What’s it like to not feel tired anymore? Not feel bound within your own body? Not feel like the person in the mirror is a pale reflection of who you are. Like not everything is out of control. Like it’s not you who are out of control? The thing about a body is, certain issues notwithstanding, what you eat, how you eat and so the impact these foods have on you is largely in your hands.
As coronavirus’ shade still lumbers over the world and self-isolation becomes the new normal, a trend has emerged – the rise of the corona-pound i.e. gained either from a lack of activity or purpose, emotional consumption or simply, boredom. And so you have it: the bad news.
The good news? There’s so much you can do about it.
To help your diet plans go the long way, we checked in with a few dietitians, nutritionists and other experts to break down some of the food plans tried and tested by celebrities: the Sirtfood Diet and Mayr Method – and the well-known, if misunderstood - Keto Diet. We also asked them about optimal diets and finally, what are the signs that you need to get off THAT food plan now!
‘Hello’ singer Adele has always made heads turn with her smile and the sound of her voice, but this year there’s been another reason for the goggling. She lost about 22kg on the Sirtfood diet. Which allows the dieter to drink grape beverages and eat chocolate. Interested yet?
What is it?
British celebrity nutritionists Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten created the diet based on a group of proteins called sirtuins (SIRTs) that regulate functions such as metabolism and inflammation in the body. “We call these proteins Sirtuins (SIRTs). These proteins have shown to regulate bodily functions including metabolism/ inflammation and increase lifespan.” says Belinda Dao, Clinical Dietician at American Hospital Dubai.
By eating foods or plants that increase the levels of protein in your body, you can activate what the inventors call the “skinny gene”. When SIRT’s are consumed in higher amounts, they help aid in burning fat, explains Dao.
How does it work?
Dao explains that the diet is a 2-phase plan that restricts a follower to certain proteins.
Phase 1 is a 1,000 kcal count consisting of 1 meal while the remainder of calories comes from green juices off the SIRT list. This phase lasts a week.
Phase 2 consists of 3 meals and 1 green juice per day; however no calorie restrictions are applied for Phase 2 as long as you stick to the SIRT’s list.
Lunch: Wholemeal pitta stuffed with turkey, cheese or hummus
Dinner: Stir-fried prawns with kale and buckwheat noodles.
There is a meat/fish option and a vegetarian/vegan option for every day.
Dao says: “I will say the Sirtfood diet plan can be a fun way to diet for a chocolate lover or someone looking to drop fast weight; however this weight is mostly water weight and not necessarily the fat you were hoping to lose. Also considering, while following a low calorie diet it is quite expected to drop some weight on such a harsh restricted diet plan consisting mostly of leafy green juices and little to no protein. However this is not the ideal way to losing weight and keeping it off, nor is it substantially convenient for long-term use.”
Farah Hillou, Integrative and Functional Nutritionist at The Chiron Clinic, adds: “Although the “Sirtfood diet” is high in nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods, there is lack of scientific evidence to support its effects on SIRT genes.
Conclusion: Good for short-term gains
This Australian weight-loss plan was tried by Rebel Wilson in January, in a bid to kick off what she called her ‘Year of Health’. The ‘Pitch Perfect’ actress who was known for her voluptuous figure has lost more than 18kg since then.
What is it?
This plan has been around for decades. It was developed by Franz Xaver Mayr in Austria a hundred years ago and focuses on gut health.
How does it work?
“The five principles of the Mayr Method include resting the digestive system by eating less; focusing on smaller portions and avoiding sugar and caffeine; promoting mindful, slow eating (chewing food at least 40 times); eating alkaline foods/drinks; and focusing on the “gut rhythm”- ultimately seeing the gut as the gateway to health,” explains Hillou.
Dao adds: “Cutting out processed foods alone helps in taking a load off of your body from working to excrete those added toxins to your body as well.
“Alongside, eating smaller bites, as well as chewing for longer helps digestion by giving it less work to do. Your digestion slows down during the day, consequently why eating a light dinner can be a game changer.
“Chewing slowly as well as eating with no distractions also helps us practice reducing food consumption speed and instead gives us time to savor our foods with a relaxed mindful eating approach.”
“The Mayr Method also emphasizes on refraining from any fluid intake while eating because it dilutes digestive enzymes however numerous studies have showed the positive impact of drinking water during meals to prevent overeating,” she adds.
Dao says: “This diet does have quite a few other cons to it as it claims to be an alkaline diet however your body already aids in regulating our pH levels all on its own. The necessity of eating only alkaline foods is quite exaggerated. Other restrictions such as cutting out raw foods after 4 pm and the elimination of snacks between meals doesn’t give or take in helping weight loss occur. Snacking actually helps in keeping your metabolism burning throughout the day as long as those snacks fall under a healthy snack choice.
