Good food the key to keeping weight down

Fad diets are bad. It doesn't matter how quickly you lose 20 kilos, the bottom line is cutting out particular foods, or surviving on liquids for two weeks, or only eating foods that start with "B" on Tuesdays for no other reason than weight loss, is bad for your health.

Young women, aged between 18 and 24 in particular, flock to quick-fix eating plans. According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) one in four women in this age group has attempted a fad diet to shift unwanted weight.

While they might be successful for a few weeks, following these diets is unsustainable long term because it doesn't take long to get hungry and make poor food choices once again.

Accredited practising dietitian Jane O'Shea from Diet Effects in Warrawong believes young women know they don't get all the nutrition they need from these fad diets, but are sucked in by the idea of a quick fix.

"I think very often these kids know what they should be doing, but I think putting that into practice on their own can be quite difficult. There's a gap between knowing and doing," she says.

This age group is also particularly susceptible to putting on weight, with the DAA estimating 20 per cent of 18-24 year old women are overweight and 15 per cent are obese.

O'Shea says this is due to increased consumption of processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt, social pressures and big life changes at this stage of life.

"In America, there's a thing called the 'freshman 15' [about 7 kilos], when people leave home and go to university, there's 15 pounds traditionally of weight they put on in the first year."

"It's the transition from being at home where you have a more stable eating environment to being let loose, where you come into contact with more advertising, takeaway foods, eating out, parties, and you've got to fend for yourself, maybe as students on a low budget."

She thinks the increasingly fast world teenagers and young adults are coming of age in means they are more likely to pick the option that will give them results quickly, even if it compromises their health.

In an effort to prevent young women turning to gimmicky diets, the DAA has launched a fad-free diet as the main initiative of Healthy Weight Week running to January 27. The fad-free diet incorporates foods from all the food groups, including snacks and easy-to-follow recipes for meals such as tuna and pumpkin risotto with side salad. Each day has been worked out to include about 5600 kilojoules and the required amount of vitamins and minerals for women aged 18 to 24.

O'Shea says getting your eating habits under control in your early 20s means you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight later in life and pass these habits onto your future family.

"No matter what the fad diets say, our bodies are designed to eat proper food rather than a weird protein bar or shake, and you'll enjoy it a lot more," she says.

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