The start of a new year is traditionally the time to turn the page on the bad habits and disappointments of the previous year.
Usually near the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions that people make is the decision to lose weight. And from a health perspective, our concierge doctors certainly applaud that one.
Overweight or obesity is responsible for a host of chronic diseases, from type 2 diabetes to backaches to joint pain. So you want to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, right? But which diet is best?
The problem with keto
What about the popular keto diet? Studies show that 80 percent of those who try it struggle to stick with it. Why, when it often results in huge and rapid amounts of weight loss?
First, it can it cause numerous side effects—body aches, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue and lethargy, constipation, and brain fog. Plus, all their friends are eating garlic bread and mashed potatoes (not cauliflower) with gravy and pasta. Or because they lost their job and need a regular intake of brownies to help them feel better. Or because they’re stressed about the pandemic—possible job loss, not being able to see friends and family, worried about catching the coronavirus. And that chocolate cream pie dulls the loneliness and anxiety, at least for a little while.
Because, in short, the keto diet restrictive. It has a long list of quite tasty foods that either aren’t allowed, or allowed only in small portions after a certain time.
“When you are on the keto diet, you drastically cut your carbs to only 20 per day. That’s less than one apple!” nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor, told the network.
The common problem
And this is the problem with all diets. Nearly all of them work as promised, but are difficult to adhere to over time. So you “cheat.” Then you cheat some more. Then you figure, why bother? You then start eating normally again and regain all the weight you lost. And you likely gain back even more.
But here’s the thing: It’s not you, it’s them. In other words, it’s the whole concept of dieting to begin with. Someone once pointed out that diet begins with the word “die,” so even if only subconsciously, the concept has a negative connotation.
In addition, our bodies were built to store calories. That’s because our ancient ancestors never knew when they’d be facing lean times, or even starvation if the mastodons they hunted migrated elsewhere. Even in more recent times, before there was such a thing as a food industry, mankind learned to store food over the winter. But it still wasn’t as abundant as during the summer months.
So we’re biologically built to store up calories to last through the lean times.
And speaking of the food industry, their entire reason for being is to get us to buy more of their product. Stores are laid out with enticing displays of sugary, fat-laden foods. Advertising constantly tempts us with photos and videos of delicious, fattening foods.
We succumb, we gain weight, and then it’s up to us to find a way to lose it. And we try a long list of diets, only to be disappointed with the results. So which one do we recommend?
The only real solution
The best diet is one that works for you, that helps you gradually lose weight, but doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or hungry all the time.
“For any given person, it’s really a matter of what they can stick with,” Michael Jensen of the Mayo Clinic told Psychology Today.
Keto might be the right choice for some people. For others, the Paleo diet, moderation, veganism, intermittent fasting, or simply cutting back on sugar and flour.
Above all, research shows the most successful diet is the one that you yourself designed. This gives you a sense of control, rather than being at the mercy of a set of restrictive rules.
“You have to have joy and pleasure in food,” Stanford University professor of medicine Christopher Gardner told The Washington Post. He has conducted numerous randomized trials to test the success rate of various diets, and found they are essentially the same.
“They agree more than they disagree,” he said. Instead, he counsels, “Limit added sugars and refined grains, and eat more non-starchy vegetables. [I]f you do those two things, you get 90 percent of the benefits.”
If you enjoy what you eat, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life, he added.
“[The most successful way of dieting] will be different from one person to the next, and there will never be a randomized trial of it.”
We would add that for the most wholesome way to eat, consider the Mediterranean diet. It rates number one in surveys of diets, not only for long-term weight loss, but also for ease of adherence and the healthiest outcomes.
If you have any questions about weight loss, please talk with us. We can suggest the best approach specifically for you.