NAVIGATING THE DIET MELANGE

NAVIGATING THE DIET MELANGE

This is the time of year when diet companies and weight loss plans, make promises to transform you — producing a better, fitter, and more amazing you.  Many suggest these remarkable changes will occur almost overnight, with little or no effort.  As with anything in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  I decided to do some research.  Every year U.S. News & World Reports puts out a list of the best diets.  I checked out those top rated.  Here is a link to the article:  https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall.

The left-hand column of the article provides ways you can customize a diet.  There are rankings (kinds of programs), or you can modify the type of regime, as well as specific preferences you desire.

When I started on my weight loss journey, I had 2 objectives:  1) Lose weight and 2) Not ever have another heart attack.  To be honest, there is no guarantee of the second goal. The reality is I have cardiovascular disease (CVD).  After my myocardial infarction (MI), stents were inserted, and it resolved an immediate problem.  It did not take away the CVD.  For me, this is a good-news, bad-news scenario.  The bad news is I could experience (and almost did) another cardiac event, the good news is I have learned and continue to learn how to listen to my body and take better care of it.

The top 3 diets overall, at U.S. News were:  1) The Mediterranean Diet, 2) The Dash Diet, 3) The Flexitarian Diet.  In all 3 plans, you do the shopping at your local market  — there are no premade meals to buy.  While they all recommend fresh fruits and vegetables, you might consider frozen vegetables, which are generally harvested in their prime and quick-frozen.  Be sure you get the veggies without sauces, butter, etc.  Plant-based proteins are advocated (legumes, beans, nuts), but you don’t have to give up lean meat.  There are hundreds of recipes available online and cookbooks dedicated to all 3.

I was listening to Dr. Jen Ashton, the Chief Health and Medical Editor, and Chief Medical Correspondent for ABC News and Good Morning America, discuss the finding from U.S. News.  In addition to being a physician, Dr. Ashton received a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Columbia University in 2016.  Credentials in nutrition are a rarity among physicians.  One thing Dr. Ashton emphasized is that any diet has to be “sustainable.”  If any program is not easy to follow you will likely give up.  All 3 of these diets are easy to follow.

Since a primary reason for researching diets was because of my concern over heart health, I feel compelled to mention the Ornish Diet, which tied for #1 with the Mediterranean Diet in the Heart Healthy category.  A preeminent difference between this and the Mediterranean Diet is that it is incredibly restrictive with the use of oils (even unsaturated), foods containing cholesterol, animal products, etc.  The plan emphasizes stress management and exercise in addition to diet.  Both are essential to maintaining a healthy heart.

While I don’t follow it flawlessly, my diet most resembles the Mediterranean Diet.  Hell, I am Italian after all.  Of course, if you look at the European portion of the Mediterranean Sea, it encompasses Greece, Italy, France, Turkey, and Croatia — all with different kinds of cuisine.  Yet they all share a similar pyramid.  All meals include the base (this is where most of your food will come from) encompassing fruits, grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, along with herbs and spices.  Next up on the pyramid is fish and seafood.  These you have at least 2 times per week.  Next up is poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt which you have in moderate portions daily to weekly.  The tip of the pyramid contains meats and sweets — these foods, of course, are in limited quantities.

There is one other thing we must consider when discussing the Mediterranean Diet.  People from that region, do not hop in the car to go to the mall or market.  They walk just about everywhere or ride bikes (how un-American).  In other words, they are not couch-potatoes, they are active.  Don’t expect to lose weight, if you aren’t moving.  Think at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise.  If you’ve been inactive, start off incorporating physical activity 3 days a week, increasing your workout as you can.

So there you have it.  The top diets, according to U.S. News.  There are more.  Under best weight loss diets, you can find Weight Watchers, Volumetrics Diet; Best Fast Weight Loss Diets gives us HMR Diet, Atkins Program and Keto Diet; Best Commercial Diets include Jenny Craig and Nutritarian.  OMG, it goes on and on.

There are additional charges to join many of the Weight Loss and Commercial Diet Plans, plus monthly fees.  Some have group meetings, meetings with counselors (or a combination of both) and some are available online You need to choose what works for you.  Prepared food can be purchased directly from the company or at your local market, reducing preparation time for the user.  Just remember Dr. Ashton’s advice, whatever you select, IT MUST BE SUSTAINABLE.

Early on I tried Weight Watchers and dropped it because while it offered portion control and a pretty healthy approach, I didn’t know how many macro and micronutrients I was getting per meal or per day.  Was I getting too many carbs, too much fat?  It simply didn’t follow the lifestyle of a control freak.  However, others swear by it and if it’s working for you, stick with it.

Finally, I judge my diet results, not on a number on the scale, nor a dress size.  I look at my waist size (more on this in a future post) and most importantly on lab results, and maintaining healthy blood pressure.

Our obsession with diet has created a multi-million dollar industry, which is difficult to navigate.  We need to have a “buyer beware,” sign out there as we evaluate what’s in our best interests.

What do you do?  How do you measure your success?  There was a lot to this post.  I hope I didn’t discourage you.  Let me know your thoughts.

 

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