The Truth About Dieting

Healthy Diet

When it comes to the public acceptance of dieting, history keeps repeating itself. Essentially a fad diet is created by someone taking a science-based idea and extrapolating it into a diet. For example, a few fad diet creators knew that when our bodies are deprived of energy providing carbohydrates, they adapt by engaging a process called ketosis. Ketosis turns the metabolism to using stored fat cells for energy. Understanding, this they immediately wrote books and created low or no-carb diets. They made a fortune doing so. The problem is that they strategically left out essential information about the after effects of the ketosis process, such as how a buildup of ketones can change the chemical balance of your blood. They also hoped you would forget what you learned in junior high school health class about the positive benefits of carbohydrates, like helping rid your system of cholesterol and assisting in the cleansing of your digestive tract.

Most fad diets may help you lose weight in the short term, but aren’t healthy in the long term and can have lasting negative effects on your body. This is the overall health problem for fad or yo-yo dieting. These diet obsessions have ranged from Lord Byron’s Vinegar and Water Diet in the 1820’s, to the Hay Diet in the 1930s, and the Beverly Hills Diet in the early 1980’s. The diets get renamed and repackaged, and with clever marketing, they promise weight loss through utilizing one or more of the following principles:

1. Elimination or Restriction of Entire Food Groups or Macronutrients

Each food group contains a different ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. These are macronutrients. All groups need to be consumed for specific biological and metabolic reasons. Different food groups contain naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that are essential for health and disease prevention. When we eliminate whole food groups or macronutrients, we risk nutrient deficiencies. The Bulletproof Diet removes large categories of food such as soy, cheese, and wheat, while basically eliminating all dairy except for butter. The diet alleges that if you load up on fresh vegetables and lean grass-fed protein while eliminating carbohydrates, you’ll shed the pounds without, having to exercise. On the contrary, recent research shows that low-fat milk can be a great post-exercise drink and can decrease blood pressure as well as heart disease. 

2. Specific Food Combinations

The process of eating your fruit first and your protein last is over thinking basic human metabolism. It all hits the stomach and becomes mixed together once you chew and swallow. 

3. Severely Restricting Calories 

With a healthy caloric deficit, the body will shed unnecessary weight.  However, if we consume too few calories to maintain our health, the body goes into a starvation mode. When this happens, the body doesn’t use the fat we are trying to lose for fuel.  Instead, our body’s processes slow down, particularly our metabolic process. With that, our weight loss slows down and we become hungry and miserable. When we begin to eat normally again, the weight piles right back onto the waistline because often our metabolism remains in a lowered state.  A good rule of thumb to remember is that you need calories to burn calories.  Intermittent fasting is an example of restricting calories. Fasting can be done in various ways and when done for short periods of time (not longer than 24 hours), it can promote good health.  Not eating for long periods of time however, can cause you to be light-headed or dizzy, tired, nauseous, and irritated (“hangry”). This can lead to difficulty sleeping, poor workouts, and then compensating for the hunger by overeating when it is finally time to eat.  Check with your physician if you have questions about fasting, especially if you have specific health issues or are taking prescription medications. 

4. Rigid Menus and Extreme Portion Control

Simply put, these are not sustainable diets for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle. They can also be expensive and time-consuming. An example of this type of dieting is the Bulletproof Diet.  “When [a] diet is telling you to avoid certain vegetables, you know you shouldn’t trust it,” says Joan Blake, a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor at the Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College. “It’s a major red flag.  Dieticians worry about the diet’s extreme view on certain foods.  Cutting out all legumes and grains is not necessary to promote weight loss. Legumes and grains pack fiber, which promotes fullness and improves blood sugar, cholesterol levels and gut health.  Along with beans, nuts are also a healthy source of non-animal protein, especially important for vegetarians”, she adds. 

5. Lack of Exercise

We know we must exercise for overall health and well-being. The benefits of exercise are practically endless.  Exercise helps to raise our metabolism, builds muscle to allow our bodies to function better, protects our organs, strengthens our bones, and tightens our skin. Any diet that claims you can lose weight without working out is not endorsing a healthy method of weight loss. And research has shown that individuals who lose weight without exercise are much more likely to gain the weight back. True weight loss requires a change in lifestyle, and that always includes regular, consistent exercise. 

The key to most fad diets is to play on what the informed consumer believes and what the media says is healthy. Whole food is healthy. Removing additional sugar is healthy. Eating foods that are less processed is healthy. Fad diets placate your need for direction and give you a roadmap in planning a strict and restrictive diet. Having a plan is not a bad thing. But make sure that your plan meets current scientific recommendations and passes the ‘common sense’ test.

As a dietitian, my clients know what they should eat. I have never heard a client tell me they should not drink water or eat vegetables or never have a banana or an orange. Most the time I end up debunking myths of fad diets and reassuring clients that past failures (due to the lack of sustainability of these fad diets) do not define who they are as a person. I have had intelligent, mature women break down crying over how “dumb I feel for believing all those lies” over the years. Not to mention all the money they have spent! Weight loss, good health and a life full of energy can be achieved without any of the 6 stresses listed above. There is no magic bullet to weight loss and wellness but there are simple and important truths that will help you to be successful.

1. Hydrate

 Drink fluids that taste good without additional sweeteners or sugars. Try water (in its many forms), tea or coffee. I like drinking unsweetened flavored sparkling water all year long! 

2. Focus on Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh, frozen and canned are ALL acceptable ways of getting your fiber and nutrients through produce. I love my beans canned, my carrots fresh, and my cauliflower frozen. And I will take tomatoes anyway. I can get them! Likewise, using the excuse “vegetables are too expensive” is not acceptable. A pound of snap peas costs the same as a bag of potato chips and provides an equal amount of crunch with a lot more health benefits. 

3. Incorporate Whole Grains

Processed food can be made from whole grains, but I encourage you to eat closer to the source. I recommend trying the whole grain itself such as quinoa, millet, oats, or wild rice. These grains offer protein, fiber, and carbohydrates that can help make a more balanced meal and add variety to your menu. 

4. Include Dairy

There are multiple benefits to drinking milk and eating yogurt including the protein, probiotics, and calcium that they provide. Another benefit of dairy is the average cost per serving is 26 cents, making it is easy on the food budget. Aim for a variety when choosing your three daily servings of dairy, such as yogurt, milk, kefir, and cheese. 

5. Love Yourself

We would be embarrassed if our children knew what we think of our bodies and ourselves. Stop being your own bully! Focus on how you can change the conversation in your mind. Once you do that, you will begin to change what you put in your mouth and how you stay active. Focus on loving you and the rest will follow.

If you’d like to get more info on dieting, reach out to Crystal Petrello, ACE Certified Health Coach – crystalpetrello@gmail.com