How Not To Diet

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How Not To Diet has been a widely asked question for centuries. Most women just want to lose a few pounds, reduce their problem areas and maybe get a flat tummy again. Despite this, almost 70% of women will go on a diet this year. The trouble is, most diets don’t work. They cause cravings, deprivation, cheating and ultimately failure. This post will tell you how not to go on a diet.

How Not To Diet

Fed up of starting the year with the latest unsuccessful diet fad? Here we share the scientific evidence from Dr Michael Greger’s new book to debunk the diet myths and help us put an end to yo-yo dieting for good.

For many of us, January is a time when our thoughts turn to making healthier choices, and perhaps shifting a few pounds. But with all the conflicting messages out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Does intermittent fasting work? Is gluten really bad for you? And is a calorie really just a calorie? That’s where Michael Greger MD comes in. Dr Greger hates diet books. More than that, he hates “diet books that purport to hate diet books yet relish in all the same absurdities.” Which is why the latest book from the physician, nutrition expert and bestselling author of How Not to Die is designed for those who want “facts, not filler, fantasy, or fluff”. Over the course of the book, backed up by over 5,000 academic citations, Dr Greger cuts through the diet industry’s dogma and presents the scientific evidence behind long-term weight loss, busting plenty of commonly held beliefs about diet and nutrition along the way – and hopefully ensuring that we can avoid the annual dieting cycle. Here are some of the biggest myths . . .

Myth #1: Low-carb diets are the only way to lose weight

Put people on a ketogenic, 800 calorie-a-day, low-carbohydrate diet, says Dr Greger, and they lose ten pounds in ten days, compared to only six pounds lost on the same number of calories of a higher-carb diet. Same calories, yet four more pounds lost. ‘What the bathroom scale isn’t telling you, though, is that those four extra pounds were all water.’ Indeed, he adds: ‘In the first week of a ketogenic diet, most of the weight lost is in water, not fat.’

So why are we still so keto crazy? When the diet fails, he says, the dieters often blame themselves, but the intoxication of the initial rapid weight loss may tempt them back. It’s like getting drunk again after forgetting how terrible the last hangover felt. ‘The diet business thrives off of two things – preposterous promises and repeat customers – and one leads naturally to the other.’

Myth #2: Intermittent fasting should take place in the morning

It might have become a popular diet technique in recent years, but according to Dr Greger’s research, the only kind of intermittent fasting that really seems to work is time-restricted feeding. This means squeezing your daily food intake into a certain time window, between 10am and 6pm, for example. Dr Greger also suggests making it early time-restricted feeding: ‘If anything, skip supper and have breakfast. Unfortunately, people do it the other way around.’

Myth #3: All calories are equal

In a lab, writes Dr Greger, a calorie is a calorie, but in life, far from it. Even if you eat and absorb the same number of calories, a calorie may still not be a calorie. ‘The same number of calories eaten at a different time of the day, in a different meal distribution, or after different amounts of sleep can translate into different amounts of body fat,’ he says. It’s not only what we eat but how and when.

How does that work? Dr Greger uses carrots vs Coke to illustrate the science. ‘While it’s true that in a tightly controlled laboratory setting, 240 calories of carrots –  ten carrots – would have the same effect on calorie balance as the 240 calories in a bottle of Coke, this comparison falls on its face out in the real world. You could chug down those liquid calories in less than a minute,’ he argues, ‘but eating 240 calories of carrots could take you more than two and a half hours of constant chewing. Not only would your jaw get sore, but 240 calories of carrots is about five cups – you might not even be able to fit them all in your stomach.’

Myth #4: If everyone exercised, obesity wouldn’t exist

Food and beverage companies have spent years trying to blame obesity on inactivity, a tactic Dr Greger describes as ‘leanwashing.’ Meanwhile, Dr Greger writes, ‘the scientific community has come to a fairly decisive conclusion that the factors governing caloric intake far more powerfully affect overall calorie balance.’

There’s even debate in the scientific literature as to whether changes in physical activity had ‘any role whatsoever’ in the obesity epidemic, he points out. Over time, the increase in caloric intake per person is more than enough to explain the U.S. and global epidemics of obesity over the same period. In fact, if anything, the level of physical activity over the last few decades has gone up slightly in both Europe and North America, rather than declined.

