While fewer Americans report being on a diet these days – according to the research firm the NPD Group, the numbers are at an all-time low of 20 percent, down by almost half since 1991 (Ref. 1) – there are still plenty of diet plans being touted by the media.
There’s the Paleo diet – which is designed to take people back to their caveman roots through modern foods that mimic those consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Also popular is the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fish, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and veggies and has been linked to lower rates of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
And let’s not forget Kate Middleton’s Dukan diet – which starts out with protein and only allows vegetables in the second phase, where you stay until you’ve reached your target weight (Ref. 2) – or the DASH diet, which by name alone suggests rapid weight loss.
And therein lies the big problem with diets overall. The entire process suggests a beginning and an end. During a diet, usually a period seen as deprivation, participants expect rapid weight loss. But after goals are achieved, most go right back to their previous eating habits, having learned nothing at all about their body and its nutritional needs.
Most likely, they’ve done little more than cause their metabolisms to slow to a crawl, so any lost weight will pop back on even quicker when regular eating resumes. (Ref. 3)
Diets aren’t good. But neither is eating junk.
The vicious fast food cycle
Here’s what happens to your body on fast food, which contains too much fat – and hidden sugars – that wreak havoc with your body. First, the foods digest quickly since they don’t offer fiber to slow things down. That sends blood sugar levels soaring fast, providing a quick burst of energy, but because the body can only use so much blood glucose at a time, it stores the rest as fat. And as soon as it does so, you realize you’re hungry again, and even though you’ve consumed enough calories to sustain you through the day, you didn’t get the nutrients you need, so you reach for something else to eat, usually sugar to help you recover from the slump. (Ref. 4)
Dieting presents a similar dilemma.
When you go for long periods of time without eating, your body begins to panic, and slows your metabolism down so that you don’t use too much fuel and can survive the period of time without food. When you begin to eat normally, your metabolism stays slow, so you need fewer calories to maintain the same weight. (Ref. 3)
Clearly, dieting should be a thing of your past.
Think like a pro athlete
One of the best ways to revamp your food intake without dieting is to think like an athlete.
Consider the cyclists who just wrapped up the Tour de France. They eat to fuel their bodies for the ride, looking at each morsel of food as a way to generate enough energy to cross the finish line as quickly as possible.
When you eat garbage, you are more likely to have low energy and feel depressed, while healthier foods boost energy and promote feelings of well-being. (Ref. 5)
Seeing food as fuel – full of nutrients that help us power through the day – can transform the way we look at food, and help make healthy eating easier.
So what does eating healthy mean?
In reality, the Mediterranean diet gets it right. It offers a mix of lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains along with good-for-you fat like olive oil, which are staples in a healthy diet.
If you don’t get enough protein, you’ll be more likely to feel tired, while too much protein boosts the risk of heart disease.
Too many carbs can lead to chronic high blood sugar that elevates the risk of type 2 diabetes, while too few carbs puts you at risk of electrolyte imbalances that can lead to loss of energy.
At the same time, too much fat can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and cancer, while not enough can trigger learning disorders, skin problems and memory loss.
If your body is deficient in any of these nutrients, your organs will slowly starve, making it impossible for them to function as they should.
Balance is key
Healthy eating is all about balance. Consuming a mix of protein, carbs and good fat – especially a variety of items to ensure you’re taking in a wide range of nutrients – will not only provide you with nutrients to help you feel good, it will also fill you up so you’ll be less likely to make unhealthy choices.
Skip processed foods – foods that are so far removed from their original appearance that they are unrecognizable – and limit sugar to protect your body from excess inflammation.
When you eat a healthy diet, you help your body generate digestive enzymes, which help digest food properly so more nutrients can be absorbed.
Digestive enzymes create a healthy environment for the good bacteria that are essential to our digestive systems – and allow our bodies to put the nutrients we eat or consume through supplements to good use.
Adding a supplement such as our Kiwi-Klenz, which offers prebiotics that feed existing good bacteria while encouraging the production of new good bacteria, can help improve digestive health so the nutrients you’re eating are properly absorbed, helping you feel more energized with a stronger immune system.
And don’t forget it’s okay to have a treat now and then – dark chocolate and red wine fall into the categories of both good and good for you. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and healthy eating will help you make the most of it.