All Weight Loss Diets Work

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Every single weight loss diet works, if you follow it. All diets help you eat fewer calories so you lose weight. So how do you choose one that is right for you? Ignore the hype from your friend who lost 20 pounds. There is no one “best” diet. Pick one you can stay on.

Research shows the #1 factor that determines weight loss success and keeping the weight off: sticking to the plan

Weight Loss Diets

While cutting calories is the key, some diets aren’t nutritionally sound or socially convenient. Over the next few days I will explore the pluses and minuses of popular diets and help you examine if you really need to be on a diet. In the meantime, here’s a brief lowdown on each:

  • They are a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach. Getting your clothes tailored ensures the best fit. Likewise, tailoring a diet to suit your needs ensures it will better suit you. After all, cookie cutters are good for one thing only, cutting cookies.
  • Elimination diets take decision making out of the equation.  Making decisions is emotionally draining. The ketogenic diet, Whole 30, raw food diet, and low carbohydrate diet are “eat this, not that” approaches. The decision is either yes or no. There’s no measuring, counting or weighing. There’s no split second indecision wondering if you can have just a small piece of cake and walk away.
  • Counting keeps you accountable.  Weight Watchers, myfitnesspal (and other apps), meal plans and IIFYM (if it fits your macros) all involve counting. Though calorie counting is not 100% precise (more on this later this week), counting keeps a person accountable. After all, you can’t claim your metabolism is slow when your food log shows 2 hotdogs, bags of chips and beer.

All diets require some effort. After all, you can’t keep doing what you are doing now and expect different results. The key is finding the one that is easiest for you. Stay tuned….

In Search of the Perfect Diet

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Nutrition pathway to changes

I am running into more and more nutrition purists. People who think their approach to eating is absolutely perfect, free from all harmful substances, and better than any other approach to nutrition. The purist sits across from me, preaching about GMOs, pesticides, carbohydrates, gluten, processed foods and salt, talking at warp speed only to take a breather so they can sip on their organic greens drink (mixed into pH balanced water of course). Meanwhile, deep from within their soul I feel their longing for acceptance, as if they are in a confessional, looking for me to forgive their past nutrition sins – a life full of bread, dairy and fast food grilled chicken – and commend them on becoming a disciple of nutrition purity. Their eyes search, looking away as they ramble and catching mine again as they look for an expression from me. Anything. Even a simple head nod would provide the validation they are looking for.

I’m always happy when people move from less than healthy diets to more healthy diets. The problem with nutrition purists is they believe there is ONE diet for everyone. ONE pattern of eating and everything else is wrong. They aren’t looking for advice or information from me but instead want me to acknowledge they are doing everything right. Forget science because this person is drinking the Kool-Aid (err, powered dehydrated veggies) from internet blogs written by some self-proclaimed nutrition expert who relies on sensationalism and scare tactics. Their mind is closed to learning anything that doesn’t fit within the doctrine of this self-proclaimed nutrition expert (quack). So I sit there with a blank look on my face though in the back of my mind I am wondering things like “if only this 20-something year old fit male knew the research on this subject was conducted in obese postmenopausal women.”

Saying there is one diet that fits all is akin to giving everyone the same workout program. If you’re a strength coach or personal trainer, would you put everyone on the exact same program? Would you give an 82 year-old grandma who has never worked out the same program as a 43 year-old marathoner? No. So why on earth would you give everyone the exact same nutrition guidelines and supplements? Please, throw away those silly one-pagers with nutrition “rules” you aimlessly hand out to everyone that walks through your door.

My job is to move a person from where they are to better so they meet their goals. Everyone has a different starting place, set of beliefs, goals, health history, medications they are on, food likes and dislikes, cooking skills, budget, training program and more. Nutrition is like a road map – there are many routes you can take, some are quicker that others, some have roadblocks, traffic or require a vehicle that can jump a few curbs or possibly even a bike to make it through narrow spaces. Going to a seasoned nutrition profession is like hitting Google Maps and figuring out the best route for you. The alternative is aimlessly driving in a foreign city without street signs (ciao Pescia Italy! I have fond memories of driving in circles, next time I’ll bring a GPS and my Italian will be much better too, I promise).