Myth #5: Your genes trump your diet

You might have heard about the ‘fat gene.’ But does this really exist? According to Dr Greger’s research, ‘to date, about one hundred genetic markers have been linked to obesity, but when you put all of them together, they account for less than 3 percent of the difference in body mass index between people.’ The ‘fat gene’ you may have heard about (called FTO, short for ‘FaT mass and Obesity associated’) is the gene most strongly linked to obesity, but it explains less than one percent of the difference between people.

Essentially, when it comes to obesity, ‘the power of your genes is nothing compared to the power of your fork’. Even the small influence the FTO gene does appear to be weaker among those who are physically active, and may be abolished completely in those eating healthier diets. Those eating more healthily appear to be at no greater risk of weight gain, even if they inherited the ‘fat gene’ from both their parents.

Myth #6: You need to cut out gluten to be healthy

Ten years ago, asks Dr Greger, how many people had even heard the word gluten? And now, some surveys suggest as many as 25 percent of the population is trying to avoid it. This has led to an explosion of more than ten thousand products labelled as gluten-free.

‘Ironically, gluten-free products may be less healthy, with more sugar and salt, less fibre, and fewer nutrients, but they’re mostly just different shades of the same processed junk. A gluten-free donut is still a donut. And a nutritional analysis of foods marketed to children found that about 90 percent of products—both gluten-free and not—were classified as ’unhealthy.’’

Do This If You Don’t Want To Diet

There’s a reason Americans are fat. Despite the numbers of people who want to lose weight, we’re still as heavy as ever (here’s an infographic that shows this). I know, for myself, it was not easy losing weight. I made many attempts at dieting and after a few months I would always quit. The issue was that I didn’t know HOW to lose weight and how to stick with it — to keep on losing. That’s where the “do this if you don’t want to diet” comes into play. It is what everyone needs who wants to lose weight but doesn’t know where or how to start.

Myth #7: The amount you eat is all that counts

‘It’s not what you eat but what you absorb,’ argues Dr Greger. So you can lose more weight on a high-fibre diet eating the exact same number of calories, simply because some of those calories get trapped and never make it into your system.

What happens, for example, if you feed people white bread with butter versus whole-wheat bread with butter, along with lots of fruits and vegetables, and measure how much butter comes out the other end? ‘The higher-fibre whole-wheat group poops out more than twice as much fat as the white-bread group, since some of the butter calories get trapped in all that fibre.’

Myth #8: You shouldn’t weigh yourself regularly

The scale is an important feedback tool and studies keep showing that regular and frequent self-weighing is linked with successful weight loss and maintenance, Greger writes in his book. His twice-a-day recommendation – stepping on the scale after waking and before going to bed –  is based on one study that found this habit was better than checking it once a day. But doesn’t this risk it becoming an obsession? ‘There’s legitimate concern that it can have negative psychological consequences for people with eating disorders,’ Greger writes.

‘But it turns out that with the exception of normal-weight adolescent women and those with a history of eating disorders, having people weigh themselves every day actually has positive psychological benefits.

Dieting can be confusing. Every day the dieting industry tells us that there’s a better, more efficient way to lose weight.

How Not to Diet might just be the last book you need to read on the subject. Dr. Greger provides scientific data and cutting-edge research on safely losing weight and body fat. This accessible and unintimidating guide, gives an abundance of tips, advice, and easy-to-follow suggestions that can be put into practice immediately.

The dieting landscape offers us many seemingly “fast and easy” options, and these fad diets come and go. Whether it’s Keto, Mediterranean, Banting, or Paleo, there’s a tirade of conflicting information out there, and they all purport to be the very best method. So, for anyone wanting to lose weight, this confusion, plus the unlimited options out there promising to be “the perfect diet,” can be incredibly frustrating, and may prove to be an obstacle in getting started.

Weight loss is a multibillion-dollar industry, guilty of puffed-up promises, misleading data, and pseudoscience. Most adherents to these programs gain the weight back; some even end up putting on more weight in the end. The sector also relies heavily on anecdotal evidence to win over customers, and frequently uses a handful of people’s grandiose claims of a particular diet’s life-changing benefits.

Our diets are paramount to our overall health, but we often gravitate towards the end result, instead of the process itself. This approach can have harmful effects. Many diets are incredibly unhealthy. When choosing something as life-or-death as what you put in your mouth, we need the most accurate evidence possible.

Enter Dr. Greger. Physician, public speaker, acclaimed author, and whole-food enthusiast, Dr. Michael Greger has scoured the medical literature to develop a proven weight loss guide. Backed up by almost 5,000 references, he’s distilled his advice into a diet that’s both sustainable and healthful.

