Updated: May 30
We are what we eat, drink, and breathe. While our bodies can do amazing biochemical things to what we ingest, our choices make a big difference. These days, there is a diet for everything; Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Mediterranean, Ornish, fast food, low carb, low fat, etc. This creates so much confusion!
Golden Rule of Diet: Eat real whole foods. These are foods that your great-grandparents would recognize. These are also food that were made by nature (as apposed to man, in a lab). Just getting rid of processed food and eating real whole foods will get most people 95% of the way there.
Food choices create an amazing amount of stress for people, and sadly the majority of diets end in failure. The most important factor regarding any healthy diet chosen, is the ability to maintain it. If you are attempting a new diet, exercise, stress reduction, and social support play a major role. Changing any behavior is so hard. Changing what we eat can be one of the hardest things to do. Try not and get down on yourself if you eat something bad, just try and do better the next time!
Food is our nourishment; it keeps us alive and makes our children grow. As such, food simply must always be enjoyed. If a person is not enjoying a diet they are on, it will never work. Start by loving yourself, then let that love flow outwards to other people. Let the good food you eat and prepare for others be an expression of that love. Do not use food as a reward or punishment.
Everyone has slightly different genes and preferences. This can make some people more susceptible to putting on weight with certain foods. It is also the reason why so many types of diets exist. Our culture is also so important when it comes to diet. If you were raised in a household where meat was eaten with every meal, it can be hard to eat less of it. Habits take weeks to months to solidify. Finding a diet that you enjoy and getting into a cycle of wellness is the best way to make everything work. Remember, nothing is set in stone, not even our genes. Just because you have always been overweight and unhealthy, does not mean that at any point in your life you cannot change. But you have to want to change.
There is no magic diet for weight loss. In fact, when you boil it down, really just one thing matters, calories. One calorie is equal to the energy needed to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. This energy unit is how we measure the energy contained in our foods. If a person can reduce the number of calories they eat, they will lose weight. To keep losing more weight, calories often need to be further reduced. There is no exact equation regarding the amount of calorie reduction and subsequent weight loss. It depends on a person’s size, metabolism, genes, and how much energy they expend through exercise.
While cutting out calories can be done utilizing any diet, some foods tend to leave us hungrier than others. Sugar is a great example. This energy packed food is quickly taken up by the body and leaves us hungry in less time. Protein and healthy fats, on the other hand, often causes more long-lasting satiety. So, while cutting out calories is really all that is needed, this can be easier with some foods than others. Eating a ketogenic diet with lower carbohydrates and higher healthy fats can be a good strategy for many people hoping to loose weight and have less hunger.
Time restricted eating is a great way to reduce total calories consumed. In time restricted eating, an individual will fast for 12, 16, or even 18 hours a day. During this time no calories can be consumed, though things like water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea are ok. During the additional 12, 8, or 6 hours of the day, individual are encouraged to eat when hungry.
Eliminating calories from the diet is ultimately needed to lose weight though. Try swapping out highly palatable processed foods with more whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, increasing your dietary fiber and protein intake. Many people say they are starving themselves. This is the hard part and great discipline is required here. Without the addition of sleep, stress reduction, exercise, purpose, support, and profound love for one’s own self, losing weight can be nearly impossible. Weight loss requires all “wellness” hands on deck!
Foods to Avoid or Enjoy in Extreme Moderation
Fast food like McDonalds, Wendy’s, Popeyes, Burger King, KFC, Chick-fil-a, and many others should essentially be avoided entirely or enjoyed in extreme moderation.
Sugar should also be enjoyed in extreme moderation. A person in the United States today eats as much sugar in one day as hunter gatherer peoples use to in an entire year. So much of our food is laden with sugar these days, it hides everywhere and has hundreds of different names on packages. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages.
Try and avoid deep fried foods. These contain harmful fats and are impossible to stop eating.
Processed foods with very high levels of sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates. Things like high fructose corn syrup should be avoided.
Eat Whole Food
All diets should consist of foods that our ancestors would recognize. Whole foods have been minimally processed or refined. Eat whole foods whenever possible.
Eat Lots of non-starchy Vegetables, Add in Some Nuts and Seeds
Fruits and vegetables are nature's gift. Fruits were designed to nourish animals, which then deposit seeds far away via excrement. It is an age-old mutualistic relationship. As such, fruits are nature's true candy.
Most all healthy diets will stand on a foundation of non-starchy vegetables. The amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients in vegetables is astounding. Shoot for a rainbow of colors. Simply put, colors equal valuable nutrients, so the more colors the better. Everyone should eat at least 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day.
So many people eat so few vegetables and fruits. It is no wonder why we are all so constipated and lack nutrients. Furthermore, by eating these bulky foods, one can fill their stomach, leading to satiety.
On top of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds are strongly encouraged. Tree nuts like walnuts, pecans, cashews, and brazil nuts are rich in protein and healthy omega 3 fats. Peanuts are a great source of energy. Seeds from pumpkins and many other plants provide great nutrients. These foods are high in calories though, so if trying to lose weight, be aware of this.
Special Dietary Needs
Many people have allergies, intolerances, and even diseases, such as Celiac, which prevent them from eating certain foods. The most common example is lactose intolerance, which leads to abdominal discomfort and gas every time dairy is consumed. But so many other real dietary allergies and intolerances exist. If foods cause problems, then they should be avoided.
The diet a person can stick to long term and enjoys is the best diet for them. Losing weight is almost impossible without other lifestyle changes like exercise, stress reduction, and purpose.
The best diet for you is the one you can stick to long term
Consume real whole foods
Eating healthy fats is a good thing
Shoot for at-least 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day
Make non-starchy vegetables the bulk of your diet
Avoid processed foods in bags and boxes and fast food at all times
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Pischke et al. Lifestyle Changes are Related to Reductions in Depression in Depression in Persons with Elevated Coronary Artery Disease