New Year 2019! It’s that time of year again when people will be looking for the “IT” diet to support weight loss and improve their health in the year ahead.
What I have seen over my last 22 years in clinical practice is that “IT” diets often provide short term weight loss, but in time most people regain the weight they lost, and often even more.
Right now, the Ketogenic Diet, Carnivore Diet, Paleo Diet, Vegan/Vegetarian Diet, DASH Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Longevity Diet, Mind Diet, and Atkins Diet are the most common diets. But which diet is best for you?
If you are struggling with excess weight, belly fat, chronic symptoms, and require daily medications for chronic degenerative conditions like high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy or cardiovascular disease, you likely need to modify your current diet.
Since there is no agreed upon ‘perfect diet’ for everyone, my recommendations for a healthy eating program most people can follow with relative ease are below:
Eat Real Food: Eat foods as close as possible to their natural states. Produce from the earth and trees, meat from pasture raised animals and fish that swam the sea. If you do this, you essentially avoid the biggest problem with most food sources today, which are processed with chemicals, artificial flavorings and colors, added sugars and other additives that are detrimental to the body.
Eat Less Frequently: One of the biggest challenges for many is that they never stop eating. They constantly graze from the time they awake in the morning – to the time – they go to bed. Instead, try Time Restricted Eating (TRE) and intermittent fasting. Time Restricted Eating involves eating all your food within a specific time frame. An eating window between 6-12 hours is optimal. This allows for 12-18 hours of no food intake. Research is showing that TRE is beneficial for weight loss, health, and longevity.
Intermittent fasting means not eating for a period of hours to a period of days. TRE is one type of intermittent fasting. While some people prefer doing multiple days of fasting, a few times a year, I believe TRE works best for most people. The key to TRE and intermittent fasting, however, is what you eat and when you eat it. If you utilize TRE, but continue to eat large quantities of processed foods, then you likely won’t see long term benefit.
Eat Mindfully: What does this mean? Well many people eat for the wrong reason. They eat because of the time of day, because they are at a social gathering, because they are stressed or because they are bored. If we are honest, most of us eat too many processed foods because they are available. Before you eat, ask yourself why you are eating. Make sure you are eating because of real hunger. If you are eating because it’s breakfast “time” but you are not hungry, skip the meal. If you are eating because you are stressed, deal with the stress! If you are eating donuts because someone brought them to work, you are eating for the wrong reason. You should eat because you are hungry, but not more than 2-3x daily. For many people it’s the chronic snacking all day, (from that bowl of M&M’s or pretzels) that get people into trouble.
Eat Slower: Most people eat on the run, when they are in a rush, or while multi-tasking. They try to “get something quick”. In reality, proper food digestion requires a rested, relaxed state. If you are eating on the run and do not have time to slow down, relax and chew your food thoroughly, you are probably better off skipping the quick meal. Instead, focus on completing your activity or task first and then create time to sit, eat, chew and digest.
Enjoy The Foods You Can Eat: I have spent years helping people with chronic health problems. People who have food sensitivities and reactions to all types of different foods. Some of these people have had to live on very restrictive diets, as they worked on their health recovery. Throughout this process, I have learned that a lot of people struggle to eat healthy because of the constant notion they can no longer eat certain foods. They focus on not being able to eat bagels, cereal, fried foods and all kinds of processed foods, instead of focusing on the nutritious, whole foods available to them.
This negative mindset is a problem that needs to be fixed first, before weight loss & wellness can be achieved. Breakfast is a great example. People tell me that if they cannot eat cereal or bagels, there is nothing else they can possibly think to eat! In my opinion, bagels and breakfast cereals, are not healthy breakfast choices. We have been brainwashed by big food corporations and media, that breakfast cereals are a healthy meal choice. But in most cases, there is little nutrition in the popular cereals people consume. Need a breakfast option? Why not scramble some eggs with your favorite veggies?
There are so many healthy whole food options available today in most grocery stores. Focus your attention on the foods you can eat, not the restricted foods you cannot live without. It’s that simple. And, if you are honest, if you were eating by the rules explained above, you probably would not be be looking for the latest “IT” diet.