What about diets for losing weight? - Arthritis Action

What about diets for losing weight?

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There are many different types of diets which can help you lose weight but some diets may suit you and your lifestyle better than others. Before starting a weight-reducing diet you should make sure that it is safe for you and speak to your GP. Very low calorie diets should never be started without first getting medical advice. In general celebrity and diet fads should be avoided as they don’t encourage healthier eating and lifestyle changes that you will need to stay at a healthy weight.

Many people find that it is easy to lose weight but much harder to keep the weight off afterwards. Increasing your levels of exercise can help but changing your eating habits is vital. After a diet if you go back to eating the same amount that you were before the diet, you will gain all the weight back that you have lost. The only way to keep off the weight in the long-term is to make lasting changes to the food you eat and your lifestyle. You don’t have to avoid any foods, just be sensible.

A Mediterranean diet, consisting of plenty of fruit and vegetables, pulses, olive oil and a little meat is recognised for its overall health benefits, including helping with the symptoms of arthritis. Such a diet can also help with weight loss provided the number of calories overall are reduced and it can also help you keep to a healthy weight after you have lost weight.

Arthritis Action does not  recommend any particular weight-loss diet but here are some well-known examples:

High protein, low carbohydrate diets

These diets such as the Atkins and Dukan diets involve eating almost no carbohydrates such as bread, pasta or flour and eating more protein-containing foods such as meat. High amounts of fat such as butter are allowed. Weight loss can be rapid to start with but these diets are not healthy in the long term because they lack essential vitamins and minerals that are vital for health, plus they often contain very little fibre which is essential for bowel function.

Intermittent fasting 

These diets such as the 5:2 diet involve eating normally for most of the week and then eating about 500-600 calories for 1 or 2 days per week. They can be effective as they only require will-power for 1 or 2 days at a time but on the fasting days you are likely to feel very hungry and may also feel light-headed. Speak to your GP before starting this type of diet.

Calorie-counting or calorie reduced diets

These diets such as Weightwatchers, Slimming World and Slim-Fast use a type of easy calorie-controlled method with prepared meals, snacks and meal replacements which are lower in calories than usual. These diets work well because no foods are forbidden and so treats are allowed as long as you don’t go over your daily allowance. These diets are also often based on group work so that you can get the support of others and the group leader. They can help with education sessions on healthy eating and portion sizes and you are allowed to eat a bit more if you do some exercise.

Very low calorie diets 

These diets such as the starting phases of the Cambridge diet and LighterLife diets are based on very low calorie meal replacements or drinks. They work well for short periods as the meals and drinks are nutritionally balanced and very low calorie but some people may feel hungry and light-headed on these diets and they are not a substitute for healthier eating. The meal replacement options do not allow you to learn about healthy eating and can be expensive. You should ask your GP if it is safe before starting one of these diets.

Alkaline diet

This celebrity diet encourages people to avoid foods which are meant to make our bodies more acidic such as meat, refined sugar and white bread, and to eat more “alkaline” foods such as fruit and vegetables which are considered to be healthier. The diet claims to improve mood, memory, skin and health generally.  There is no evidence that certain foods are “acidic” and can change the level of acidity in our bodies, especially as our stomach acid is meant to be extremely acidic anyway, but eating healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables and reducing processed foods may be a good idea and help with weight management.

The paleo diet

This diet tries to copy the diets of our cavemen ancestors before agriculture was invented (even though we don’t really know what these people ate) and are generally high in meat, eggs, seeds, fruit and vegetables and low in refined foods including sugar, processed foods such as bread and salt. This is generally quite a healthy diet but most experts believe that we should be cutting down on meat rather than eating more. Some types of this diet also ban dairy foods which should usually form part of a healthy diet as they contain a lot of calcium which is important for bone health.