One plan does not fit all

So often a patient comes to me saying that they are following a diet plan. I ask them where they get it from. The is answers is usually: Google or an aunt, of course! The plan usually consists of a table with a Monday to Sunday plan of what the person can eat from breakfast to dinner. The plan would contain specific foods, including portions.

Very often patients follow the plan to the letter, almost obsessively, without understanding why they are doing so. Further to this they are promised weight loss, and therefore expect unrealistic losses after following this plan for the given period of time.

No one plan can ever work for all people. We are all individual, our bodies are different. Your diet, eating style, budget and culture are all very different from another person’s.

So how should you approach your diet?

How can one follow a diet when you have no idea as to why you are doing so? If the diet says eat butternut soup, only for a week, do you not wonder how healthy this is or how safe this may be?

What if you have a comorbidity such a diabetes, hypertension or kidney failure? Is this diet safe? Will a fat-free diet help control blood sugar? Possibly not, as the carbohydrates might need to be increased here to compensate. Will a high fruit and vegetable diet be suitable for patients with kidney failure? Such a diet could be hazardous, as fruit and vegetables are high in electrolytes that should be consumed wisely by patients with kidney issues.

I’m healthy, but need to lose some weight. What now?

What if you are otherwise healthy but just need to lose a few kilograms? Is it not okay then to follow an adopted plan? No! You need to understand why you are being told a eat in a certain way. Why are you asked to eat grapes all day or stop red meat for example.

These diets are often reasonable for a short period. What happens once you stop following this sheet of paper? You simply go back to the old ways of eating without having learnt anything. You put on all the weight you lost, and possibly more, as you make up for the lost time and hunger pangs.

Costly diets

If the diet plan includes expensive shakes, people often consume these shakes not knowing how the shakes will affect their bodies. Are the shakes affordable in the long run? Before you embark on following a diet from google or a sheet of paper, you need to understand why it is structured in that way and if it will be safe for you to follow.

Only follow a diet plan individually tailored for you by a Registered Dietitian, based on you eating style, health, biochemistry and lifestyle.

Isn’t a dietitian expensive?

You might thinks it’s too expensive to se a dietitian. Most dietitians are contracted to medical aids. If you don’t have medical aid, a once off consultation with a dietitian can go a long way. You’ll get an understanding of what you need to eat in order to lose weight. It’s well worth the money spent.

The alternatives will be more costly: expensive shakes, weight loss pills and and diet food with no promise of long-term success. At the end of the day, you remain frustrated bouncing from one diet to the next never knowing what you actually need to do to keep your diet fresh and sustainable. Conditions that set in due to obesity such as diabetes and hypertension can damage your body and cost you way more in the long run.

In conclusion, following a diet from a piece of paper blindly can lead to more frustration. Ensure you understand why you are doing so, or consult a Registered Dietitian for advice.