So, before you drop your jaw and blast me after hearing I told a client he could eat fast food once a week, stop to consider this person’s starting place: fast food everyday. And some clients aren’t willing to give up certain foods or drinks so make substitutions, so I meet them where they are. If I try and switch a junk food eater who binges on alcohol to an all-organic diet without cheeseburgers and fries, chances are they will fail and give up.

Nutrition is a complex science. There isn’t ONE approach that works for everyone or one that every single person is willing to follow. So, if you are that person who is bound to a single nutrition doctrine, please open your ears a little and be willing to consider there are many factors that should be considered before a person goes on a diet or makes drastic dietary changes. And please, read a few research studies or textbooks prior to preaching to others because chances are 90% of what you reading isn’t backed by science or common (biochemistry) sense.

Why Diet When You Don’t Have To?

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This review of the Non-Diet Approach session at FNCE 2014 was written by: Collier Perno

Let’s face it, dieting sucks. Yet the promise of a quick fix is so enticing that an estimated 45 million Americans go on diets each year though nearly 65% of dieters regain their lost weight within three years1. So why do we keep trying these trendy fad diets? The diet industry is a booming business raking in nearly 20 billion dollars each year2. Diet books, diet plans, and diet pills all focus on one thing: weight. These extreme diets and intensive eating regimens may work well at first but typically do not last over the long term. Plus, diets also can have many harmful side effects including weight cycling, increased anxiety about weight, eating disorder behaviors, and increased risk for osteoporosis. Instead of focusing on weight, shouldn’t our motivation be to live a healthy lifestyle? By using a non-diet approach known as Health at Every Size (HAES) people can make lifestyle changes and build healthy habits.

Instead of counting calories or fat grams, HAES values pleasurable eating and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite. HAES also focuses on movement and becoming more active by choosing activities that are enjoyable. The HAES philosophy celebrates size diversity (love your body!) and takes the focus off weight and places it on enjoying eating and activity.

How does HAES fair compared to traditional dieting? Six randomized control trials have compared non-diet approaches to diet approaches or control groups. None of the studies found any negative outcomes from the non-diet approach and some trials found the non-diet approach groups improved health behaviors, physiologic measures, and psychological improvements. Dr. Linda Bacon conducted a study on female chronic dieters to test the success of a 6 month randomized clinical trial where half of the participants were put on a diet and the other half used the HAES philosophy. Measurements were collected immediately after the intervention and at a two-year follow up. The participants in the diet group lost weight and improved LDL cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure after the six-month intervention, but all of these changes returned to baseline at the 2 year follow up. At the two-year follow up the non-diet participants showed significant improvement in depression scores, body image, and self-esteem and maintained their body weight. Non-diet participants also improved total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure at the two year follow up. The drop out rate for the diet group was 41% compared to the 8% drop out rate for the non-diet group which suggests the non-diet approach is not only easier to stick with but can also improve health when followed over time3.

HAES encourages individuals to adopt health habits for the sake of health and well-being. By embracing this weight neutral approach we can finally enjoy exercise and eating without the stress of following a restrictive diet.

If you’ve struggled with diets and feel like you are on a ferris wheel going no where, it’s time to stop and try another approach (because a diet hasn’t worked for you if you have to go on it over and over again). Consider adopting the Non Diet Approach by starting with the suggestions below:

  • Turn off the television and put away any other distractions. Mealtime should be in a calm environment to help you fully enjoy and focus on the food you are eating.
  • Find an activity you enjoy whether it’s playing outside with your kids, dancing, hiking, or gardening.
  • Pay attention to your body’s physical signals and eat according to your hunger and satiety cues.
  • Avoid categorizing foods into “good” and “bad”. All foods are acceptable and dietary variety is encouraged to obtain different nutrients and experience joy in eating.

To learn more about HAES go to www.haescommunity.org.