In this summary, you’ll briefly learn how to hack your diet to shed excess pounds. By adopting a scientific approach, and learning from historical evidence, Dr. Greger gives us a solid plan that emphasizes a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix.

The Obesity Epidemic

Incredibly, we’re now ten times fatter than we were, compared to just 100 years ago. Furthermore, since the 70s, obesity has skyrocketed in developed nations, and it shows no signs of slowing down. We need to know what’s behind this phenomenon, because obesity isn’t a willpower failure. It’s just our bodies doing what they were designed to do.

The human body evolved to survive in the wild, and we’re experts at doing that. Long ago, food was scarce, so we learned to store any excess food as fat to survive the leaner months. Food scarcity also gave us a natural inclination for high-calorie foods, because our food source was unreliable. Hence, we evolved to prefer foods that gave us the most calories in the simplest form.

Nowadays, we’re still experts at packing on extra padding, but what’s changed significantly is our environment, and fattening foods are ubiquitous.

The food industry has profited from our biological cravings for decades. The 70s were a watershed decade. This was the decade, where obesity rates suddenly took off. The reason for this becomes apparent when one takes a glance at the typical 70s grocery store food aisle. At this time, the food industry was making great strides in manufacturing. Technological advances such as deep-freezing, made mass-production of cheap, ready-made-meals possible. The TV dinner was born, and suddenly, treat foods became everyday foods, readily available anytime, and anywhere.

Processing food strips down its fiber and nutritional value. What’s more, food manufacturers often add hidden sugars and oils. The end product is, what the author terms CRAP foods. CRAP foods are calorie-rich and processed, and because of the availability and convenience of these foods, we eat an average of 500 extra calories per day, without even trying.

Obesity is a health crisis, and has been termed an epidemic. It reduces life expectancy, and causes debilitating diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. So, solving the obesity problem may save more lives than curing cancer.

All of us should opt for a more healthy and sustainable diet. So, if you’re looking for a diet with a weight loss guarantee, then you’re in luck. Also, there’s not an anecdote in sight, just plain science.

Dr. Greger provides all of the ingredients for an ideal weight loss diet. He takes through the extensive scientific literature, which shows us that a whole-food plant-based diet, or WTPB for short, is the optimal weight loss solution.

Get Plenty Of Fiber

Admittedly, it’s tough to make fiber sexy. But, it’s the secret weapon when it comes to shedding the flab.

Fiber is satiating, because it adds volume to our food, without the extra calories. Furthermore, it’s a good food group because we typically take longer to eat high-fiber foods, and therefore, get fuller faster. When we increase the rate of feeling full, this cuts the calories that we consume overall. For example, to get the same calories as you’d get in a glass of apple juice, you’d have to eat five cups of chopped apple. It’s easy enough to gulp the juice down, but good luck chomping your way through all that apple, because of the volume, and length of time it would take you to get through.

There’s another critical element to fiber, and that’s that it traps the calories in food. Plant fibers have a tough outer layer, and no matter how hard you chew, this layer is difficult to digest. Hence, your colon can’t access all the calories. So, by walling off your calories, about 100 calories can pass through your colon and be excreted, with zero effort on your part.

Our gut’s microbiome plays a part, too – our gut flora feasts on the fiber that we eat. In return, short-chain fatty acids are released into our systems, which reduces our appetite, and boosts our metabolism. A 2017 study found that these acids made high-calorie foods such as donuts seem less appetizing, even up to 12 hours after a meal.

The sad truth is that fewer than 5% of Americans meet the minimum daily fiber recommendations. The recommendation is that we need to up our plant intake because these are high fiber foods. So add root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans to your grocery cart every time you go shopping.

Pick Low GI Foods

Low GI isn’t just another food fad. If you’re opting for weight loss and general health, you should eat a selection of low GI foods. High GI foods, such as white bread, cause a spike in blood sugar after eating. You may have noticed how white bread tastes sweet after you eat it. This taste is because our bodies digest processed foods quickly, and they turn to sugar.

From a weight-loss perspective, high GI foods lead to cravings. In one study, children who ate oats for breakfast ate considerably less at a lunch buffet later on the same day. Meanwhile, those children who ate sugary cereal such as Froot Loops, ate much more at the buffet. The science behind it is that low GI foods give you a slow release of energy, which can curb your hunger levels, and stop you from overeating.

