FEATURE — Trendy or conservative? Quick-fix or long term? Which diet is best?
These are the questions I am asked every day in my clinic. If you are confused by the amount of conflicting information about what to eat and what not to eat, welcome to the club!
Any “diet” will work because it restricts food choices and focuses awareness on better eating. However, when deciding which weight loss plan to choose, consider whether you can stay on the plan long term.
I have no problem with a diet used as a plateau-breaker or a jump start, but you must eventually choose what you can do to eat healthy long term.
If you don’t want to change your eating habits forever, don’t start dieting. The more often you lose and gain weight, the more likely you are to mess up your metabolism.
I used to weigh close to 200 pounds but have kept the majority of my weight off for 25 years because I changed the way I thought about food. It is easy to eat clean and simple if you think of food as fuel.
The big rage right now is the the Keto diet, which is a plan with very low carbs (5-10 percent of total calories), high fat (70 percent of total calories) and moderate protein. When our bodies need energy, we use carbs first, protein second and fat last — when we burn fat, it provides us with twice as much energy as carbohydrates and protein.
Because low carbohydrates force the body to use fat as a source of fuel, the body goes into a state of ketosis, which is great for fat loss and energy. This is a good plan for people who want to get off sugar or for people with insulin issues.
If you use the Keto plan, stick to healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, salmon and olive oil. It is very important that you keep carbs under 10 percent of your caloric intake or you won’t burn fat.
Because protein is not necessarily enforced in the Keto plan, there is also a risk of losing muscle mass if protein is not at the minimum of 90 grams daily. While Keto is good for decreasing inflammation in the body, it is a hard diet to maintain long term.
The Paleo diet is the hunter-gatherer diet. Eliminate every processed food in your house, including dairy, grains, refined sugars and flour. Eat like our ancestors used to eat. Eat from the land. There is no calorie-counting, but all foods must be whole, nutrient-rich and unprocessed. If the caveman didn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t either.
The Whole30 plan is the Paleo diet on steroids. It eliminates all food except vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, poultry and healthy oils.
Intermittent fasting has become popular and can be great for weight loss and insulin resistance. The current trend is to eat only within an eight-hour window (noon to 8 p.m.) and to go 16 hours without food.
When we are fasting, we do not produce insulin. This is a good thing because insulin stops the fat-burning process. With intermittent fasting, you are not cutting calories but just shifting them to a different part of the day. Women do not do well with this program because of their lower metabolism.
Carb-cycling enforces high carbs and low carbs on alternating days and can be used to break a weight-loss plateau. It is not as restrictive as many diets. However, fat loss is slow and the diet can backfire on those who are more sensitive to carbs.
Other current fad diets include the alkaline diet, the carnivore diet, the Mediterranean diet and NOOM, a weight-loss program that uses a popular app. The common denominator of all these diets is that they eliminate sugars, preservatives and processed foods and replace them with nutrient-dense whole foods.
So what is the best plan for you? The best plan is the one that you will follow long term.
The most realistic plan for long-term weight loss is to eat three healthy meals a day, with a minimum of 30 grams of protein per meal, going at least six hours between to force the fat burning process to occur.
Healthy lifestyle changes that you can maintain long term are your recipe for success.
Written by DR. COLEEN ANDRUS, Healthy Lifestyles Wellness Clinic.
This article was first published in the March/April 2019 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.