According to the Oxford dictionary the word diet has two meanings:
The kinds of food that a person, animal or community eats
Restricting oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food, in order to lose weight.
Currently the UK population follows the second meaning, as there are various diets that the UK community can access, to achieve their ideal weight. Diet programmes have been in existence for over 50 years. The first diet to exist was weight watchers, which launched in 1968 and currently has 120,000 members. A point system is followed, as members can choose the kind of foods they want to follow. The key to losing weight on the programme is not to exceed the given points allocated for the day.
During the 1970’s the Beverley Hills diet was created by an acteress. It involved no carbohydrate based food (i.e pasta, rice, bread) for 10 days. However after the 10 days, carbohydrate foods are reintroduced.
During the 1980’s The Rosemary Connolly Diet arrived. Her diet was based on eating low-fat meals, combining with exercise. During that period the milkshake diet existed as well, which involved consuming two milkshakes a day (instead of eating a meal) then a normal meal in the evening. In the 1990’s the Atkins diet became popular. This diet advises to eat no carbohydrate based and unlimited protein based food (i.e meat, fish eggs, nuts)
Over the last ten years diet companies have had to adapt their marketing strategies to keep up with clients interests, and lifestyles. For example clients on the weight watchers programme can purchase food produced by weight watchers. This is ideal for the client, as they can be assured that they can control their points, but also they are influenced that they are lower in fat/sugar. Finally clients can be advised that treats are allowed on the programme.
UK diets so far have made on average 6,000 in the last ten years. With this amount of revenue made, it is likely this figure will rise, as obesity is on the increase in the UK.
Studies carried out by the Health Survey for England identified a steady increase in the level of weight related problems since the early 1990’s. The report predicted that if no action is taken, levels of obesity could rise to 60% in men, and 50% in women. In 2007 the cost of obesity related conditions had reached 1.23 million pounds. This was an increase of 16% compared to the year 2006.
The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between excess consumption of food, and insufficient amounts of physical activity. There are genetic causes of obesity but these are extremely rare. The cause of obesity can be explained through a variety of factors, including societal and environmental reasons, both of which can make choosing healthier lifestyles difficult. According to the report written by the Department of Health, factors influencing these decisions can be grouped into four headings:
Human Biology: A report written by Foresight identified that genes can be linked with excess weight. However, such cases are extremely rare in context with the numbers of obese people.
Culture: A report written by the Department Of Health suggested that weight management could be a difficult issue for people to address, particularly for parents. The study concluded that parents could struggle to assess their children’s weight status accurately, overestimate activity levels, and underestimate amounts of foods their children eat, that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. Finally they make no connection between poor diet, and low activity levels in their children, and long term-health problems.
The Food Industry: Technological changes have enabled the food industry to produce foods cheaply and in high quantities, in response to consumer demands. This has led to a vastly increased volume of processed foods high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt entering the market.
Several conditions are associated with overweight and obesity:
Coronary Heart Disease develops when the arteries become blocked or partially blocked with fatty deposits.
Type 2 diabetes: Occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin, or cannot use insulin properly.
Hypertension: High Blood pressure is defined as the heart working harder to pump blood around the body. Over time the heart can weaken leading to stroke, dementia and heart attacks.
Dental Caries: Also known as tooth decay, dental caries are formed by a bacterial infection of teeth. Excess consumption of sugary foods and drinks can cause tooth decay.
The above problems are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle especially excess consumption of salt, saturated fat and sugar. The need to tackle the problem is complex and requires the involvement of communities, industries and individuals as well as the Government. Foresight suggested in his report that society as a whole must focus on the promotion of healthier food choices and reduce the consumption of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.
It can be argued that once clients join the diet programmes it can be difficult to maintain them, hence they remove themselves from the programme. As a Nutritionist feedback from the clients with regard to the word diet have included, that they are a quick fix, drastic and expensive. Nutritionists do not discourage clients to use the programmes, as stated previously diets have become successful for the last 50 years. However Nutritionists encourage clients to:
Look at portion control
Swap foods high in fat, salt and sugar for lower options
Receive motivational support
The four key aspects above are very important especially exercise, as many popular diets do not mention exercises in their aims and objectives. This fits into the National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence Guidance(NICE). This is a quality and standards body devised by the NHS to improve people’s health, and to treat ill-health. The NICE guidance states that unduly restrictive and nutritionally unbalanced diets should not be used, because they are ineffective in the long-term, and can be harmful. The guidance also encourages clients to maintain a healthy weight includes:
Building activity into the working day
Consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
Overall diets are a great way to lose weight, but depending on the aims and the objectives of the person, and the relationship with the programme. Does the person want to lose half a stone in a week? Will the person cope with certain restrictions to certain nutrients? Can the client afford to pay the weekly fee? These are the points to consider when joining a diet program. If the client understands these factors, and decided to join the programme, the diet will continue to be a success.