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Back Away From the Special K: Fad Diets Don’t Work

20 J0000001UTC 2011

With the holidays comes the New Year and with the New Year typically comes a bit of baggage. Whether it is 2 pounds or something more closely resembling your freshman 15, most of us pack on a bit of bread, beer or baclava by the time January rolls around.

Then come the New Year’s resolutions, serious dedications to the newest diet plan and (usually) the frustration that follows. We have an ongoing drama with dieting. First we find food seductive and alluring– butter, chocolate, sugar, deep-fried whatever. Then we escape with food, or flagrantly indulge in it at every party. Then we realize the error of our ways and the shame drives us to penance. Hence, the deprivation diet. If we simply take away everything we indulged in, cut our calories, deprive ourselves, then our bodies will be happy again. Right?

Guess what? Fad diets don’t work. No matter how much drama you eek into them, no matter how many of them or how many times you try and even if you do succeed for a moment the weight comes back.

Here’s why.

If you calorie-restrict too much, skip meals, fail to eat enough fat and protein or replace too many meals with liquids, your body sounds the alert that it is not getting enough of what it needs to function properly. Theoretically, you would dip into the fat reserves in your thighs or belly, but in reality all you’ve done is freaked yourself out. Once under stress and deprived, the body switches from being a energy production facility to becoming a storage facility. Where once you utilized the materials you put into your mouth, the body will now stash them away, for fear that it will not be properly fed in the future.

The side effects of this are low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), increased cortisol (stress hormone), fat storage around the belly, poor mood, tiredness, fatigue, low energy, inability to exercise and the desire to eat your own arm.

Once the blood sugar is low from not eating enough, you have climbed on the blood sugar rollercoaster, where the blood sugar (glucose) drops terribly low during hunger, then shoots through the roof as soon as something is eaten. This is a prescription for carbohydrate cravings, insulin resistance, fat storage and weight gain.

So, how do you lose the cheese platter and week of martinis without going on a diet? Here’s a few concepts.

1. Realize that there is no magic pill or plan. You are an individual with your own history, eating, family, stressors, environment, body, mind and psyche. Some people can gain two pounds in the process of trying to lose weight, but drop two sizes, look leaner and gain muscle definition. Some people need a year to get the process going.

2. Not all calories are created equal. The “calories-in-calories-out” idea is still floating around out there. This says that if you want to lose weight simply ingest fewer calories that you expend in a given day. The problem with this is that it does not factor in quality of food, nutrients and cofactors for metabolic processes, endocrine and hormone innuendos and blood sugar issues.

3. Get off the rollercoaster. This means balancing your blood sugar and engaging your metabolism in a grown-up, meaningful relationship. When you starve, then binge on sugar/carbs/caffeine and repeat, you are not treating your body with respect. It’s time to be a big kid and be kind, thoughtful and loving to your body by eating real, regular meals complete with lean protein, healthful fats and lots of vegetables.

4. Eat real, good food. Creating a lifestyle of eating that is made up of bright colored fruits and vegetables, healthful fats, nuts and seeds, whole grains, well-sourced lean meat, poultry and fish and eggs (or as many of these as are tolerated) promotes health and healing because it provides the body with what it needs and helps the body eliminate what it does not.

5. Don’t eat fake, bad food. Slowly weeding out everything you can’t pronounce, was made in a lab, includes anything with a color-number combo, can sit on a shelf for longer than a month or that has more than roughly five ingredients is a good place to start. Read food labels and shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store rather than the center aisles.

Check out other posts about weight management, eating breakfast and diabetes for more information. The real plan behind dieting? Back away from the Special K, eat real food, get moving and be kind to yourself. Happy New Year!

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