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  • Dr Sandro Demaio

The 9 things a doctor recommends you consider before dieting

Food is such a huge part of our daily lives, and working out what to eat can be challenging.

It feels like every week there's a new diet promising to be the best/fastest/easiest/most ethical way to lose weight or solve your health woes. But the reality is, 'diets' rarely work. For lasting health benefits, it's better to look at the big picture. Aim for long-term health gains by eating a wide range of nutritious, unprocessed foods, rather than falling for a quick fix diet marketed by celebrities or pseudo health experts. But if you've been thinking about starting a diet, or curious about one you've heard about, here are nine things to consider before you commit.

1. Find your why Before you dive in, consider why you want to go on a diet. Is it for weight loss, or to manage a health condition like type 2 diabetes, arthritis or food intolerance? Perhaps you want to reduce your carbon footprint or save money. Clarifying your reasons can help you avoid diets destined to fail, and get the right advice.

2. Speak to your GP Unlike Dr Google, your GP can offer individual advice. If you're searching for a diet to manage a health concern, such as bloating or stomach cramps, a trip to your GP could save you time and stress. Your GP can refer you to a dietitian who can help identify the underlying cause and determine if some foods make things better or worse. They may suggest you try a certain diet, such as the low FODMAP, lactose free or gluten-free diet. In some cases, dietitian fees are covered under Medicare — ask your GP if you're eligible for this. Discuss any existing medications and treatments with your GP, and don't make big changes to your diet without advice from a professional. 3. What will your body miss out on? Diets such as the Atkins, 5:2, and liver cleansing diets are very restrictive and can mean you miss out on important nutrients your body needs to function, such as carbohydrates, good fats, iron, or calcium. Diets like flexitarian or pescatarian are less restrictive and easier to stick to, but if you cut out animal products make sure your diet includes enough protein, vitamin B12 and D, and calcium and iron. If you find it hard to know what to eat, see a dietitian for some trusted advice.

4. Focus on the little things If it's weight loss or long-term health motivating you, small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact. Focus on filling your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and cereals, limit processed unhealthy food and drink enough water to stay hydrated.

5. Do your research Not all diets are created equal. If you must go on a diet, go for ones that are backed by evidence and developed by credible organisations, such as the Mediterranean diet, which encourage you to eat a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods. Tip: if a celebrity or influencer is promoting the diet, check to see if it's science-based.

6. Think of your kids It's important for kids to explore and enjoy a wide range of foods, and they mimic their parents' behaviour. Consider the impact your eating habits could have on them. Especially teenagers, whose bodies experience rapid growth and change. So again, heed point #2 and speak to your GP or dietitian, as dietary deficiencies like anaemia can result from dieting.

7. Consider the long-term Will your new diet let you go out for dinner to celebrate your mum's birthday? Or will it cause added stress and fear in important social occasions? If it's too rigid, it's probably not sustainable and may lead to yo-yo dieting.

8. How much will it set you back? Do you have to pay for juices, meal plans, supplements or other fancy ingredients? The more expensive a diet is, the more cautious you should be. A healthy balanced diet doesn't have to cost the Earth. 9. Don't fall for the marketing There are lots of unhealthy processed foods which may fit in a "diet" — think processed meat replacements, gluten-free biscuits, paleo bliss balls etcetera — but they might not be that good for you. Processed foods are often packed with cheap ingredients like salt, sugar and fat. So opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and cereals, and water (your wallet will thank you too!).

Final word: Food is such a huge part of our lives. In addition to fuelling our bodies, it also brings us together and brings us joy. Try not to overthink it by reducing food to calories or nutrients. Eating a wide variety of whole foods from all the major food groups will help you feel satisfied and nourished.

Article from ABC Life

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