You would think with all the diet books, all the research done, and all the trials and effort, there would have been a solution to the problem of losing weight, which so many seem to struggle with.
I think all the solutions are out there, even though they seem to conflict with each other. My own personal opinion is, it’s a matter of perspective. You have heard many people lose weight by eliminating “carbs” from their diets (which I hope means refined carbohydrates and grains, not vegetables which are also predominantly carbohydrates). You have heard many people drop weight when they eliminated animal products, and in fact many vegans are quite thin, but many are not. You have heard those who eat a “traditional or ancestral” diet are fit, trim and healthy. Then there is the whole group who proved that fat doesn’t make you fat and dropped pounds by incorporating good quality fats in their diets.
I once heard Dr Mercola (yes, in person!) say that he believes one of the reasons for this is all of these diets helped those people eliminate the refined, processed foods in their diets. I heartily agree. However, as I have done much more research into this phenomena, I have come to believe even those who have already done this (like me), still struggle with weight. After all, it’s pretty easy to eat a lot of good quality food, and more phytonutrients, amino acids and fat lipids is good, right?
I’ve come to believe that all these diets are oversimplifying the very complex structure of our bodies. Far too often we have heard “calories in, calories out”, or “the fat you eat is the fat you wear”. Those are fairly true, but assume a mechanical type of existence, what goes in comes out, just a bit transformed.
However, any scientist will tell you, our body system is way more complex; so much so that there are still pathways and mechanisms they don’t understand, and the ones they do understand are overwhelming. Our bodies are very complex, and seem to defy all the laws of mechanics.
I now believe all those diets do and don’t work because it’s a lot more like the three blind men and the elephant. Each has a completely different description of what they are touching, but they are all correct. The elephant is much more than its tusks, it’s trunk and it’s skin, and all those things also define the elephant.
So how does this apply to diets?
I believe many of these diets work well because they have made our choices much easier, and we can consistently reduce the options and decisions we need to make on an hourly basis.
Here is an example:
If you are going to make lunch, and want to eat “healthy”, how do you make the decisions of what fits into that category?
I’m going to be bold here, and say that each of these diets will agree that a nice quantity of non starchy vegetables will fit into the category of healthy. They are nutrient dense, and low calorie. However, we also know that 2 cups of lettuce or a pound of broccoli isn’t going to fill us up. We need something either filling via volume, or calorie density.
Our stomachs decide they are “full” when they either have volume to fill the stomach, hence signaling enough food, or when the food is calorie rich (I honestly am not sure how that works, but it may be from the brain).
Think about it, aren’t both of these in each pair fairly satisfying? A baked potato, or a Tablespoon of peanut butter; rice with your meal, or a rich sauce in your stir fry? They satisfy for different reasons.
I believe this is the reason these diets work, or don’t work. Some people need to be satisfied by volume, and others seem to need more satiety. Most of us want both. We want the butter on the potato, and the rich sauce on our vegetables. Hence the problem, and the solution is in the problem.
So here is an example of food choices. We are deciding on a meal, and what will incorporate a “healthy meal that will allow us to lose weight”. We have decided to eat 1 – 2 cups of vegetables. Now what else do we add?
Here are some choices of what could accompany these vegetables:
–Salad dressing made from good quality oil
–Half an avocado
–One baked chicken thigh (3-4 oz of meat)
–An entire baked potato
Each of those are about 180 calories, which doesn’t sound like much, but look again. I think many of us would say “all of the above” (heading to about 800 calories!). We would also say they are all in themselves natural, healthy foods.
Now let’s look at the choices from a dieter’s perspective:
–Salad dressing from good quality oil (Ketogenic diet)
–Half an avocado, or 24 almonds (most diets would approve)
–One baked chicken thigh (Paleo or Traditional)
–An entire baked potato (vegan, plant based, whole foods)
Do you see how the choice is made for you depending on which diet you choose? Do you see how it eliminated at least two of the options? As I said before, even a choice of all of the above wouldn’t break the “healthy” rule, but to eat all of them, or even three of them would pack on the calories.
Calories alone are not the problem, it’s the excess calories that are. In our sedentary world, we just don’t burn what we did when we were chopping wood, feeding the chickens or trapping for our food. Even then, the choice wouldn’t have been “all of the above”, because we didn’t have all of that food at our disposal. Choices were made based on availability. We don’t have that choice made for us now, so we have to restrict out choices somehow.
I believe when people are “forced” to restrict their food, they will find any diet loophole they can. Sheer volume can throw us off our track, even with the “approved” foods, so some need to weigh and measure. Others need satiety, and find a need to “cheat”. When in fact, as long as we are choosing good quality foods, we can do well, we just need to limit our choices, somehow.