References

  1. O’Meara A. The Percentage of People Who Regain Weight After Rapid Weight Loss and the Risks of Doing So. Livestrong. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/438395-the-percentage-of-people-who-regain-weight-after-rapid-weight-loss-risks/. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  2. 100 Million Dieters, $20 Billion: Weight-Loss Industry by the Numbers. ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/100-million-dieters-20-billion-weight-loss-industry/story?id=16297197. Accessed October 27, 2014.
  3. HAES® Curriculum | A peer-reviewed curriculum designed for teaching health professionals and university students about the Health At Every Size® model. HAES Curric. Available at: http://haescurriculum.com/. Accessed October 27, 2014.

Putting a Fork in Forks Over Knives

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The war over good food, bad food grew larger when Forks Over Knives hit the movie theaters in 2011. Forks Over Knives, which means “use a dinner fork instead of going under the knife (surgery for chronic diseases)” contained some good information, some misleading information and left a lot of gaps in the research. So here are my good and bad impressions of this documentary.

The entire film was devoted to the supposed evils of animal based proteins. That’s right, all animal protein is bad. They didn’t distinguish between fish, red meat, packaged meats, turkey breast, free-range eggs, low fat dairy or any other type of animal protein. Instead, they lumped them into one large category of food you should avoid at all costs while adopting a plant-based diet. Go Vegan or Go Home!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables but I’m first and foremost realistic and research-based. In the words of my friend and amazing colleague Sally Hara, I can work within almost anyone’s food religion unless it is absurd and harmful to them. But, I will move clients in the right direction based their lifestyle, goals, medical history and training program.

That being said here are the gaping holes I found in this documentary:

China study – this study and others like it cannot prove cause and effect. Being longitudinal studies, they cannot answer the question “ does eating meat cause disease.” The film also failed to talk about any confounding variables. Were any other factors tied to disease – such as, obesity?

All animal proteins are bad. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I’m not sure where to begin. But, first and foremost, since I’m a fan of people being functional into old age, preventing osteoporosis and sarcopenia (the gradual loss of muscle mass with age), I know the power of protein and high quality protein – the kind that is easy to digest and gives muscle tissue the amino acids it needs. Which proteins are on the top the list? Dairy, whey, casein (both are dairy proteins), eggs and soy. In fact, if you are an athlete, mix and match these and you may get even better results according to ground-breaking research presented last month (pick up the June 2012 copy of Physique 3D for my article on this study).

Protein also keeps you satiated so you eat less – add protein to every meal and you may find over time that weight management is easier. Sure, they talked about stretch receptors in your stomach, but there’s more to satiety than just how full your stomach is (ask anyone on a fruit and vegetable fast, because the people who have done this tell me they are hungry all the time!). You will stay full for a longer period if you add a good quantity of protein to that veggie rich meal. And I’m not talking a measly 12 grams. Aim for 30 grams at each main meal (unless you are on a protein restricted diet for some reason).

What about colon cancer and meat? Valid point. But, it’s red meat, and possibly just the way you cook it that is the issue.

You Can Build a Strong Body on a Vegetarian Diet

In an attempt to tell us you can build a healthy, strong body on a vegan diet, the filmmakers gave us two examples, one was the firefighter son of one of the featured physicians. The other, UFC fighter Mac Danzig. I’ve worked with vegetarian athletes, including one who is at the top of his sport but he includes BCAA supplements, whey and eggs in his diet and I’m willing to bet that Mac adds BCAAs at a minimum. Can you perform well and get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet? Possibly but, it depends on your sport, your body and your training. Check out Tony Gonzalez’s trial of veganism here.

Last I’ll leave you with the reaction of one of my friends after seeing this movie “those two physicians look emaciated. Do you think if they actually consumed some animal protein they may look healthier and have more muscle on their bodies?” Yep, I sure do.

In summary, I’m all in favor of adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Most of us do not get enough of these every day. I also think a vegetarian diet can be healthy if done correctly. However, this movie left glossed over the science (but, pay attention to what Connie Diekman says in it) and left many some very important points.

If you’ve watched Forks Over Knives, I’d love to hear your impression of this documentary!