With the 6-meal-a-day diet catching up among weight watchers. We talk to nutritionists to weight the pros and cons
Weight Watchers Inc. in the city these days is now swearing by the six-meal-a-day diet. And it’s understandable why the ‘Eat and lose weight’ tagline is so tempting to dieters, as a “major chunk of people who come in for diet counselling in the city are weight watchers who have had a relapse!” reveals Dr Damayanthi from the National Institute of Nutrition.
Another interesting fact she reveals is that “almost 90 per cent of them are working women in the 30 plus age group, who go on unsustainable crash diets and then revert back to their old eating ways emerging a couple of kilos heavier than before!”
Harita Shyam, head of the dietetics department in a leading city hospital, confirms this, “Usually people who go on severe diets lose weight rapidly in a short span of time, but once off the diet they gain the lost weight and more. Suppose you have lost 10 kg while on the diet, you are likely to gain 15 kg if you stop it.”
Given statistics like these, it’s no wonder that nutritionists are advocating sensible diets and the six-meal diet has found favour with dieticians and people alike. As with any diet there is a chance of going overboard, so here are some pointers:
It’s not 3X2 it’s 6X1/2!
The basic concept of the diet is that you spread your eating over six meals a day. Dr Damayanthi cautions, “Any increase in calories means you will pile on the pounds instead of losing them!” And nutritionist Latha Sashi says that it’s important to “meet a dietician to determine the calorie requirement per day, based on one’s daily activity, age, body type and other parameters”.
FIFO (Fat In Flab Out)
Six small meals spaced over regular intervals are fine, but eating fatty food defeats the purpose. Nutritionist Latha Sashi advocates, “Your diet should comprise about 60-50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 10 percent fat.” “Increasing the serving of fruits, sprouts and vegetables and cutting out on fatty food will do the trick,” adds Dr Damayanthi.
Only exercise works!
There’s no easy way out. “Exercise is the only way to lose weight and increase BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) substantially,” says Dr Damayanthi and adds that “eating food too has a thermogenic effect, i.e you expend energy to digest food, but that benefit is just about 5 per cent from the diet. If your goal is to lose weight then you have to exercise,” she says.
Now go for a six!
If the above three points are implemented then a six-meal diet will result in weight-loss in addition to other benefits. Nutritionist Suneetha Sapoor points out that it leads to reduction in cholesterol because “when you eat a huge meal in one sitting, the excess sugar gets converted into fat. When you eat smaller meals, there’s lesser sugar available to the body and hence a lesser chance for fat formation.”
She says that there is less chance of binging as “the appetite is satiated at regular intervals” and she recommends the diet for diabetics as well because “it keeps blood sugar at optimum levels all day and prevents fatigue and other side-effects.”