The Diet Roulette

Michael SallustioArticlesLeave a Comment

So by now you have heard about the IRS giving tax deductions for weight loss programs and you are ready to sign up for the next program that comes along and make it more worth your while. What, less body fat and better health wasn't incentive enough for you? Now don't get excited. We understand that some people need a little extra motivation to get moving. That's cool. And if money is what it takes, then so be it.

Well before you make any rash decisions, consider this: more than 90% of diets fail. We don't mean to burst your bubble, but this fact should cause you to take a closer look at what you are considering getting yourself into. There are literally hundreds of diet and weight loss programs out there. Trying to find the one that is right for you can be a bit like playing a game of roulette. If you pick the wrong one, you may end up doing yourself more harm then good in the form of gaining back more weight and/or sacrificing your overall state of health.

The word “diet” comes from the Greek and its literal meaning is “way of life”. However, a “diet” in our culture is perceived as a temporary means of losing weight or addressing a specific health concern. This is because there are so many different fad diets that very few people can maintain for any length of time. Most of them are either too restrictive or simply incongruent with the typical American lifestyle. So how do you know what to do about your weight management problem? Let’s first look at some of the more popular programs out there and then discuss how to determine the best approach for you.

Probably the most popular diet out there right now is the Atkins Diet. This is basically a high protein, low carb diet. The Atkins diet has been around for many years, but is getting much more attention recently in light of more recent research confirming that diets high in processed and refined carbohydrates promote degenerative, metabolic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. Most people who try the Atkins approach are successful in losing weight and do so rather quickly. This happens during what’s called the “induction phase” of the diet when the dieter eliminates essentially all carbohydrates from his diet. This tends to put the body into ketosis, which is a state where the body burns more fat for energy. This state of ketosis also has the effect of suppressing insulin, which is the body’s messenger for fat storage. Because carbohydrates tend to cause the body to retain more fluids, much of the initial weight loss on the Atkins diet is water. This aspect of the diet is not necessarily a bad thing, especially since most of the other diet plans cause the body to lose more lean muscle tissue.

This approach has three major disadvantages. First, a large percentage of people who have eaten a higher carbohydrate diet for most of their lives have a hydrochloric acid deficiency, which prevents them from being able to completely break down proteins. When these people start eating all this protein, they develop indigestion, nausea, acidosis and increased food sensitivities or allergies. They should be supplementing with Betaine HCL, but most people don’t read that part of the book. The second problem is that when people come off the diet because they are no longer able to avoid carbohydrates (it is common for someone on the Atkins diet to get the feeling that they could kill someone for a bagel after a few weeks), they binge on carbs and rebound much more quickly and dramatically than they would coming off most other diets. The result is that they tend to gain the weight they lost back, and then some. The third problem is the foods recommended and promoted by this diet tend to be highly processed. Dr. Atkins misses the big picture when he simply trades one unhealthy eating habit for another. This is because many of foods he promotes and sells contain fat and sugar substitutes. This confuses the body’s endocrine system and overwhelms the liver and digestive system.

On the other end of the spectrum of fad diets are the low protein, low fat, high carbohydrate diets (i.e., Pritikin and Ornish). The most popular version of this approach is promoted by the American Heart Association and most of the western medical community as a heart healthy diet because it restricts the consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol and promotes a diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables.

There are several flaws with this approach, the most significant of which is that it is based on the assumption that consuming foods that contain saturated fats and cholesterol leads to increased blood fat and cholesterol. The problem with this assumption is that the research does not support it and it ignores the foundational principles of human physiology. The two largest studies relied upon by the proponents of this theory are the Framingham study and Dr. Ornish’s own study. The Framingham study followed more than 6,000 subjects and showed a slight correlation between blood cholesterol and obesity. However, it also showed an inverse relationship between the consumption of foods with higher cholesterol and saturated fat content and heart disease. In other words, the more fat and cholesterol they consumed, the lower their incidence of heart disease. Not only that, but most of the people who did develop heart disease had normal blood cholesterol levels.

The Ornish study is another example of extrapolation and media hype. In this study, those who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol and more fruits and vegetables had lower blood cholesterol levels and lower incidence of heart disease. However, these people also underwent three other major lifestyle modifications during the study: smoking cessation, stress reduction, and daily exercise. Do you think these factors had anything to do with the cleaner bill of health? We already know from numerous other studies that they have quite a bit to do with better health. But what sells more books and newspapers, a plan that requires you to make major lifestyle changes or one that just requires you to eat less fat?

Some disadvantages of following a higher carb, lower protein and fat diet are quite serious. One is that it deprives the body of protein, the most essential macronutrient and the building block for most bodily functions. We tend to lose lean muscle tissue. The body needs a certain amount of dietary protein to make and preserve lean muscle tissue. Lean muscle tissue is how we are able to walk around and perform your daily functions. We also need dietary protein to maintain a healthy immune system. Another problem is higher carbohydrate diets promote metabolic conditions such as hypoglycemia and diabetes. They also promote deficiencies in zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, and fatty acids essential for endocrine function.

Another popular weight loss approach is the calorie reduced diet (i.e., Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig). Besides being practically impossible to maintain, the premise here is simply to reduce the amount of calories consumed in an attempt to create a calorie deficit. This approach is the worst of the three discussed so far because it inevitably deprives the body of essential nutrients found in whole, natural foods that are discouraged by the diet. You are essentially starving the body on a cellular level. It creates significant vitamin/mineral imbalances and, in the long run, major problems for the endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, pancreas). Like the previous two approaches, this diet also promotes highly processed, unnatural foods.

So now that we have basically blasted three of the most popular weight loss programs out there, you are probably wondering how we expect you to lose weight. Well, we hinted it at the answer earlier. Successful weight loss and weight management requires a commitment to lifestyle change. The most significant components of such a transformation are: eating a diet based on whole, natural foods (eliminating flour-based foods and foods high in refined sugar); exercising daily; getting sufficient, good quality sleep; and managing your stress. Remember, weight gain or obesity, like any other health condition, is just a symptom of a metabolic imbalance. Most of the weight loss programs promote these imbalances by restricting essential nutrients and ignoring the other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. While a lifestyle-based approach may take longer and be more difficult to take on at first, it is the only way to ensure that you will keep off the excess body fat without sacrificing your health and well-being. If you need more guidance with how to make these healthy lifestyle changes, refer to my article The Six Essential Steps To Making A Healthy Lifestyle Change on our website http://www.ingoodhealthinc.com.

Something else to consider here is that there are so many factors besides diet and sedentary lifestyle that cause and sustain weight gain, such as: stress, prescriptions medications, hormone imbalances, Syndrome X, and more. If you want to learn more about these “hidden issues” that are ignored by most “diet plans” and learn about a holistic approach to life-long wellness and weight management, consider signing up for our Wings Weight Success For Life program, which begins April 15. For more details, refer to the entry above in this issue and call us at 410-571-0109.

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