Health: The do's and dont's of dieting

THEY often claim amazing weight loss in a short space of time. Every few months the latest diet plan is the next big thing, each promising to be easier and faster than before.

However healthy eating experts are warning against trying these type of programmes as a long-term solution. As 2011 is about to start, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has told desperate dieters that the only way to lose weight safely and keep it off is eating a balanced diet and exercising.

Sian Porter, consultant dietitian and spokeswoman for the BDA, said: "Sadly, there is no magic wand you can wave. There is no wonder diet you can follow without some nutritional or health risk and most are offering a short-term fix to a long term problem. It may be obvious, but if you want to lose weight you need to eat a nutritionally balanced and varied diet with appropriately sized portions and burn off more calories that you consume. In short, eat fewer calories, make better choices and move a bit more."

She added that pictures of glamorous celebrities and stories about the regimes they supposedly followed didn't give a true impression.

"These celebs have an army of people to help them to keep looking good, which is essential to their livelihood, and plenty of money to do whatever they think it takes.

"A lot of these images are airbrushed and retouched to give celebrities an unachievable body image that does not exist in real life, yet many aspire to. Some people look at these images and will try anything they think will help them achieve the 'perfect' body.

"If you have some weight you need to lose, then do it in a healthy, enjoyable and sustainable way. In the long term this will achieve the results you are after."

Sian said that every year the BDA is asked about the huge range of weird and wacky diets – so they have put together the top five to be wary of and their verdict.

Dukan Diet

This complicated four-phase diet starts off with a protein only approach and promotes weight loss of around 7lb per week.

BDA Verdict: "This works on restricting foods, calories and portion control again. Once again, cutting out food groups is not advisable. This diet is so confusing that many followers could be mistaken and follow an almost protein diet approach, with the associated dangers, not to mention the bad breath."

For more information and tips about healthy weight loss, visit www.bdaweightwise.com.

Cabbage Soup/Fat Burning Soup Diet

My Name is Earl star Jaime Pressly is said to have used this diet to help her shift baby weight. The diet is supposed to be done for a week at a time and mainly consists of homemade cabbage soup. A limited variety of foods can be eaten on later days of the week.

BDA Verdict: "Firstly, no food can 'burn' fat, so that is a complete myth. Weight loss from this diet is largely down to water loss and our old faithful – restricted calories. Also, this diet will make you begin to detest mealtimes and it will also give you wind."

'I NEEDED TO DO SOMETHING'

THREE super-slimmers shed a total of 14 stones in time for Christmas.

Mum-of-four Nadine Murphy was the 'greatest loser' of her Slimming World group in Guiseley, Leeds, shedding six stone.

She started her slimming efforts over two years ago after struggling with her weight for years.

"It got to the stage where I knew I was not happy and I needed to do something," she said.

The 32-year-old said the journey hadn't been easy, but the plan fit in with family life and was not strict.

She's slimmed from a size 18 to a 10/12 and has been at her target weight since July.

"I am more confident and I can run around with the kids more," she said.

"I love going shopping now and buying the clothes I want to buy. I find it hard to believe what size I am."

Nadine and the other two super slimmers are all members of the Slimming World Group at Aireborough Leisure Centre in Guiseley.

Julie Weatherhead, from Yeadon, lost four-and-a-half stones in 2010 and the 42-year-old is to take over her own Slimming World group on Thursday evenings in Guiseley next month.

Stephanie Barton will also open a new group in January after the 32-year-old shed three-and-a-half stones since May.

Linda Brown, who runs Slimming World sessions at the leisure centre, said all her members had done fantastically during the year, especially Nadine.

"Her life has been transformed by her loss and we are very proud of her," she added.

For details of the Wednesday morning and lunchtime groups at the centre, contact 07985 330891.

'I HAVE NEVER LOOKED BACK

SHE'S lost almost six stone – and Sarah Kenyon is encouraging others to follow in her footsteps in 2011.

Sarah was a size 26 and aged just 27, felt fat and frumpy. A year on she has shed more than 5st 7lbs and is feeling better than ever.

"I was reluctant to start new jobs and socialise amongst people I'd never met before and constantly felt self-conscious," said Sarah, a web designer and consultant.

"I now can't believe how my life has changed. For years, I've struggled with my weight and tried many different diets, including a soup and shake diet from which I lost 4 stones but quickly gained 7 stones as soon as I came off it which I was devastated by. Now, you can't get me out of the gym or my figure-hugging dresses."

Sarah, who lost the weight after joining Slimming World, said she joined after having to ask for a seatbelt extender on a flight.

"I was truly mortified," she said. "I made a pact with myself then and there that I would get into my size 12 clothes that I had bought years earlier and regain my self esteem. I had tried Slimming World years before but didn't stick with it so in August 2009 I went along with a friend, joined and I have never looked back."

Sarah swapped her diet of a heaped bowl of cereal for breakfast, sandwich on white bread for lunch and large portion of a homemade meal at night for breakfasts of two weetabix and a yogurt, pasta salad or jacket potato with beans and cheese for lunch and a healthy, homecooked meal for dinner.

Her top tips for losing weight are:

Never feel like you're on a diet;

If you have a bad day and 'cheat' put it behind you and carry on as normal, you haven't failed, everyone lapses now and again;

Pin up old photos of yourself - works a treat!

Change for life – stay focused and motivated;

Exercise, it makes a massive difference to your self esteem and the way you look – plus it will speed up your weight loss.

Sarah runs the Slimming World group at the Methodist Church on Branch Road in Lower Wortley, Leeds, on Tuesdays at 7pm. Contact her on 07725 533965.

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