Crisis Point in the Nation’s Health

crash-diets

Today I received my “proteincard” in the post, a card aimed at getting customers discounts on sports supplements, and a cause aimed at abolishing VAT on sports supplements for everyone.

Usually with these sort of “Welcome” letters from loyalty card companies you get a run down of what you can now do that you never imagined before now that you have this card, but this one was different.

This letter contained a passionate description of the crisis facing the NHS, and the steady rise in obesity in the United Kingdom. It says that by 2050 the NHS will be spending £50 billion a year on care related to obesity. Furthermore, by that time, 50% of the population will be overweight. The statistics are shocking, so what has happened?

For me, the problem is not just excessive eating, it is our diets in general. We eat so much junk food, very few of us eat enough vegetables, drink enough water, consume enough protein, get enough vitamins, see enough sunlight, eat enough healthy fats, or take on enough calcium. Also, we are too reliant on crash diets to solve our problems.

Calcium and protein in particular are a big problem for girls, I have found. Just 12% of girls eat enough calcium in their diet. This combined with not enough protein increases the risks of osteoporosis (fragile bones). Most females only discover this after their teens, and by that point it is too late. There is a window during your adolescence where your bone structure is developing, and not drinking enough milk, eating enough yoghurt, or any other source of calcium, will have a negative impact on your bone health. The same is true for men, although we continue growing into our twenties.

Another big problem is dietary fats. Fats, in the right amount, are harmless. In fact, they are essential for hormone production, skin health, and for lowering cholesterol. There is a big problem right now with the “no fat fad” that is zero fat foods. Low-fat or zero fat foods have potentially a very negative impact on your health. These foods are usually laced with added sugar to make up for the loss in taste from the fats, or with artificial flavourings and chemicals. No natural food is going to harm you in moderation. Picking a full-fat, low sugar product over a zero-fat one, loaded with sugar and flavourings will ultimately benefit you far more.

crash_diet

Of course, we cannot talk about unnatural foods without looking at fast food outlets. Eating a Big Mac, or Chicken Royale once in a blue moon will not have an adverse affect on your health. However, in large amounts they certainly will whack up your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. That combined with sugary drinks is taking its toll on our nation’s health.

Sadly, even exercise cannot outdo a bad diet. I see guys where I work who are lifting all the time, always on their feet, who are very overweight. Perhaps it is because, whenever I see them, they are always guzzling down a Coca Cola, or eating out of a MacDonalds paper bag. You can be as active as you like, but if you are putting the wrong fuel into the car, it will not run properly.

Finally, diets. You have probably heard some of them before, and it seems the number of them is just increasing. The 5:2, Low-Carb sites, Slim Fast, Cabbage Soup Diet, No-fat diets, 3-day diet, intermittent fasting, the list goes on!

The trouble with these diets is – well, a lot of things! I will not analyse all of them, but will mention a couple. Firstly, by going on a crash diet, you are restricting your body’s access to vital nutrients. This means that it is not possible to sustain them for any length of time. Also, when I was talking to a girl on the Slim Fast diet, I could not believe my ears. Something like you have two shakes a day plus one healthy meal, then move on to 1 shake and a healthy meal.

However, if you look at the macronutrient content of these shakes it is horrendous: 15g protein (not awful), 2g of fat, and 26g carbohydrates…23g of which comes from sugar! So you are telling me that a 230-something calorie shake with 23g sugar in it is going to help you lose weight in a healthy way, give you vital nutrients, and actual keep you full? No way!

The 5:2 diet is also a big one nowadays. 5 days of eating as you like, and 2 days of fasting. So what do you eat? Anything it seems, just as long as on the fasting days you stay below 500 calories. So, where do you get the recommended 50g protein, 20g fat, and 230g carbohydrates? All of which are essential for normal bodily functions.

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Limiting calories to a ridiculous amount also seems a straightforward diet. However, when fasting your body slows down its metabolism; storing energy as much as it can. Once you come off a diet like this, your body will continue to store energy in the expectation of another period of fasting, so you will ultimately put weight back on again – fast.

The solution to all of this? Eat normal. Seriously.

Get more vegetables in your diet, drink more, drink less alcohol, eat more protein, and eat a healthy amount of fat. These will assist in keeping hunger at bay, and help with healthy fat loss. Note the word “fat”. By limiting calories excessively you will lose weight, but a lot will be muscle, which is bad. Taking part in resistance exercise two to three times a week, combined with cardiovascular exercise, and your metabolism will speed up, and you will retain healthy weight. To help do this, it is advised that eating 1 to 2g protein per kilogram of bodyweight will help build lean, healthy weight, and help you feel full.

Never pick a fad diet over one a normal, healthy one. Your body will thank you for it, and the health of the nation will benefit.

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