To diet or not to diet? Image: Thinkstock
“I have to lose weight" — the moment you utter these five words, the first suggestion you get from your peers is to go on a diet. Because, we are what we eat and it's not exactly rocket science.
But, amid the thousands of diets that float on the web and are penned down in books and blogs, did it ever occur to you that you might be on a wrong one? Or which is the right diet? Or what lifestyle changes must you make to become a healthier version of yourself?
Oh, we think about it all the time and sat down to discuss it with Indian-born British journalist, author and TV presenter Dr Michael Mosley, who was in India. In an exclusive chat with T2 Online, Dr Mosley — who conducts experiments on himself to bust myths related to food, fitness and health — discussed how he feels about some of the most popular diets people opt for (spoiler: most of them are total rubbish) and how to pick a good diet out of a bad one.
“There are about 50,000 different diets and most of them are rubbish. Most of them have no science behind them, whatsoever. I think if you are going to go on a diet, the main thing you have to know about that is getting enough protein in your diet," he tells us.
"For example, one form of crash diet is a juicing diet — where you drink nothing but juice for a few weeks. And the biggest problem with that is protein is one of the things you do not store — you store fat, sugar. So, if you don't get at least 50 grams of protein a day, then your body would take the protein from your muscles. And that's very, very unhealthy,” explains Mosley.
He says, “Whatever form of diet you're going to do, make sure you get plenty of liquids and enough protein to keep your muscle stores preserved. Plus, remember doing a bit of exercise. When people lose weight, they tend to lose muscle as well. And you don't want that.”
Popular diets that are concerning
Mosley points out, “Keto diet is very popular, I am not a fan. I think people get really bored, they give up and so they go back to their old ways. The other thing that worries me about Keto is that it is very low on carbs, so you go into ketosis — that means you're probably eating very little fibre, and fibre is really important for your gut bacteria, for keeping you from getting constipation, and things like that. I know Keto is hugely popular, and it's funny because this diet in one form or another has been for 150 years."
"William Banting, who was a London undertaker, invented a version of it in 1860s. It's been reinvented every couple of decades and it returns again. And, it has benefits – you feel less hungry, you lose weight quite fast. But the challenge is how do you keep it up for a long time?" he asks.
Mosley is also not a fanboy for the Alkaline diet. "It has no scientific credibility at all. You can't adjust your pH in that way through food," he explains.
How to pick a good diet?
“Check out the origins of things, see if it makes kind of sense or not. Ideally, there should have some scientific studies that's been done on it. Someone, somewhere, should have done studies in humans and not on just a bunch of rats. You quite want to know who's written it and what basis for it is. Look at who has written a diet, what's it's based on," he tells us.
"When I write books about dieting, I put in lots of scientific references, so if you want to find out whether a certain thing has any credibility, you can check it out. If it's a celebrity, you kind of wonder what their credibility is, what the basis of the claims they're making are. I know celebrities write a lot of diet books, but unfortunately most of them are nonsense. And, quite often it turns out that the celebrity didn't even write them — they just got somebody else to write for them," adds the myth-buster.
4 must do's of any diet
1. Eat plenty of oily fish and vegetables.
2. Drink lots of fluids.
3. Keep active.
4. Get a good night's sleep.
These do sound doable and have had lots of studies done on their benefits. So, we can verify facts, as Dr Mosley earlier pointed out.
When not penning down books, this myth-buster presents shows like Trust Me I’m a Doctor, Meet the Humans, The Truth about Exercise etc. that air on Sony BBC Earth in India.