Guide to eating sensibly

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2011, 12:00am


Eating too much protein and not enough carbohydrate

Carbohydrate is the main source of fuel for the body. By restricting carbohydrate, the body goes into a state called ketosis.

Ketosis is when the body starts burning its own fat for fuel. Energy is obtained from toxic substances called ketones. These ketones are created by the breakdown of the body's fat stores. When the body is in ketosis, you feel less hungry and so eat less than you would usually. Yet protein-heavy diets can also cause health problems for your kidneys and liver. These two organs have to work overtime to deal with the excess protein from the diet.

Eating too much protein is dehydrating. Extracting energy from fats and proteins requires lots of water. This water loss results in rapid weight loss. After you start eating normally again, your body will start using carbs again for fuel and conserving water and you'll gain back the lost weight.

Skipping breakfast

Skipping this important meal of the day to lose weight is counter-productive because it slows metabolism and can lead to overeating. That's because running on empty means that you're more likely to binge on fatty sugary snacks when those hunger pangs strike mid-morning.

Although eating any breakfast is better than not eating anything at all, there are some foods to avoid. Avoid sugary cereals, fatty and calorie-laden pastries and fatty meats such as luncheon meat, sausages and bacon.

Yet breakfast doesn't always have to be cereal or toast. You can have dinner leftovers, vegetable omelette and toast, cottage cheese with fruit, or a wrap stuffed with yummy ingredients like avocado, pine nuts and tomatoes.

Going on very low-calorie diets

Some dieters that eat fewer than 1,000 calories a day lose weight in the short term. But they usually gain back weight lost and often end up weighing more than before dieting.

As you cut down on food, your body goes on famine alert. Thinking food is scarce, the body goes to a power-safe mode to conserve energy. It's also to get the best use of the small amount of food.

Your body is programmed to hang onto fat. So in times of famine or starvation, it'll break down muscle for fuel to protect its fat stores. This loss in muscle in turn lowers your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the minimum amount of energy the body needs to keep itself alive. Lowering the BMR means the body needs fewer calories to keep ticking over as well as to slow down weight loss.

How fast you burn calories depends on how much muscle you have. The more muscle, the higher the metabolic rate. When we lose a lot of muscle, our metabolic rate can fall by up to 45 per cent. When you go back to eating normally, more of the food you eat becomes fat. The body wants to stockpile extra fat, in case famine occurs again. Everything you eat is processed more slowly, so more fat is stored.

Taking 'fat burning' products

Fat burners claim to speed up metabolism and/or suppress appetite. A lot of these products contain ephedra. Ephedra comes from a Chinese plant called ma huang. Ephedra contains ephedrine, a powerful amphetamine stimulating the heart and nervous system. Ephedra causes water loss. When combined with caffeine or ginseng, ephedra has many dangerous side effects, such as high blood pressure, stroke, seizure, heart attack and even death.

Bottom line

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, follow a sensible healthy-eating plan: eat enough calories so that fat, not muscle, is lost. Exercise daily to help burn extra calories.

Test your diet IQ

1. Which of the following diets is high protein, low carbohydrate?

a. Dukan diet

b. Atkins

c. South Beach

d. Zone

2. Which of the following diets says that proteins and carbohydrates shouldn't be eaten together and that fruit should always be eaten alone?

a. Grapefruit diet

b. Glycaemic index

c. Hay

d. Sugar Busters

3. What is a sensible weekly weight loss goal?

a. 0.5kg-1kg

b. 1.5kg-2kg

c. 2.5kg-3kg

d. 3.5kg-4kg

4. To lose 0.5kg of fat a week, you will need to eat fewer calories every day. Can you guess how many?

a. 300

b. 400

c. 500

d. 600

5. Which of the following is a low fat, high fibre diet?

a. Pritikin diet

b. Scarsdale diet

c. Slim-Fast diet

d. Yo-yo diet


Test your diet IQ

1: all of them are high-protein diets; 2: c; 3: a; 4: c; 5: a.