There is perhaps no other area of debate that has as many disparate and conflicting views as the topic of "Weight Loss".
Today, hundreds, if not thousands of different dietary approaches exist, all attempting to provide dieters with the solution to permanent weight loss. Interestingly, most of these dietary approaches are authored by highly trained medical professionals, qualified doctors who lay claim to empirical research and related "science" to substantiate their particular approach to weight loss.
And yet, in spite of the abundance of medical supported, dietary advice currently available, obesity remains a fast-growing global epidemic, and one that is showing little sign of slowing. Also, the medical fraternity is still unable to reach absolute consensus on that elusive "ideal diet". We just need to look at the "Diet" section of any book store, to see that within the medical dietary community, there are as many advocates for a "High Protein" approach, as there are for a "High Carbohydrate" dietary approach...as there are for a "Low fat" approach...not to mention numerous other approaches
The USA, Australia, South Africa and UK continue to experience increases in obesity, as well as similar increases in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both also related to poor nutrition.
With all these conflicting dietary views, anyone attempting to lose weight can be forgiven for being at a complete loss as to which diet to follow or which approach is indeed best.
Clearly, a "back to basics" approach is needed - a common-sense, no-nonsense approach to weight loss. A set of simple, practical "rules" designed to provide direction for those trying to lose weight.
The following 5 "rules" are the result of 20 years experience in dietary and weight-loss counseling. They are rooted in logic and positive experience, and will benefit most dieters who have, and perhaps still are, struggling to lose weight.
The 5 Rules
Rule 1: Don't Diet - Understanding Why Diets Don't Work
The statistics prove it.
Dieters seldom remain on any diet for sustained periods of time and it is common for dieters to try one diet after another, only to fail consistently to maintain a diet for the long term (i.e. "Yo Yo dieting).
Q: The reason for this?
For most people, taste and food preferences are already well established, or patterned, by the time they reach adulthood due to eating patterns that are established from early childhood. "Parties", "Sweet Treats", "Fun Foods", "Social occasions". "Special Occasions", "Reward Foods" - all contribute to formulating specific food choice patterns, patterns that are extremely difficult to adjust the older we get.
Because most diets are restrictive in some way - promoting the restriction or limiting of certain foods or food groups - to restrict a food that has been patterned from a young age is usually not sustainable, and this is why many dieters invariably find themselves "cheating" - or craving a restricted food.
Dieters need to accept that most restrictive diets are simply not practical or sustainable.
The solution is to develop a diet that provides a sound nutritional foundation...for the long term. And, that does not restrict favourite foods that have been firmly patterned.
Rule 2: Use Common Sense: Natural Vs Man-Made
All foods fall into 2 categories:
1) Foods that are natural or are as close to their natural state - i.e. have had little to no processing
2) Foods that have been processed, adjusted or synthesized by man in some way or form
If you want to lose weight, and improve your health, try to ensure that most food consumed each day is natural or close to natural.
This doesn't mean creating a diet base purely on raw foods. What it does mean is to aim to base 70% (or two thirds) of total daily food intake on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible - such as:
All Fruits in their whole state, Fruit smoothies (fruits blended with a little juice), Vegetables - raw or cooked; Eggs (Cooked); Meats (cooked); Fish (Cooked or raw, as in sushi); Nuts (raw and unsalted), Milk, or yoghurt.
Logically, for most, these foods are easier for the body to utilize, unlike packaged and processed foods (naturally food intolerances/allergies must be considered too).
By ensuring that most foods that are consumed each day are as close to their natural state as possible, is an easy and practical approach to maintaining good health. The remaining 30% (or one third) of foods consumed should still be healthier choices, but can also include processed and packaged foods, as well as those indulgences and treats that typically lead to weight gain and poor health
Rule 3: Limit Starch - It's Not Natural
Starch occurs very seldom in nature.
For a starch to exist requires heating or processing of a natural or raw food.
For example, vegetables such as butternut squash, potatoes and pumpkin - which are usually not eaten raw - are transformed into starches once heated.
Starch foods, are difficult for many people to metabolise and often lead to excess levels of the hormone insulin to be released in the bloodstream. Excess insulin in the body encourages fat storage and weight gain, as well as cravings.
