Here is my before and after photo. The ‘before’ photo was taken when I was 28 (I think more people may be shocked I once had long brown hair). The 'after' was on my 40th birthday. I’ve spent the best part of those 12 years researching healthy living.
I had finally arrived at a healthy weight through regular exercise and a generally healthy diet. I had also qualified as a Personal Trainer with a burning desire to help others achieve a similarly healthy lifestyle.
At that time I was approached by the first of many ‘diet plan’ salesmen who claimed they had the solution to weight loss; their meal plan was a version of the protein only or no/low carb diet and they recommended we on sell their product to clients seeking weight loss.
I was aware that many people over eat starchy processed carbohydrates so this seemed like it could be useful. I decided to trial the plan for several days before recommending it to clients.
The basis for the diet plan was that if you deprive your body of carbs (and obviously alcohol) the body will begin to burn more body fat as a fuel source – similar to the ‘keto’ diet.
So I stocked up on meat and protein bars as my primary fuel source for 3 days. In theory my body would burn any stored energy and then body fat.
She encouraged me to terminate the diet and gave me a piece of toast to eat. After 30 minutes I was back to my old self.
What had happened? It is likely that my body had entered a state of ketosis. While my body was burning fat it was producing a by-product called ketones.
When the body is forced to use fat as its main energy source, a person produces ‘ketone bodies’ to fuel parts of the body that cannot use fat as an energy source – the brain, and red blood cells, in particular.
Side effects can include smelly breath, nausea, fatigue and low blood pressure.
Prolonged extreme ketosis can result in a host of health problems for some. Dietary restrictions can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Essential fats are also important for brain function and being without them definitely left me fuzzy and tired.
The truth about these types of fad “diets” is that people can temporarily lose large amounts of weight (a lot of it is water), and can even lower their blood cholesterol, sugar, and triglycerides – but they can also go drastically wrong and are not sustainable.
I have also heard people say they felt so terrible on a protein diet that before long they had returned to their usual habits and regained the weight they had lost.
If you are considering a low carb/high protein diet ensure that you consult a Dietician first. Every ‘body’ is different and what is healthy for you may not be healthy for someone else with a different activity level or medical background.
In a nutshell, my experiences always lead me back to the same conclusion. The most effective weight loss method comes from developing healthy and balanced eating habits that are sustainable and support lasting change. After all, the one thing that ALL diets have in common is a daily calorie reduction. For most people, lasting change can be achieved with a balanced diet and healthy portions.
Coach Ange Gawthorne