Once the dust and cookie crumbs from the holidays were swept clean, many people made some resolutions regarding their health, planning to shed some weight and get into better shape. By now, some are still carrying on with their good intentions, while others got derailed and are looking to get back on track. For both cases, here is some information and encouragement.
You're not alone if you're on a diet or thinking about starting one. On any given day, there are about 60 million U.S. Americans on a weight reduction diet. Out of a population of about 300 million, that means one in five of the people you might encounter today are right now in the process of attempting to take off extra pounds, whether they need to or not. During the course of this year, if data from the previous several years are predictive, half of the entire population will start a diet in the hopes of losing some weight, meaning that every alternate person you meet today will try to lose weight this year. Among women, 3 out of 4 feel they need to shed some pounds.
As you can see, the weight loss industry has an abundance of potential customers. Many companies and individuals are competing for a piece of that lucrative financial pie - and while there are good products and good advice available, there is also the well-known fact that some diet products don't work, and some actually prevent weight loss. Understanding a few nutritional principles would help many people avoid the mistake of starting a diet plan that is destined to fail. Oftentimes, it is the flawed diet plan that fails the dieter, not the other way around. According to numerous studies, the average dieter stands a 97% chance of regaining all the weight they struggled and suffered to lose, plus an extra pound or two. Therefore, the single most important thing to understand if you are contemplating a diet is this: research is conclusive - traditional dieting methods based on restricting calorie intake do not work. Period.
The quick explanation of why caloric restriction does not work in the long run for weight loss boils down to survival. In the face of a radical reduction of food intake, our bodies have miraculous systems designed to ensure that we don't starve. Our brains are programmed when faced with 'starvation' to conserve energy and slow down metabolism, create more fat from everything we eat, and to crank up the level of our hunger signals. Our bodies don't know the 'starvation' of calorie restriction is voluntary, and the survival programs don't care a bit about fitting into a smaller pair of jeans. The survival programs that are triggered also guarantee that once the diet is over, all of the weight that was painstakingly lost will be regained, and then some.
We fall for diet programs that defy common sense because there is so much conflicting information, so much powerful marketing competing for our dollars, and so much, well, desperation. We want something quick, easy, effective - benefits that are promised to us by many diet products and plans. However, low-calorie is over. Low-fat is history. High protein is on the wane. And low-carb is on its way out.
What does really work then? It's deceptively simple. Eat the foods our bodies have evolved to eat, in proper proportions and in proper combinations. Those combinations are not common knowledge in today's culture of convenience food, but they are known and proven through many sound research studies. A recommended resource is a short and direct book by Dr. Phillip Lipetz called "The Good Calorie Diet." Written in 1994, the principles it details of which foods we should eat in what combination are as old as humankind. The studies on which the book is based are sound.
The concepts in the book are easy to understand. The basics boil down to a few principles. The main two I'll give here so you can get started on the road to changing your eating habits for permanent and real weight loss. Eat whole food, not processed (that is, avoid foods that come in a package, can, or box). Avoid combining animal protein with starchy carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice) or fruit. This is aligned with the way our ancestors ate, and it makes sense to eat according to the diet humans have thrived upon for millennia.