Sunday, February 20, 2011

Diet - What is it Good For?

Zone?  Paleo?  Atkins? South Beach?  Which one is right?  During my fat years, I read a lot of books and tried a lot of different diets.  After many failures and one very big success, I realized a few things about diets.

Every single book will discuss its diet as the single and perfect answer.  It will purport to have "done all the analysis" and "conducted all the studies" that PROVES it is right, 100%.  I become very amused when a diet or supporters of a diet claim that the other guy has it wrong.  They cite a combination of anecdotal and qualitative analysis to support its position.  The argument is without failures, very convincing.

Unfortunately, the human body is a complex organism and food a complex compound.  No two people are the same, it is what makes the world go round.  It seems an obvious fact that no two people will react to foods the same way. At this point, the most objective book, in my opinion, remains The Culprit and the Cure.  The reason is because the author is not selling a diet.  Instead, he read a bunch of other people's studies, in fact, almost all of them.  He drew general conclusions about diet and exercise but clearly stated they were guidelines based on the "average results" from all the studies.  He even acknowledged his exhaustive study could not be consider factual knowledge.  The human body is simply too complex and the interactions of food too numerous to draw hard and fast rules.  I lost a lot of weight using his

In Defense of Food takes a similar approach to say that food's affect on the human cannot be dissected easily.  He explains the origin of the now universal approach of breaking foods into macro (protein, carb, fat) and micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals).  It stems from a government sponsored study that concluded fatty beef was bad for you.  The Beef industry used its significant lobbying power to "spin" the study to saturated fats versus fatty beef.  So began the carb revolution and the significant weight gain of America.

It just goes to show that you can't really trust ANY book, study or publication 100%.  If money is involved, and it always is, there will be a bias.  So my first conclusion was, "use my head and do what makes logical sense"

I think it is obvious where some foods are on the spectrum of health.  Clearly a diet of twinkies and coke will not provide healthy results.  Likewise, a diet of natural fruits, veggies, and meats seems to be pre-destined to help your health improve, maintain weight and keep you well.  However, when we delve into the particulars of a sweet potato versus a turnip green, it seems like we are splitting hairs from the same head.

As most of you know, I'm a Zoner.  I considered going Paleo, but was turned off by the zealousness of it.  I believe Paleo's premise is makes a lot of sense.  It makes sense that eating how our bodies did as we evolved provides healthy results.  I've seen people get great results with it.  It just wasn't for me because of the restrictions.  I was certain I would fail at it, so I didn't try it.  So my second conclusion was "go with what works for you".  Make sure the diet is achievable, but effective.

I get irritated when it declares knowledge in areas where studies are inconclusive.  I get irritated by Dr. Sears (father of the Zone) in the same way.  However, I like the Zone because I can stick to it, I feel good on it, and it keeps helping me improve.  If Paleo or South Beach or any other diet does the same for you, stay with it.  In my opinion, they are all in the ballpark of healthy eating:  "Whole foods, in reasonable proportions with a sense of balance."  Personally, I saw better results on the Zone than I did following the Culprit/Cure guidelines, so I switched.  Since then, I've added back things and taken other things away trying to find what works best.  I've learned what I should really avoid (alcohol) and what I can indulge in (dark chocolate) with consequence.  So my third conclusion is "don't be afraid to experiment and learn."

Finally, most diet books are written to help people walk a thin line between how they live/eat now (poorly) and how they should.  Most are written to make you believe wholesale changes aren't needed.  Bullshit.  If you have crappy eating and exercising habits, you have to BLOW IT UP and start over.  If you want to pretend that tweaking a crappy lifestyle is the answer, you are DOOMED.  You have to make a serious choice to change.  That means truly starting over and simply installing a healthy, permanent diet and exercise program.  If you don't want to do that, then you need to bookmark this definition.

1 comment:

  1. Amen brother! All diets and exercise programs are similar in that their effectiveness starts with the mindset of the person doing them. In my opinion, people try to pin their hopes of success on the type of diet are not setting themselves up for success by having a wholesale change in their minds, attitudes and lifestyles before they start.

    For most people, the converse of what's on Trevor's wall is true as well. The wall could also read, "you can't out diet bad training". So no matter what diet you pick, you will most likely fail without finding a workout program that fits you too. An exercise program that you like is equally as important as finding the right diet, but ultimatley it's about your mindset, attitude, lifestyle, and your willingness to change them.

    That's my two cents. Dave