“This type of diet plan may also be difficult to follow through with if you are an individual who cannot completely remove dairy and gluten from your daily life. With such restrictions you need to also make sure you’re getting enough B12, Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin D.”
Conclusion: Works, but many restrictions
Lunch: smoked salmon with spinach
Dinner: Chickpeas and buckwheat flour bread
One of the (now) mainstream diets is the ketogenic diet, which cuts down on carbohydrates, includes proteins and adds fats to the mix. “The aim is for the body convert fat to ketone bodies to use as a source for fuel,” explains Hillou.
“The ketogenic diet has been used successfully, and with strong research backing, in children with epilepsy. Current areas of research are investigating possible benefits for cancer, autism, chronic pain, migraines, neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s) and aging,” she adds.
“Some reported benefits to the ketogenic diet include improved insulin sensitivity, reduced triglycerides, better energy levels, less hunger, and fat loss.”
How does it work?
It would not be recommended for individuals with diabetes taking insulin, or individuals with gallbladder issues that can impact fat digestion. Moreover, there is lack of evidence to suggest what are the health effects of going on a keto diet long-term. Taking into consideration that toxins are stored in fat cells, it would be wise to support detoxification in the liver to help remove these toxins as weight and fat are lost, says Hillou.
Types of Keto
Nyma Peracha, Co-Founder of Be More Keto who has been on the diet for about 4 years, goes further, classifying keto living into:
• Standard 3 meals a day
• Intermittent Fasting Keto: where a person has a window in which to eat keto-approved meals and spends the rest of the day fasting.
• One meal a day
• Cyclical Keto: where for about 5 days one is on strict keto and on about 2 they increase carb intake.
• Targeted Keto, in which the macronutrients ratio is as follows: 65-70 per cent of your daily calories come from fat, 20 per cent from protein, and 10-15 per cent from carbs.
"I started following Keto 4 years ago. I felt like being such a fitness enthusiast and training so hard there was still something it quite right and my results seemed to be stagnant no matter what I was eating! Once I started Keto it all made sense! My fat started to fall off and my energy levels were better than ever! My skin started to glow and my hair and nails had an extra vibrant feel and look to them," says Peracha.
It would not be recommended for individuals with diabetes taking insulin, or individuals with gallbladder issues that can impact fat digestion. Moreover, there is lack of evidence to suggest what are the health effects of going on a keto-diet long-term. Taking into consideration that toxins are stored in fat cells, it would be wise to support detoxification in the liver to help remove these toxins as weight and fat are lost, says Hillou.
Also, when you begin, while your body detoxes and gets used to your no-carb plan, you may feel the effects of 'keto flu'. This is a natural reaction that may include brain fog, headache, chills, sore throat, digestive issues, dizziness, insomnia and irritability.
Conclusion: Done right, it works for some.
Lunch: Beef salad or grilled chicken and vegetables
Dinner: Fish or shrimp grilled and vegetables
What then is an optimal diet plan?
For one thing, agree the experts, it should take into account your lifestyles and medical history. “It is important to work with a dietitian/nutritionist who personalizes recommendations according to each individual’s needs. A successful approach involves one that is tailored to the person’s genetics, health status, lifestyle, exposures and health goals,” says Hilou.
Key questions when starting on a plan:
• Why am I starting this weight loss journey and what do I want to benefit from it?
• How committed can I actually be?
• Is the diet plan I have chosen one I can see becoming a long term lifestyle?
• What are all the things that can slow me down, demotivate me, or stand in my way?
• What underlying causes have possibly gotten me to this point, and how can I train myself to fix it?
How do you know a diet isn’t working for you?
Sakina Mustansir, Dietician at Prime Hospital, says: “It is important to remember that it takes at least a week to three for the body to adjust to the new food schedule and also There are going to be some days when your body requires more energy, your hunger is increased, you feel fatigued and bloated.
"But these could depend on many factors, from the intensity of your workout to the level of hydration or even your emotional and mental well-being. Over and above these A diet plan is not right for you when:
1. You are tired and fatigued throughout the day and it’s not restricted to initial days or certain days.
2. You feel you are always hungry and starving yourself even after the first week.
3. You feel lack of concentration, frustration and anger frequently.
4. Headaches that don't seem to stop even after 5-7 days on the plan.
5. You are not losing weight, which is the ultimate goal of most diet plans.
6. Increasing hair fall which is a sign you are not getting enough nutrients.