If I’m Eating For Weight Loss, Will I Be Getting a Healthy Diet?
It’s not unreasonable to think that if we’re following a weight loss diet it’s probably healthy isn’t it? And with the fanaticism of the press and the wellness industry over the problems of obesity, it’s not surprising that we tend to think that a healthy diet and a weight loss diet are one and the same thing. Surely anything that will save us from the evils of being overweight must be good for us, surely?
Well, not exactly. There’s a big difference between eating a healthy diet and hoping it will help you lose weight, and eating a diet which is designed solely for weight loss. The aim of a healthy diet is to make you feel good. To give you energy and help your body function at its best. The motivation might be to do with losing weight, but the focus of the diet is good health. However when the diet is designed purely for weight loss, little thought may have been given as to whether this is a healthy way of eating that’s good for you, particularly in the long term.
And equally, you might ask, “If I’m eating a ‘healthy diet’ will I be eating a healthy diet?” Ok, you probably thought that was a typo there, but it’s not! What’s generally accepted as a healthy diet isn’t necessarily best for everyone. It would be fantastic if we could just say, “OK everyone eat this amount of a, b and c, drink this and that, and we’ll all be at peak efficiency.” But quite clearly that’s not the case. People can be on the same diet, probably hoping for weight loss, and get very different results.
A fairly recently developed approach to nutrition, based on long standing scientific research, is called metabolic typing, and it seems to explain the anomaly of one person doing well on a diet that makes another person feel pretty awful. It works on the basis that we have all inherited two main genetic tendencies. One is a tendency for our cells to convert food into energy either quickly or slowly. The other is which branch of our autonomic nervous system is dominant. The autonomic nervous system is regarded as the master system for regulating our metabolism, as it basically controls all the automatic functions of our bodies that are not under our conscious control. There are two branches of this system – the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system, each controlling a different set of activities.
The key point is that a healthy diet will look quite different to someone who is a naturally fast metabolizer and has a dominant sympathetic nervous system, in comparison to someone who is a slow metabolizer and has a dominant parasympathetic system. If you convert food to energy really quickly, then you would ideally eat food that makes it more difficult to break down and access that energy, so you get a steady flow of energy in your system. Equally, if your cells are slow to convert food to energy, you want to give them food which is easier to break down and convert. So you can see that eating for stable energy will look very different to two people who have a different metabolic make-up. And exactly the same applies to healthy diets and weight loss diets. Whether they’re effective or not will depend largely on whether they suit your unique genetic composition.
So, in conclusion, in order to decide whether your weight loss diet is also a healthy diet, one major tool in your armory would be to discover what your main metabolic type is and to plan your diet to support it.