The Perfect Diet, is there such a thing? I have yet to find any research saying that there is. I will be honest, the word diet makes me cringe. Only because I hear it used mainly in direct association with someone who is looking for the quickest way to weight loss, i.e. have to get into a certain pant or dress size. 

In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism. The word diet often implies the use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons (with the two often being related).  Complete nutrition requires ingestion and absorption ofvitaminsminerals, essential amino acids from protein and essential fatty acids from fat-containing food, also food energy in the form of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Dietary habits and choices play a significant role in the quality of lifehealth and longevity. (Wikipedia)

Since working in the fitness field I have found many useful written and spoken words, one great acronym regarding nutrition is...

DIET: Decide (How) I’ll Eat Today  

With a 60 billion dollar diet industry, it is no wonder why we are so confused and bounce back and forth between them as our waistlines, bottoms, and other not so flattering body parts bounces with us. It seems that we have, as a society mainly in the USA, fallen into a quick-fix mentality. We expect everything now and we expect it to be to our satisfaction. An example of this is when I worked in optical. 

When I worked in optical fitting and making eye glasses the big fad was glasses in an hour. There I was making a corrective prescription for your visual needs, and so many times when there was an error in the making of the prescription, people would get upset that they weren’t finished within the hour. Now anyone who wears eyeglasses knows if your prescription is off, it messes with your eyes. However, people seemed to forget the importance of doing it correctly vs just doing it quickly.

I relate this example back to our “diets”. When you look at your diet are you doing it correctly or just consuming what you’re accustomed to? Quick fixes in diets usually never last if we don’t take the time to educate ourselves to figure out the next step we will take to make healthy diet lifestyle changes.  

I took the time to research some of the diets I get asked about and the basic concepts of each one. The paragraphs that follow are information from Wikipedia.

Paleolithic diet (also called the paleo dietcaveman diet or stone-age diet) is a modern fad dietrequiring the sole or predominant consumption of foods presumed to have been the only foods either available or consumed by humans during the Paleolithic Era.

Wide variability exists in the way the paleo diet is interpreted. Nevertheless, the diet typically includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat while excluding foods such as dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, alcohol or coffee. The diet is based on avoiding not just processed foods, but rather the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic Revolution when humans transitioned from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to settled agriculture.

Whole30 is a 30-day diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. The Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Foods allowed during the program include meat, nuts, seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. During the Whole30, participants are advised not to count calories or to weigh themselves. After the program is complete, participants are counseled to strategically reintroduce foods outside the endorsed Whole30 list, document the health consequences and culinary value of these additions, and determine if the addition is desired. The program's founders believe that sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, and legumes affect weight, energy, and stress levels.

Ketogenic diet (Ketosis, Keto) is a high-fat, adequate-proteinlow-carbohydrate diet (Interesting side note, that Ketogenic in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsyin children). The main premise of this diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.

Low-carbohydrate diets or low-carb diets are dietary programs that restrict carbohydrateconsumption. Foods high in easily digestible carbohydrates (e.g., sugarbreadpasta) are limited or replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of fats and moderate protein (e.g., meatpoultryfishshellfisheggscheesenuts, and seeds) and other foods low in carbohydrates (e.g., most salad vegetables such as spinachkalechard and collards), although other vegetables and fruits (especially berries) are often allowed. The amount of carbohydrate allowed varies with different low-carbohydrate diets.

Such diets are sometimes 'ketogenic' (i.e., they restrict carbohydrate intake sufficiently to cause ketosis). The induction phase of the Atkins diet is ketogenic. (Wikipedia).

Take a look back and think about these so called “diets.” What are you seeing as a commonality? Look back at our second and third article I wrote on  (Hint, reduction or elimination of SUGAR and CARBS). 

We’ve all heard of these diets at one time or another, and pop culture has given them a name.  A fad diet or “diet cult” is a diet that makes promises of weight loss or other health advantages such as longer life without backing by solid science, and in many cases are characterized by highly restrictive or unusual food choices. Celebrity endorsements are frequently used to promote fad diets, which may generate significant revenue for the creators from the sale of associated products.

According to the website UPMC, A fad diet is a diet that promises quick weight loss through what is usually an unhealthy and unbalanced diet. Fad diets are targeted at people who want to lose weight quickly without exercise. Some fad diets claim that they make you lose fat, but it's really water weight you're losing. 

UPMC says to determine if a diet is a fad diet, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the diet promise quick weight loss?
  • Does the diet sound too good to be true?
  • Does the diet help sell a company’s product?
  • Does the diet lack valid scientific research to support its claims?
  • Does the diet give lists of “good” and “bad” foods?

If you can answer “yes” to any or all of these questions, the diet is probably a fad diet.

Some potential problems with fad diets will be the lack of ability to regulate long term weight control, possibility of poor performance in physical activities (lack of carbs), health issues such as kidney stones and ketosis. 

Now before you kill the messenger, i.e. Me, let me state something. I have met people and know of others who have made a couple of these so called “fad diets” work for them when they are jump-starting their healthy living choices. I also have met and seen the horrible outcome of excessive weight gain and health issues of these diets when there is no long term plan to make changes to old habits and transition into new lifestyle eating choices. How many people do you know or may have had this happen to you? You hit your “ideal” weight and 4-12 months later, maybe even longer, you have regressed back to that weight you originally started at before your diet and surpassed it. Ugh the frustration. 

I listen to people all the time talk of the new diet they are trying. I want to be excited for them, but in the back of my mind I am always worried that it will be just what they say, “the new diet.” I have listened to people say that this “diet” has worked well for them before. There lies the problem. How many times will you diet before you will make hard decision to look at your nutrition for long term success? 

I have one philosophy when it comes to designing a workable, acceptable and sustainable approach to weight loss.   

Nutrition - Strength Training - Cardio 

Use one of these and you could see marginal success, use two even gain a better chance of success, use all three and gain the highest potential of success. 

I guess looking at this philosophy now I would have to say with all three of these points will need to have a level of dedication (to your program), consistency (day by day), and time (you didn’t gain all this weight overnight, don’t expect to lose it overnight) to see the desired results. 

So when you’re searching out that new lifestyle change in your nutrition think these two things:

1. Can you live the rest of your life on your nutritional choice changes? 

2. How many times are you willing to try the next fad diet to lose that weight?

Challenge for the week: 

Make a list of the foods you love but know are not doing you any favors in the weight control area. Be honest with yourself. Now how can you reduce, not eliminate, these from your everyday diet? Could you make time for 20-30 minutes of structured fitness? Burn off some of those pesky calories. 

Write down you health and fitness goals for the new year. We will be talking about them in the weeks to come. 

About Matt Dryden: Matt has been offering personal training services in fitness and nutrition for over 12 years. He began his interest in Health and Fitness while working as a Correctional Officer and Police Chief when he realized that in this profession that those men and women should have the fitness level of being able to protect and serve the people he has sworn to do so. Matt went on to become a certified personal trainer and began educating and helping fellow officers in setting and working toward their goals in fitness.

Matt started his gym, The Body Shop Fitness Centers, in Shell Lake in 2007 and now offers locations in Shell Lake, Spooner, and Trego, Wisconsin. These locations offer a wide variety of fitness training opportunities unique to each location. To find out more, visit The Body Shop Fitness Center website or Facebook page.

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