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The “Diet” Dilemma- Part 1

How do you know what diet is best for you?

Why does it have to be so confusing?

Personally, I hate the word “diet” and rarely use it with my clients. I prefer to call it an “eating plan” or “nutrition plan.” My reason is that “diet” suggests a temporary way of eating. While this can be appropriate at times, generally, people benefit most from lifestyle and behavior changes that last rather than a temporary fix which often leads them back to where they started… or even worse off.

Although there are countless plans out there, I will discuss 4 of the more popular ones right now. Many of these diets have general guide lines as well as extremes and modifications. Here I will be providing an overview of each.

PALEO: Also known as the Paleolithic or “Caveman” Diet. Foods that are allowed on this plan include meat, fish, eggs fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables that were available to our hunter-gather ancestors. Foods that are NOT ALLOWED are grains, legumes and dairy. The diet also deters you from drinking alcohol.
A positive aspect of eating this way is that it automatically limits processed foods and added sugars. It is naturally higher in protein and not low-carb. Some studies have shown that Paleo style eating can improve blood sugar control and blood lipid numbers.

KETOGENIC: Commonly known as “Keto” and probably the most talked about diet right now. This one is all about FAT. This plan consists of a very high amount of fat ( 70-80% total daily calories), a moderate amount of protein (no more than 15-20% of total daily calories) and very low amounts of carbohydrates (no more than 5% of
daily calories or fewer than 50 grams per day). The idea behind the protein and carb restriction is that the body will go into a state of “ketosis”, prompting the body to access ketones generated from stored fat as its primary fuel source instead of carbs. The outcome should be a trimmer waistline, fewer energy crashes, and better protection against diabetes. Foods that are encouraged on this plan include cheese, avocados, coconut oil, egg yolks, fatty nuts, olive oil, and fat-dense meats such as sardines and bacon.

INTERMITTENT FASTING: Not necessarily a “diet”, this involves cycling your eating between periods of restriction and periods of eating as much as you would normally eat. There are several different patterns, but here area few of the more popular ones: 16/8 (fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8 hour period), 5:2 diet (eat no more than 25% of your normal calorie intake two days out of the week) and Eat Stop Eat method(a full blown 24 hour fast once or twice per week). The theory is that when your body is in a fasted state, metabolism may be altered to improve blood sugar numbers and more energy will be pulled from your fat stores. There are no “off limits” foods on this plan.

PLANT-BASED: The concept of plant-based eating stresses that your diet is centered around foods grown in soil, mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Since meats and dairy are allowed in moderation, this is more flexible than vegetarian or vegan diets. Eating more plants makes it easier to get plenty of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. There is also a benefit for the Earth since eating less meat can help in the battle against global warming.

In my opinion, there is no “diet” or eating plan that is right for everyone, no matter how trendy it may seem. When choosing your style of eating, you must be realistic and take into consideration your lifestyle and food preferences.

This is a very basic overview of these 4 popular eating plans. There are certainly PROS and CONS to each. I will discuss these factors in PART 2 of THE DIET DILEMMA.

scale for weight control

The Scale: Is this the best way to measure weight loss?

5 Reasons the scale MAY NOT be the best way to measure your weight loss…

1 – A positive change in BODY COMPOSITION (decrease in fat and increase in muscle) is not always reflected on the scale. You may not lose “pounds”, but you may be losing “inches” (body fat).
When clothes fit differently and you feel better, that IS PROGRESS!

2– Your WEIGHT CAN FLUCTUATE during a short period of time. Even from morning to night. You may have an increase in water weight just because of eating something salty, having more carbs, hormonal changes or not drinking enough water, etc.
This does not necessarily mean you “gained weight”, but in your mind it does!!
Unless you have a medical condition or special circumstance, WEIGHING YOURSELF DAILY is typically NOT HELPFUL.

3 The NUMBER on the scale can be MENTALLY DEFEATING! Many people have a “number” they want to “be”. When the number on the scale does not change, many people give up on their plan. As your body changes, so does your optimal “weight”. For example, if you have been strength training and gaining muscle, you may weigh more, but look smaller. Rather than being fixated on a “number, ” focus on how you FEEL and LOOK.

4 HORMONES play a major role in controlling our weight and metabolism.  Things such as STRESS, LACK of SLEEP, and natural hormone fluctuations can effect your weight. You do have control over some of these things, so managing what you CAN will help to optimize your health and weight management.

5 Being HEALTHY and STRONG should be the focus. You may not always see the positive changes that are happening on the INSIDE of your body. When you eat well and exercise appropriately, your systems run smoothly and work together properly so that you FEEL GOOD and have ENERGY to LIVE WELL!!!

 

In my experience, these are some of the issues with using the scale as the primary assessment tool. It certainly has its place in monitoring progress and can definitely be motivating for some people. It is very important to realize that it is NOT the ONLY measure of progress.

A good coach/trainer will help you to look at the WHOLE YOU and NOT JUST A NUMBER on the scale.