Diet. Diet.Diet

I am fascinated nowadays at the proliferation of different diets that are out there. There seems to be no end to people with the magic formula that will lead to eternal thinness (but not necessarily eternal health). I am especially amazed by the idea of carbs as “bad” foods. I was around when it was fats that were considered bad and health-conscious people ate low-fat everything.  Does anyone remember Lay’s WOW chips? These were fat-free potato chips introduced in 1998 which sounded magical. Fatty chips without the fat? Who wouldn’t line up for that? The unfortunate thing was that the Olestra that made them fat-free also made them a really effective laxative. Nice side effect if you want to keep your bowels sparkly clean but not so much if you just want to overindulge in chips while watching TV.

So now it’s carbs that are vilified? I’m getting nutritional whiplash!

 

When asked my opinion on diets, my answer is that there is nothing new under the sun. Most can be divided into the following: 

  1. Diets that Limit Your Portions

  2. Diets that Limit Your Choices

Diets that Limit Your Food Portions

The oldest portion control diet is Weight Watchers and one of the newer portion control diets is IIFM or “If It Fits your Macros”.

Weight Watchers

Of them all, most will agree that WW reigns. It’s been around forever and the Points system allows for an easy type of calorie counting. Their new diet design allows for Zero Points foods that can be eaten without limit. It rewards you for things like eating healthier foods, exercising, drinking more water, and eating your veggies. You also get Bonus points that you can use for more flexibility. Big drawback: those Zero Point foods still have calories and you can easily overdo them.

 

IIFM or “If It Fits Your Macros” 

Macros are the basic ingredients of all foods: carbs, proteins, and fats. Once you calculate the percentage of each macro for you (for example, 40% carbs, 40% proteins, and 20% fat) you just make your foods fit the number of grams you’re allowed for each. To me, that’s a lot of math but it assures that you have the right variety of food.

Diets that Limit Your Food Portions

The best examples of these are low carb diets like Keto and Atkins with the Keto Diet having the lowest carbs. The original idea of low-carb diets was to put your body into ketosis. By keeping a very low carb intake, your body has to rely on ketones for fuel which leads to weight loss. To be real, only the Keto diet keeps you in ketosis. The rest don’t keep a low enough carb intake to lead to ketosis so the weight loss is more from limiting the amount of carbs eaten. So they are really more of a diet that limits calories.

I personally hate the idea of low-carb diets. They just make you crabby and constipated. And who wants that?

In Honorable Mention is Noom and its behavioral approach to dieting.


Let’s admit it, we as Americans have horrible feeding habits. We don’t eat because we are hungry. We eat because we feel sad. Because we’re happy. Because it’s a day ending in “Y”. Could be anything. Confronting the emotional baggage of how and why we eat seems very important to me.


Good program. Still not a novel idea. Before there was Noom, there was Overeaters Anonymous. So not original – but still good. 

Diets that Limit Your Food Portions

So what’s the best diet? The best diet is the one that’s the simplest and it was said best by Michael Pollan,

  • Eat real food

  • Not too much

  • Mostly plants

“Real food” are foods that are recognizable.


I like to make bread dough which means mixing wheat flour, yeast, and small amounts of sugar, salt, and olive oil. Take a look at any supermarket brand of bread and you’ll see over ten ingredients, most of which don’t sound edible.

“Not too much.” 

Hara hichi bun me is a Japanese tradition of eating only until you are 80% full. That is very un-American. And very healthy.

“Mostly plants.”

Eat more vegetables but not more salads. Salads are lettuce and lettuce has no nutrition. Instead, vegetables should have a range of colors: purple eggplant, yellow squash, orange carrots. You get the idea. And you can still get your lean meats like chicken and fish. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good thick steak but it should be an occasional treat, like having a piece of cheesecake. 

 

There are a lot of other diets out there that I won’t bother to mention. Do I really need to talk about the Blood Type Diet or the Baby Food Diet? Pure silliness. 

 

In the end, we need a variety of different foods in moderate amounts. Make eating a healthy diet your lifestyle and you’re golden. Happy healthy food means a happy healthy body. And who doesn’t want that?