What’s the best diet?
That is probably the most loaded question I’m asked as a doctor. We usually associate the word with weight loss. But really, diet is what we eat to maintain good health and function. Let’s be honest, though, you’re reading this blog because you want to learn the best way to lose weight.
I hate to break it to you. No matter what you’ve been told, the reason you are overweight ultimately has to do with your intake of too many calories and not burning off enough. It’s not the carbs that have made you fat; although it may be the number of carbs you are eating. It’s not that you’re ingesting too much gluten. It’s not lectins.
Are you getting the idea?
What we must be very careful about is the fact that hype benefits the ones who are hyping. Everyone has a bias, including me, and we need to be very mindful of how that bias translates into the hype. Hype sells books and no doubt you have read a few and adopted a few of the suggestions. How has that worked for you?
Many people challenge me, “you never had a weight problem, you can’t understand.” Let me throw some brutal honesty your way. If you bet me that I couldn’t gain 20 pounds in the next month, you’d lose. Daily, I think about what and how much I am putting into my body. What if you were 150 pounds when you got married at 24 and now you weigh 200 pounds at age 49. That’s only 2 pounds a year! This proves the importance of being mindful of your intake every day.
Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase. There are some diets that are better than others to lose weight. My list of 5 diets highlights those that are best for weight loss and health maintenance.
1. Ketogenic (Keto) Diet (quick weight loss; not for the long-term)
This is the biggest rage and is a diet that will help you to lose weight quickly. Basically, it features very low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat. Most enthusiasts of the keto diet are not discriminatory with which fats they choose. What I have seen is that those who use plenty of fats from cheeses and bacon, for example, do achieve weight loss, but do not see benefits in their blood work. If you are to go on this diet, get a full check up first. The physiology of this diet is that the body needs sugar and if it doesn’t get it, it will break down fat, then muscle to produce it. This action is known as gluconeogenesis and it produces ketone bodies. One of the most uncomfortable side effects of this diet is constipation. I do not recommend that you stay on this diet for more than 3 months.
2. Atkins/South Beach Diet (quick weight loss; not for the long-term)
Different from the keto diet, these diets are low carbohydrate, moderate fat, and high protein. It too starves the body of glucose (sugar) and therefore produces ketones. The South Beach diet is considered a “healthier” version of the Atkins because it focuses on healthier proteins and fats. As the keto diet, It too will help one lose weight more quickly then just decreasing calories. However, it is one, I also do not recommend for the long-term. The high protein puts a strain on the kidneys and that is not something you want to too for long. Constipation also tends to be a problem.
3. Paleo Diet (weight loss; probably okay for the long-term)
A paleo diet is based on foods like what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. It typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits food that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes, and grains. Unlike the previous two diets, this is a diet that you can maintain for the long-term as it is more well balanced. Because there are ample carbohydrates, your body won’t “turn on itself” and eat up fat and protein to produce sugar. Since you may adopt this as your mainstay eating pattern, self-honesty and calorie awareness are crucial.
4. Mediterranean Diet (slower weight loss; excellent for maintenance)
The Mediterranean diet characterizes the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts; replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil; using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods; limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month; eating fish and poultry at least twice a week. This is the only diet that has been consistently linked to better health outcomes through very well run, large studies. Most of the health successes of the above diets are derived from anecdotal results or popular culture books. In my opinion, this diet is the healthiest for in the long-term.
5. Weight Watchers (slow, steady weight loss)
Weight Watchers relies on old fashioned common sense to help their proponents lose weight—decrease calories and accountability. They do not proport fancy biological theories. Although I don’t know the raw statistics, I would guess that more people have lost weight and kept it off on this plan than all the above diets combined.
We are what we eat. In my 30-years of medical practice, there are few statements that I have found to be truer. Another truth I have found is that those persons seriously looking to lose weight, get more fit, and ultimately live healthier lifestyles rarely ask me what I can do for them. Yes, sometimes we need a little coaching, a little guidance. Yet, those who have accepted personal responsibility for how they got where they are and for their journey going forward always do the best. Make that person you! You will succeed if you adopt these two practices: self-honesty and self-discipline. Commit to these daily and you will be amazed at your results.
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