The more processed the starch - i.e. the further it is removed from its natural state - the greater the potential impact on insulin release, and weight gain.
Examples of "Starch Offenders":
Chips and crisps - Derived from potatoes
Pasta, rice, cereals - Derived from grains
Cakes, Breads, Biscuits, Pastries - Derived from milled grains
Naturally it makes sense to choose starches that are less processed - i.e. vegetable starches - and are as close to their natural state. For example, steamed pumpkin is a better choice than pumpkin pie or pumpkin fritters.
Refined grain, or flour-based starches are the worst choices. Even the now popular "Low GI" (Glycaemic Index) breads should be limited. Although these low GI grains are less refined, they are still difficult for many to metabolise.
Rule 4: Protein is Important
Protein is important.
But that does not mean dieters need to follow high-protein diets.
There are 2 reasons that high protein diets have gained popularity and achieved success:
1) They limit foods that create excess insulin (i.e. carbohydrate and starch foods)
2) They promote foods (i.e. protein foods) that keep blood sugar levels elevated and promote satiety.
Protein is important - however protein choices should ideally be low in saturated fat and eaten in moderation - and preferably during the day. Eating protein during the day keeps blood sugar levels elevated and limits cravings (cravings usually occur when blood sugar is low). Ensuring adequate protein intake during the day also maintains optimum mental functioning as amino acids found in protein foods stimulate brain functioning.
Rule 5: Don't Exercise to Lose Weight
It has now been proven that exercise does little to reduce or prevent cardiovascular disease (refer to "The Exercise Myth" written by cardiologist Dr H Solomon).
A healthy diet is the best route to healthy weight loss and should make up at least 90% of a weight loss program. Exercise should be done to strengthen and condition the musculature system of the body.
Traditionally, dieters who embark on an exercise program usually take up aerobic activities such as running, cycling, rowing or walking in an attempt to lose weight through "burning fat".
These activities are not effective at burning fat tissue and usually lead to a loss of muscle mass. The ratio of muscle on the body is the single greatest factor that determines metabolism - i.e. the rate at which the body utilizes energy and fat -, so by engaging in sustained aerobic activity almost ensures a slower metabolism by reducing the amount of active muscle tissue on the body.
The best exercise approach is any form of resistance exercise - such as Pilates, Weights, Circuits, Bodyweight exercises.
Activities such as running and cycling should be seen as recreational activities, done for enjoyment - not for weight loss.
These 5 rules are by no means finite, but are an attempt to help provide a starting point for those attempting to lose weight. Everyone is unique with individual dietary requirements, however, these practical rules will certainly help anyone trying to lose weight.
The 5 Rules at Work:
Here is an example of a day's sample menu. Most of the options consist of foods that are closer to their natural state. However, options also allow for indulgences and dessert.
(It is assumed that alcohol is consumed in moderation: 5-6 drinks per week)
Omelette with non-starch vegetables (e.g. broccoli, peppers, eggplant, zucchini)
Mixed Fruits (lower sugar if possible: Berries, Apples, Pears, Peaches) and Yoghurt sprinkled with flaked raw almonds and a drizzle of honey
Fruit Smoothie made with mixed fresh/frozen berries and yoghurt
Traditional Breakfast made with poached eggs, grilled lean bacon, grilled tomato & mushroom (no toast!)
Handful of Walnuts & Almonds and 1 Apple
Large Mixed Salad (mixed salad leaves, tomato, peppers, cucumber, celery, onions, - with Either:
"Greek" (added olives & Feta cheese),
"Chicken" (added grilled chicken - no mayo)
"Tuna" (added tuna chunks - no mayo)
Any protein (fish, steak, chicken breast) with non-starch veg or salad
Handful of Walnuts
Pear or Apple
Small bowl strawberries
Thin base Pizza with veg toppings and less cheese & salad
Small bowl ice cream Or A Chocolate Or Chocolate Mouse
Pasta Bolognese - reduced pasta (i.e. starch) portion, increased Bolognese sauce. Small Dessert of choice
Lamb, Chicken or Vegetarian Curry & Rice - Reduced rice portion (starch), and generous topping portion
Small dessert of choice