Does this diet work?

Oh, the madness just doesn’t stop.  I actually waited three hours before writing this post in hopes that my earlier aggravation wouldn’t find its way into this text.  But I digress.  As I churned out my morning routine on the elliptical, wrongly choosing morning television over the monotony of my usual Ipod playlist, I came across another infomercial for the masses.  No, not a new chamois (or is it, shamwow!), power tool, or get rich quick scheme – but the old trusty “lose weight while eating whatever you want” play.  Since I hadn’t heard of this specific program before, I tuned in for a while to get an idea of which ‘angle’ he was taking.  Naturally, any diet that allows you to eat whatever you want is either flat out lying to you or pulling the bait and switch.  You find out after you spent your money that you technically can’t eat whatever you want.  Big Surprise.

I paid particular attention to the text that flashed during the pitch which pointed out that this diet is based on food combining (among other things).  The odd part is that the pictures of ‘sample meals’ had most macro nutrients on the same plate, which is in direct opposition to ‘food combining’ as a theory.  Food Combining is actually a misnomer if you ask me since the basic principle is to not combine certain foods. For example, Starchy carbs should not be eaten with proteins – since different and opposing digestive enzymes are secreted once each is eaten.  Technically, what you’re really doing is food isolating, not combining.  Regardless, I felt compelled to do a little more research when I got back home.  Rather than pour through the sales pitch for the product, I searched for reviews.  After pulling up three or four sites with the same exact verbiage surrounded by ‘google ads’ links, I found a string of comments that set off the aforementioned aggravation.

After reading through the same complaints I had about the same repeated verbiage on different sites, I got to a review by someone who actually used the program.  While he admitted not following it to the letter, he did say it had its merits – and confirmed (as suspected) that you literally can’t eat what you want.  Following the string of subsequent comments, I read more and more ridiculous comments about other ludicrous diets.  It was that part, in combination with this one simple question that had me annoyed.  “I just wanted to find out if it works”.

I’m not sure if the aggravation stems from the fact that we as people refuse to see the answer right in front of us, or because it’s a testament to how susceptible we are to advertising, but I found myself daydreaming of taking this person by the shoulders and screaming “IT”S NOT THAT DIFFICULT!”

So, without further commentary, let me get to the heart of this post.

Does the diet work?

An age old question, appropriate anytime a new diet is introduced to us.  The problem is, the question alone is flawed, never mind the answer.  The vast majority of diets that are available are based on certain principles that ‘can be’ effective in weight loss.  Although, many smart marketers put a twist on them and sell them with a false promise.  So, the question isn’t ‘does it work?’  The question(s) should be “Does this diet make sense for my lifestyle?”  Followed by “does this diet make sound nutritional sense”? If you can answer no to either of those questions, then you should immediately pass on trying it.  In fact, any ‘diet’ per se, should be avoided.  We’ll get to that later. 

The issue, then, isn’t “will the diet fail us” but rather, at what point will we fail it.  Nobody, regardless of will power, can nor should have to stick to a rigid eating plan designed strictly for weight loss.  At best, we’ll tough out the first few weeks, lose a few pounds, grow tired (mentally and physically) and give up. 

What to avoid –

Diets should make sound nutritional sense.  This includes a wide variety of foods to ensure you’re getting the correct balance of nutrients.  Diets that restrict you to eating only certain foods should raise a red flag.  Diets should encourage eating the right amount of calories per day.  Any diet that restricts you to too few calories should be avoided.  Adopting any such plan can actually be detrimental to your system.  Any diet that doesn’t encourage an exercise program to be used in conjunction with sound eating habits should be avoided.   And, of course, go with that old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it must be”.  That’s usually a reality.

Be perfectly clear – There is no magic here.  Losing weight is challenging for most of us. If you’re constantly trying to find that program that allows you to make absolutely no changes to your lifestyle and yet still see drastic results, you’re going to continually end up disappointed.

What to look for in a diet?

DON’T!  I don’t want to grab you by the shoulders and shake you!!! Diets are a short term fix that almost never focus on nutrition or losing body fat.  Too often, we take in too few calories during the diet and end up losing lean muscle mass.  I could spend a full paragraph on how bad that is, but I’ve had enough aggravation for today (smile). 

Then what do I do?

I’m glad you asked.  Get back to basics.  The simple equation for weight loss is to take in fewer calories than you burn.  The upside is, your body requires a large amount of calories just to sustain its vital functions.  The rest can be done by eating correctly and exercising regularly. 

In order to do this you only need 2 things:

1) The education on how to do it properly (eat right and exercise)

2) The willingness to change.

If you have these two elements you can make the necessary changes to your life and maintain a healthy weight. 

The important thing to remember is that you should design your meals around what’s nutritionally responsible.  To fuel your body and give it the necessary vitamins and minerals so that it can function efficiently and help fight off sickness and disease.  The weight loss is simply a bonus side effect.

So where do you go from here?

You can do wonders with the new food pyramid that was created in 2005.  But here are the best ideas to get you started.  And, please, don’t be afraid of carbohydrates.  They are the body’s most efficient form of fuel.  You just need to know more about them.

1)  Choose whole grains over processed and enriched grains.  (Think whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, whole grain rice, etc)

2) Get the proper servings of fruits and vegetables everyday.  Have a wide variety so you get the full compliment of vitamins and minerals.

3)  Keep dairy fat free – Don’t underestimate your body’s need of calcium at any age but you don’t want the fat content.  Fat has more than double the calories per gram than either a carb or protein.  Full fat dairy will rack up calories quickly.

4)  Keep your meats lean.  Stick with chicken and fish and the leanest cuts of beef.

5) Avoid sugar – Period

6) Eat more frequently. I do three meals and three healthy snacks per day.

7)  Learn how many calories you should eat per day for your height, build, sex and activity level

8)  Exercise most days.  If you want to lose weight, that will mean between 60 and 90 minutes of moderate activity a day.  It doesn’t have to be at one time.  Space it out over a day if you prefer.

Of course, if you find this all to be a daunting task, go see a nutritionist (or me) or personal trainer.  Learning the proper way to manage your weight will be a gift that will last a lifetime.