The other benefit of eating low GI foods is that they can help conquer the dreaded weight loss plateau. Those of us who have tried shedding pounds before, may know that our bodies respond to fat loss by slowing down our metabolism.

So, swap out those typical white starches, such as white rice, white bread, and cornflakes, for slow-release, low GI foods such as whole grains and legumes.

Do All This If You Don’t Want To Diet

Dieting is no fun. It’s restrictive, boring, hard to maintain, and sometimes takes more willpower than you have in the moment. But you know what’s even harder than dieting? Being overweight or obese. In fact, did you know that being overweight or obese can cause serious diseases? These include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, different types of cancer (including colon cancer), and osteoarthritis. You see where I’m going with this? We want to do all we can to stay healthy and keep a lean body mass index. And that means we need to start pairing up with some good fitness habits so we can become slim and trim. Let’s look at some of the habits that are proven to help you lose weight in a healthy way without having to diet!

Get Rid of Excess Fat and Sugar

You may have heard the saying, ‘fat equals fat.’ The idea is that to shed fat; it’s a good idea to take it off your plate. If you want to lose weight, the ideal way to do this is by following a diet that’s low in fats like butter and oil.

This advice contradicts low-carb and keto diets, which villainize carbs. Keto followers blame sugary carbs for the rise in obesity. The truth is, both sugar and fat are to blame. And as it’s name suggests, fat is, well, fattening.

Fat has a high caloric density, and just one tablespoon of salad dressing, for example, packs a whopping 120 calories. Since it’s already in fat form, our bodies find it much easier to convert it into body fat. On the other hand, if you look at carbohydrates, our bodies have to convert these to body fat, which burns calories.

Fat is everywhere, and it’s getting more prolific. Animal agriculture has selectively bred animals to carry excess fat, so today’s meat is far fattier than it was. In previous decades just 10% of our calories came from fat. Nowadays, one serving of so-called extra-lean mince almost triples that. A study by Dr. Dean Ornish found that those who reduced their fat intake by 6% on a WFPB diet lost an average of 24 lbs.

To lose weight, the recommendation is to cut down, or even eliminate the meat you eat. It’s also best to avoid cooking with oil or butter. Instead, try using broth or wine as cooking liquid for extra flavor.

That’s only half of the equation, though. In order to lose weight, you also have to cut out sugar too. As with fat, sneaky added sugars are everywhere. It’s little wonder that the sugar we consume has surged by twelve times, compared to what we ate 200 years ago.

And sure, sugar can taste great, but it has zero nutritional value, and our bodies don’t need it at all. Excess sugar adds more calories, encourages weight gain, and it also makes us eat more. A study showed that kids who ate high-sugar cereals, such as Coco Pops, gobbled down 77% more than children who went for the low-sugar option.

So in terms of fat and sugar it’s best to try and cut down as much as possible. Sugar should only account for 5% of your daily calories, and don’t worry about cravings, because your tastebuds will change to adapt to having less sugar in your diet.

Go For Low-Calorie Density

When you look at a typical meal, the majority of your plate should contain low-calorie dense foods. One of the best things about a whole-food, plant-based diet is that you don’t have to restrict your portions. You can enjoy unlimited quantities of food, as long as they have a low-calorie density.

Low-calorie density foods typically have a high water content. So non-starchy vegetables, which are almost 90% water and fruit, which is about 80%, are good choices. As individuals we tend to eat roughly the same volume of food every day, and stretch receptors in our stomachs tell us when we’re full. Therefore it’s important to fill ourselves up with low-calorie density foods so that we don’t compensate for our hunger with high-calorie foods.

There are a lot of plant foods that are virtually impossible to overeat on. The secret is to swap out fats and sugars, which have loads of calories, for fruit and non-starchy vegetables, which are full of air and water. So when it comes to foods such as zucchini, celery, apples, and pears, you really can eat as much as you’d like.

Add Legumes

Legumes are a wonder food. Did you know that, Hispanic Americans have a lower risk of cancer and heart disease, even though the demographic is typically in the lower economic range? One popular theory is that this is down to their legume-rich diet.

Legumes fall somewhere between a vegetable and a protein, they’re nutritionally diverse, and they’re also packed with protein, iron, zinc, potassium, and, the all-important, fiber.

When it comes to weight loss, legumes are much better than meat, and they’re also highly satiating. In one study, chickpeas went head-to-head with bread and butter. The chickpea eaters ate 300 fewer calories at their next meal, than those who ate bread. In another study, researchers gave some people fava bean patties, and the other group pork patties, and once again the legume eaters were less hungry later on.

