The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry is teeming with contradictory evidence, opinions, and charlatans looking to cash in on the answer to this fundamental question: why do we get fat and what can we do about it? The answers are not cut and dry and are different for everyone. Sorry, there is no one best damn diet for all. The average American adult attempts a new diet 4 times per year. Within two weeks 25 percent of the dieters give up. At any one time, it is estimated that 70 million Americans are on a diet. And 65 percent of those individuals are unsuccessful in keeping weight off for at least 5 years. Americans want their weight loss solution to be cheap, fast and easy. No magic diet pill (yet). Here is a marketing sample of what these authors and ‘experts’ are selling:
- See results in as little as 45 minutes!
- L’Air Fooding – The Air and Water Diet
- 25 pounds in only 2 weeks
- 21 pounds in 21 Days
- 7 Day Flat Belly Tea Cleanse
- The Chemo Diet: Weight Loss Without Even Trying (yep, this is a real book)
- Martinis and Whipped Cream: The New Carbo-Cal Way to Lose Weight and Stay Slim
Remember when your kindergarten teacher stated, “You are special, and there is no one else in the whole wide world like you.” She was right. Ok, maybe you are not a “special snowflake” but you are unique. This is why each one us needs an individualized diet plan that works with our lifestyle, environment, and specialized genome. All humans share a certain number of metabolic or dietary commonalities. We all need protein and fat to live. We actually don’t need carbohydrates. Essential vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients are also important to every human. However, our species can appear vastly different morphologically and genetically. Compare Shaquille O’Neal to Steven Hawkins. Both are human but would probably die or get very ill if their diets were clandestinely switched for a month. Biochemically we are unique and require differing amounts of food, altered macro/micronutrient contents, and specific nutritional timing. A comprehensive study in the journal Cell found people can metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways. Angelina Jolie may be able to eat donuts and pizza and not gain a pound but that doesn’t mean you won’t! We all process food differently.
So how do you determine what is the best damn diet? For starters stop listening to Dr. Oz and Dr. Atkins. Listen to yourself and pay attention to your body; know thyself. Read labels and be aware of exactly what you are eating and how it affects your brain and body. After gorging on pizza, am I bloated? Did last night’s steak dinner give me brain fog? Did that soda make me tired? etc. And sometimes a food or meal will have lasting effects on the body. This is why is important to also take a macro view. Look at your diet in terms of weeks and months, not just single meals. The brain and body are remarkable in controlling how much energy (food) you ingest over the course of a year. Our internal metabolic thermostat drives hunger, laziness (basal metabolic rate), thirst, body temperature etc… all with the precision of a super computer. From year to year, most people eat roughly the same amount of calories (about 1 million) with less than 1% deviation.
The best diet is one that you can live with and keeps you energized, happy and healthy. This is specific to each individual. In order to find out what diet works best, you will need to do some self-experimentation. Become part scientist, part detective. Start by a keeping a food log. If you are hardcore and truly motivated, a 5-6 week elimination diet (see here). Take a few weeks and write down how you feel after every meal; monitor your mood, energy, digestion, bowel habits, bloat, pain etc…. After you’ve determined which foods pose complications, eliminate them for a period of time, usually three to four weeks. Slowly reintroduce specific foods and monitor your symptoms for possible negative reactions:
- joint pain and/or inflammation
- skin breakouts or rashes
- bowel changes or GI pain
- brain fog
- sinus or other respiratory issues
Once you’ve uncovered the foods causing distress, eliminate them from your diet altogether. You can cheat every once in a while but know that you’ll pay for it later. More often than not, instant gratification is not worth the discomfort. Remind yourself of this before indulging. Take the carefully accumulated data and create a personalized diet that works for your body. Try eating this way without much deviation and watch the pounds drop off, your mood elevate and performance improve.by