based in New York.
Just as a matter of interest, while researching this topic, I came across nearly 75 diet plans, and these are just the known ones. No doubt there are hundreds of personal diet plans tucked away across the world, formed according to what a dieter thinks is best for him or her. However, none of it is going to work if you keep cheating on your diet plan, or more damagingly, keep switching between diet plans.
Even conservative estimates reveal that the dieting industry makes billions of dollars every year selling diet plans and remedies in the USA alone. So when we learn that an astonishing 20 percent (or thereabouts) of Americans are medically overweight, our automatic reaction is to blame the diet plans that they follow, without wondering whether the fault lies with the dieters rather than the diets. Most diet plans are based on premises that will work, because the essential thing about a diet plan is balance. If the diet plan is balanced, it will help you achieve whatever it is that you want to achieve.
If one were to stop people passing by on the street and ask them what they thought was a healthy daily diet plan, the reply would probably go something like this: “A variety of food incorporating carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins, and about five portions of fruit and vegetables.” The point is that most of us know what a healthy diet is like, so we don’t have to work too hard to figure out what we should eat.
The famed diet plans
Here, you must indulge me by letting me quote Bridget again, because she incorporates quite a few internationally famed diets into her daily routine…and gets nowhere. It’s a long extract, but extremely illuminating:
“Breakfast: hot-cross bun (Scarsdale Diet – slight variation on specified piece of wholemeal toast); Mars Bar (Scarsdale Diet – slight variation on specified half grapefruit)
Snack: two bananas, two pears (switched to F-plan as starving and cannot face Scarsdale carrot snacks). Carton orange juice (Anti-Cellulite Raw-Food Diet)
Lunch: jacket potato (Scarsdale Vegetarian Diet) and hummus (Hay Diet – fine with jacket spuds as all starch, and breakfast and snack were all alkaline-forming with exception of hot-cross bun and Mars: minor aberration)
Dinner: four glasses of wine, fish and chips (Scarsdale Diet and also Hay Diet – protein forming); portion tiramisu; peppermint Aero (puked).”
Can you see what’s happening here? This crazed switching of diets is doomed to failure, as anyone but Bridget can tell. However, like Bridget, people who follow the Scarsdale or Hay diets will tend to blame the diets rather than their own inability to stick to any one of them.
Since, as I mentioned, the sheer number of ‘official’ diet plans in existence makes it impossible for me to discuss all of them, and since I am not going to advertise or run down any specific diet plan, I can only repeat that for a dieter, following a diet plan is akin to a battle that they must win, provided they can overcome their ‘eating instincts’.
Says Susannah Giles, “The problem is that as your brain gets used to certain eating patterns, it prevents you from adjusting to new ones. So even if you follow certain diet plans and consume the required calories and other nutrients, your brain will still signal to you that you haven’t eaten enough and are still hungry.”
That, of course, sets off the various ‘cravings’ dieters regularly experience. Stacy Grimaldi, a 37-year-old banker from Shreveport, Louisiana, who has been following a diet plan for three years with what she says is astounding success, claims that in the initial stages of her diet, her craving for chocolate grew alarmingly, even though she wasn’t too fond of it to begin with. “I guess it was just because I was not allowed it,” she laughs.
So whichever diet plan you follow, chances are you will notice a similar thing happening to you. So knuckle down and (honestly) stick to your chosen diet plan. The result will be a matter of time.