The prospect of losing weight and increasing your fitness can be a daunting one, and it's for that reason many people try to short-circuit the age-old tried-and-tested method of "eat well and exercise."
Instead, many of us will try quicker fixes such as diets that cut certain foods out, fasting, and calorie counting. But recent scientific research has revealed that two of the most widely tried weight loss techniques could actually be counterproductive, causing those who do them to actually put weight on.
Gluten-free diets have been touted as a good way for people to lose weight, and while nutritionists have long been warning us that gluten really isn't the enemy, it's gained popularity nonetheless. But experts in Spain have warned that exchanging foods containing gluten with a gluten-free alternative can increase risk of obesity.
The Guardian reports the research, which was carried out in the Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria La Fe in Spain, shows that many of these gluten-free products actually contain high levels of fat. Having compared 655 standard food products with 654 gluten-free options, the team of researchers identified that on average, gluten-free bread had more than twice the fat of standard loaves as well as substantially less protein. Gluten-free biscuits were also found to have the same pattern of higher fat and lower protein.
In time, gluten-free manufacturers will likely work to balance this out, finding ways to lower fat levels in their diet-specific produce. But at the moment, adopting a gluten-free lifestyle (for those who don't medically require it) actually increases the likelihood of putting on weight. Not exactly the end goal for most.
Then there's the concept of "cheat days," where people will adhere to a strict diet for six days of the week but will make an exception on one day, when they can eat what they want—which experts warn can also lead to weight gain.
The Independent spoke to James Collier, Registered Nutritionist & Co-Founder of Huel.com about the popular weight loss technique, who explained why "cheat days" usually result in an increase in pounds.
"Often [people] consume more than they would usually because they have been restricting themselves for the rest of the time, and hunger can be amplified," he explained.
The ideology that certain foods are "good" and "bad" is not a healthy one, dietitian Nichola Whitehead told The Independent. She warned it "may promote a cycle of restriction and binge eating, and therefore a negative relationship with food."
She also pointed out that the consumption of a high number of calories on "cheat day" can actually serve to undo all the hard work a person has done by eating healthily for the previous six days. Instead, taking the notion of "everything in moderation"—allowing yourself to eat more or less what you want, as long as you balance it out with nutritious foods that have clear health benefits—might be a preferable way of managing weight loss more successfully.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.