How you limit your choices is up to you. In fact, I see no reason why alternating these criteria wouldn’t even be better. I have seen a restriction strategy of choosing either carbs or fats, but not both in a meal. This is essentially the same thing, and would limit the choice to two of the above choices. So the meal of vegetables, a chicken thigh and maybe salad dressing would be a reasonable amount of calories, if you throw in half the avocado, we are getting close to 600 calories. If you didn’t eat breakfast, that would even be reasonable. Which is where I believe the intermittent fasting has come into play.
Yep. So now I am going to throw in the idea of intermittent fasting, or fasting in general, or you could even call it skipping meals.
I hope you don’t get the idea that I am in any way criticizing these strategies. I am only hoping to point out that there is honestly logic and reason to all of them, and I don’t believe any are better than the others! What works is what you will do! It doesn’t matter what the science says will work best for your body, it’s what your body and your brain says will work best for you!!
I believe intermittent fasting has become popular because we are struggling to limit those choices. Basically, we eat too much, so the benefits of allowing our digestive systems to catch up to the fuel we have given it seems to help.
Just know that skipping meals or fasting are perfectly reasonable choices. If someone goes off the deep end and becomes anorexic, it’s not because they skipped meals, it’s because they have emotional struggles that need to be addressed. If you have tendencies toward anorexia, please address those first.
It make sense to skip breakfast, especially if you aren’t hungry, so you can have a more satisfying lunch or dinner. I completely understand that. I know some “fast” by consuming good quality oil in their coffee or drinks, and I am not against that idea, because although I don’t believe they are actually fasting, (because fat is still fuel); they are satisfied. That’s what’s important. However, you may as well have a satisfying breakfast.
What’s also important is to know if it doesn’t work for you, it’s not your fault, you are not a criminal because you are not a “fat burner”, you are a dreaded “sugar burner”! (My pet peeve of the diet day!). We all burn sugar, we all burn fat. What they are trying to tell you is if you eat fat and burn fat, you should be able to burn the adipose fat tissue that is stored in your body easier.
However, you won’t burn the fat on your body until you have used the fuel you have eaten. It makes no difference whether your fuel is fat or carbohydrates, if you eat in excess of either of those, you will store fat. As long as you are storing fat, or have enough fuel, you will not burn the adipose fat tissue from your body.
The reason the “keto” folks lose weight, is that if they are measuring ketones, that means they have used up the fuel they have consumed. Ketones are made by the body when it has no glucose from either fat or carbohydrates, and has to turn to protein. That tells the body it’s time to bring out the reserves. Doing that is more work for our lazy bodies, so it refuses to do it unless is absolutely has to. Only then will the fat stored in the body be released. I will say, the benefit of favoring fat over carbs is fat doesn’t seem to spike insulin.
I just want you to know: there is a reason all diets work for some people, and no diets work for all people. It’s not you, it’s the mindset for making choices.
How will you make your choices?
So the logic of losing weight is to figure out how you want to make your choices, but know that “all of the above” is NOT a choice. If you crave volume to feel full, there is nothing wrong with that. Just choose foods that are less calories dense and eat more. Choose a sweet potato (limit or eliminate the butter), or rice, or beans, or lentils; things that are filling because they are bulky, and have beneficial fiber. Just make sure to NOT choose the other things on the list, the caloric dense foods, because they won’t fill you up.
If you need satiety, not volume, then a ketogenic diet may be perfect for you. You may still crave food after a sweet potato because you crave the caloric dense foods. So skip the potato and have the avocado, or the oil on the salad, or the oil in your coffee and feel satisfied. Just know you have to avoid the other choices and limit the number of satisfying foods, because they are as I described, calorie dense.
Maybe you want to change your choice criteria based on the meal. As long as you are not eating in excess overall, and limiting your choices according to your rules, you can have that choice.
Maybe you don’t even want to make those choices, you want all of the above. However, you are willing to eat one meal a day, so you can have both volume and satiety. Just as long as your choices are nutrient dense, this is also a good plan.
Make healthy choices!
Obviously this is all in the constraint of making healthy choices. There are too many jokes of vegans eating Twizzlers because they are “vegan”, and “keto” folks living off chocolate and coffee and oil (I like the coffee and chocolate idea!!), and the paleo folks living on bacon. Make your choices from foods that are whole, natural and organic, and humanely treated, and you will succeed. Just know that your choices are yours, and if you choose all of the above, your body will let you know, by storing up for that famine that may come our way!
You may want to keep track of what seems to work for you. Are you a volume eater and want the potato but can skip the butter? Are you a satiety eater, and want the butter on your vegetables? Does it change during the day? What are your cravings and why?
Other factors affect weight loss
However, keep in mind, many other factors besides food affect weight loss. Stress, digestion, digestive issues, blood sugar, and lack of movement in your day can also play a part in the success or lack of success in weight loss. Getting your food choices in line can get you started, and help with all of those issues as well.
I hope this helps you feel like you can now make better choices, and helps clear up some of the conflicting information about diets.
What will you do with this information? How will you make choices? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and let me know.
As always, if you know someone who may enjoy this information, feel free to share this with them!
To your health!
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