That’s why beans, lentils, and chickpeas are vital to the weight loss equation. If you’ve got time, boil them on the stove, or just take a few tins off the shelf for a very convenient meal.

Strategies to Boost Your Weight Loss

Many diets fail because of motivation and accountability. While this book offers loads of great suggestions about what foods we should be eating, and how we should be eating them, it also offers advice on how to optimize weight loss.

It’s easy to stick to the basics, but we often lose momentum over time, especially if we’re at the stage where we’re trying to shed the stubborn fat that’s leftover. So Dr. Greger provides some additional hacks that may help to make our weight loss journey that much easier.

Recruit an Accountability Buddy

We’re often told that there are secrets to weight-loss. And while there may not be any secrets, per se, keeping accountability is key to successful weight loss. The suggestion is to create a support network or community, and by having a support structure, your weight loss is much more likely to succeed. There are many ways to do this such as weight-loss group, group therapy, or getting advice from a health coach.

If group work isn’t your thing, then the important message is to stay accountable to yourself. One study found that those who weighed themselves once a week consistently lost weight. Dr. Greger even recommends weighing yourself twice a day for optimum weight loss.

Front-Load Your Calories

You’ve heard the old adage, ‘Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince, and eat dinner like a pauper.’ It turns out, this is absolutely true, and we should all be front-loading our calories at the beginning of each day.

Researchers found that an optimal caloric distribution throughout the day is 700 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch, and 200 calories for dinner. Those who followed this method lost twice as much weight as those who ate a high-calorie evening meal. This weight-loss method is down to our chronobiology, because our bodies use more energy to digest meals in the morning than in the evening. Hence, by eating more at breakfast, you consume less overall. So, use your body clock to your advantage by enjoying a hearty breakfast, and eating less throughout the day.

Drink More Water

We’ve all been told that we should drink about eight cups of water a day. However, there are conflicting studies on how water actually affects weight loss. Nonetheless, after reviewing all the science, Dr. Greger recommends drinking plenty of water every day. It’s particularly important to swap out calorie-laden sugary drinks for water, and this practice alone will eliminate about 235 calories a day.

Research also shows that well-hydrated people burn fat more quickly, and they produce less angiotensin, which can lead to weight gain. It’s also important to note that everyone’s water needs are different, so let your urine guide you; aim for a light yellow color, and you’re on the right track.

Don’t Neglect Sleep

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of effective weight-loss. Get to bed at a reasonable time because one of the things that happen when we’re tired is that we tend to eat more, and make poor dietary choices. Late evening snacking can lead to an excess of about 700 calories a day, and at this time of day we’re more susceptible to the addictive callings of sugary and fatty foods. As with drinking water, sleeping itself seems to assist weight loss, and those who sleep less tend to burn more muscle than fat, even when in a caloric deficit.

Preload With “Negative Calorie” Foods

Do you know how many calories an apple has? Surprisingly, if you eat it before a meal, it could have negative calories. Preloading our meals by starting with a salad, veggie soup, or fruit, means that we will eat less during the meal. Research shows that people who eat an apple or drink two glasses of water before a meal feel fuller and eat less overall. This sounds crazy, but try adding a low-calorie course as a precursor to your meal; you could end up eating less overall.

In Conclusion

This book might just be the kickstart that you need to lose weight and lead a healthier life. According to popular belief, there are loads of ways that we can get there; we can drink powdered shakes, eat half a grapefruit with every meal, or chain ourselves to the treadmill. However, many of these options are downright dangerous and will probably result in an initial weight loss, followed by a bigger weight gain. The truth is that the most effective, scientifically proven, and healthy is the whole-foods plant-based diet. So, if you’re looking for a sustainable approach to weight loss, without compromising your health, then minimize the consumption of animal products, and reduce or eliminate CRAP foods.

Not only does this book give a comprehensive look at what foods we should be eating, and how to support a healthy lifestyle, but it also offers some great hacks. We’re told about the powers of vinegar, why we need to chew our food more, and be more mindful when eating. Studies show you’ll get fuller faster.

The success of the WFPB diet is its abundance. There’s no limit to how much you can eat, and there’s no need to count calories, or to restrict your portions. Instead, you can enjoy unlimited vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, spice, and herbs. And, while you may think this is limiting, you’ll find that there’s even more variety that comes with an open mind about these foods. After all, they’re the foods our bodies were designed to eat.

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