There have been lots of opinions on the best diet through the years. Some are based on research, some not, but most work for some people. I get asked for my opinion on different diets all the time. I must admit that my opinion has changed through the years so here are my current thoughts.
Your body’s goal is homeostasis, or keeping everything balanced. Think of your breathing or heart rate. You don’t count how many breaths or heart beats you need every day based on what you’re doing. Your body just knows. The same is true of your calories. This relates to weight loss because as you cut calories, your body scales back your metabolism, or the energy it’s using. You may unconsciously wiggle less, for example. With extreme low calorie diets, your body will start to “eat” your muscle tissue for fuel. This is a double whammy because it means that when you start eating more calories again, your metabolism will stay lower than it was initially. This is because muscle tissue burns more calories than other tissues, like fat tissue. This is the reason that people who have done low calorie diets over and over often gain more weight back each time they stop their diet. That’s why I no longer advocate strictly counting calories. There is research that suggests that caloric intake is not directly related to body weight, too (Keen H, et al. Nutrient intake, adiposity, and diabetes. Br Med J. 1979 Mar 10; 1 (6164): 655-8.).
Then is it macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein)? Well, maybe. The research is ongoing. But before you go out and buy out the fat free section or the keto section of your local grocery store, let me challenge you with the idea of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Highly processed foods, things that come from factories, have often had a lot of the nutrients taken out and then artificially added back in at the end of the process. Sometimes the form or the proportion of the nutrients is different than before processing. Sometimes the things in the original foods that carried the nutrients are not put back into the food, like fiber. Either way, the result is different from the original. The problem is that your body doesn’t know that all of this has gone on and when we eat these processed foods, the body can’t extract the vitamins and minerals that it was expecting based on the info that it got from the mouth as we ate the food. So I wonder if the body’s search for these missing nutrients leads to cravings. Furthermore, the vitamins and minerals are used in the body’s metabolism so not having enough of them can lead to the body not being able to use the rest of the food for energy. Then, the body stores the excess for a time that it has the proper pieces to burn the fuel. It may also be storing the artificial things because it doesn’t know how to use them or how to get rid of them.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with regular, real food. I challenge you to give real food a try as a solution to your diet woes. The nutrients are there in the proper quantities and with the proper carriers. The artificial things that confuse the body are not there, and it’s easy to know if something fits the “plan” or not. Is it from nature or a factory? Nature=yes, factory=no. This is not going to be an overnight fix, it will take a few months, but it will increase your health and decrease your waistline.
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