Do restrictive diets align with a healthy lifestyle?

Do restrictive diets align with a healthy lifestyle?

Quick fix restrictive diets, especially those that emphasize one nutrient for example the protein diet, or one food group – fruit only diet do not fit or align with our definition of a healthy lifestyle. Because they focus on one or just a few food groups, they are not ”wholesome”. 

Quick fix diets have four major drawbacks: 

  1. They do not support or form the basis of healthy eating habits for long-term health. Many people who go on quick fix diets re-gain the weight they lose because after the quick fix diet period there is a blank – so they fall back on their original eating habits. And those are the eating habits which led to weight/fat gain in the first place.
  2. They are very individualistic. This can make family/household meals difficult, when one person eats differently from everyone else. More importantly, they do not support or form the basis of healthy eating habits for the whole family/household.
  3. While they may be successful at causing rapid weight loss, the rapid rate of losing weight can lead to medical complications including gall stones and liver disease (due to accumulation of fats in the liver). You will also feel weak or tired (lack of energy)
  4. Focusing on a nutrient or a food group could lead to deficiency of some nutrients. For example, there is a green diet whereby someone eats only green fruits and vegetables. This green diet could easily lead to inadequate intake of proteins causing the breakdown of the body’s protein (muscle).

When a person realizes that they have gained weight it might appear like the excess weight/fat gain happened overnight; it’s like you look in the mirror in the morning and suddenly realize you are overweight. Or you have an adverse health event and that’s when you realise or the doctor tells you that you are overweight. However, the truth is that the actual putting on of weight/fat is a gradual process. The weight/fat will go in the same way it came: gradually. A healthy and safe rate of weight loss is about 0.5 kg to 1 kg per week.  

Our recommendation is to establish healthy eating habits that will stand the test of time; healthy eating habits that become a lifestyle for you and your family/household. You might be concerned that you are not losing weight fast during this process; remind yourself that this is for the long-term, and that combined with exercise, the weight will go the way it came: slowly but surely. Fad diets will not help or support you here; moreover there are as many fad diets as there are celebrities on a diet. Importantly, fad diets are not for the long haul.


Rhona Kezabu Baingana is a nutrition scientist with the Department of Biochemistry and Sports Science, Makerere University, Uganda, with over 20 years’ experience in nutrition. She was a founding member of Uganda Action for Nutrition which transformed into the Nutrition Society of Uganda. Rhona holds a PhD (Makerere University), MSc (King’s College London), and BSc (Southampton University). Rhona is passionate about nutrition and is keen to use her knowledge and experience to support Ugandans eat healthy as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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