Many of us have at some point in our lives made valiant attempts to out run a “bad diet”, and there are many who actually do remain ahead for a brief period of time. Some of them are likely to even lose a little weight at first which will only serve to make them feel justified in doubling down on their efforts when that beastly body fat once again begins to overcome thier lean muscle mass, when the muffin top is threatening to spill over the top of thier pants again. Most people find this to be a futile effort at best, they will discover they are putting on a little pudge despite endless miles on the treadmill or their weekly Zumba classes. If you follow diet related social media forums on any number of weight loss websites and or apps, you will see the topic of weight gain despite vigorous exercise come up at any given time on any given day. Unless you are a serious endurance athlete, you had better mind what, and how much, you shovel down your pie hole between exercise sessions.
If you have ever had a weight control issue, never assume or justify that you can eat what you want because you exercise on a regular basis. Thinking you can outrun your fork has about the same odds as thinking you can walk out of a casino a richer individual. The odds are against you every time despite the occasional winner. It is a gamble where some lucky people do win the Powerball Loterry, while most of us are just throwing our hard earned money away when we play.
What constitutes a bad diet?
Or, what constitutes a good diet? A good diet is one that is variable enough to ensure you are consuming all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body requires for optimal health. A good diet is one which will provide you all of these essentials while keeping within your caloric needs based on your individual Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Anything short of this is not a good diet. While there are examples that can be found which will bring on healthy weight loss in the short term, I am talking about in the long term as a lifestyle. Healthy dietary practices should be for life, and never have an end point as if you are trying to win a competition. Think back to the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare” and why the tortoise was the winner in the end.
A good diet is going to provide:
- Healthy Fats. Yes, despite the messaging from the sugar industry over the last 30 to 40 years, your body requires fats even if they are more calorically dense than carbohydrates and protein. Your body requires fats to give your body energy and to support cell growth. Fats help to protect our body’s organs and are an essential component in the absorption of nutrients. Fats are also essential in the body’s production of hormones. The bad word on fats began when the “sugar industry” began a campaign to take the focus from sugar as a cause of obesity and began spending millions of dollars pointing the finger at dietary fats and cholesterol as the cause of obesity and coronary heart disease while drastically downplaying the role of sucrose as a cause. It’s okay, eat your eggs!
- Carbohydrates. While you will see me writing a lot about not consuming sugar and keeping carbs low, I do not advocate not eating carbs at all as in the Keto Diet. What I promote is to still eat your carbs while keeping your intake at a level which is diabetic friendly. No less than 100 grams per day and no more than 165 grams per day, all dependent on, or as a percentage of your caloric needs based on your BMR. Twenty five to no more than thirty five percent of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates if you are a healthy individual. There is a lot of confusion about carbs and their importance to our health and to maintain a healthy weight. Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. Carbs are broken down into glucose before being absorbed into our bloodstream where the glucose is absorbed into our cells with the assistance of insulin. Glucose is our main source of energy and powers us through everything from vigorous exercise to just breathing. Where we have to watch our carb intake is when the excess is turned into glycogen which is found in the liver and muscles. If you eat more glucose than can be stored as glycogen, it is then converted to fat for long term storage for energy. Here in lies the problem with the typical western diets of today. We simply consume far too many carbohydrates, especially with added sugars in just about everything. There is not a good balance between carbs, fats and proteins in the diets of people who are overweight or obese.
- Fiber. This really falls under carbs as our fiber intake comes from our consumption of fruits and vegetables along with whole grain foods and from starchy foods such as potatoes. Fiber is the name given to a diverse range of compounds found in the cell walls of foods that come from plants. Fiber will lower your risk of contracting heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. It is recommended that an adult consume 30 grams per day for good health.
- Protein. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Every cell in your body contains protein, the basic structure of which is a chain of amino acids. Protein is required by your body to repair cells and to create new ones. Unlike fats and carbs, your body does not store protein, therefore it must be replaced by your diet. Protein is essental for growth and development of children, teens and pregnant women. Protein is broken down into amino acids during digestion, your body requires them to maintain good health. Amino acids are broken down into essential, and non-essential. There are 9 essential amino acids which can not be made by the body and must come from your food. You need to to eat a good balance of them through the day for optimal health. While essential amino acids are important in muscle development and repair, a deficiency can negatively impact your entire body including the nervous, reproductive, immune and digestive systems. Besides the essential amino acids, there are another 11 non-essential amino acids which are made with in the human body and do not have to come from our diets. Remember that while those of us who are athletic or physically active need higher amounts of protein than those who are not, we do not have free license to just eat as much as we want. We still have to keep our daily caloric intake within our physical needs based on our BMR. If you are exceeding your caloric needs, excess protein will be converted to glucose which if not utilized for energy, will simply be turned into fat.
- Micronutrients. Vitamins and minerals.An adequate intake of these micronutrients are vital to good health as they are vital for growth, immune function, brain development and many other functions. Depending on their function, micronutrients play a role in disease fighting within your body.Our bodies do not produce vitamins or minerals therefore they must be obtained through food. Because the content in each food is different, it is imperative that you eat a diet with enough variety to supply all of your needs.
Let’s see here, I believe it is pretty obvious to most what bad dietary practices are. If a diet does not provide all the elements required for good health and is loaded with sugar and preservatives, then it is crap. Period. We can not out run bad dietary habits for a few reasons:
- A bad diet is usually heavily laden with added sugar which both increases the calories drastically and increases our cravings for more of the same. Simply do the math, if you only burn 2000 calories in a day while consuming 2500 calories per day you can expect to gain 1 pound of body fat per week if your BMR only calls for 2000 calories.
- A bad diet is going to be one where you eat a lot of fast food, pizzas, and sweet treats like cookies and cake. You can very easily consume 2000 calories in just one trip to the local McFatty Burger and Fry joint. If you visit a pizza parlor, a slice of a large Supreme pizza can cost you 410 calories alone. If you have 3 slices with 2 cold beers you bave consumed about 1400 calories. Now add this to that 2000 calorie lunch you had earlier in the day. The numbers are not looking too good. You are going to have to run your tail off once you have recovered from all the simple carbs. Take this 3400 calories and add the calories from maybe a candy bar and a few cookies during the day to it. And then the additional calories from a few soda pops too and you had better be a serious endurance athlete if you think you can exercise off all of these excess calories.
- A bad diet is going to often be a “Fad” diet. Think about the Cabbage Soup diet, Detox Diet, Grapefruit diet and on and on. The problem with these diets that claim you can rapidly lose weight is while you might lose some weight rapidly, they are not conducive for long term health. These diets are not sustainable, and once you crash and burn, many folks will usually put back on all of the weight they lost. Here in lies another problem, if you cut your daily caloric intake too drastically, you will lose valuale lean muscle mass along with your body fat. Lean muscle is vital to your metabolism and helps your body to burn fat more efficiently. If you lose lean muscle, and then gain all of your lost weight back, odds are it all came back as fat which now means your body fat percentage is higher than it was before you went on the fad rapid weight loss diet. This higher percentage of body fat only serves to lower your metabolism which means it is going to be harder to lose weight again. If you never take action to retain lean muscle mass, your body fat percentage can still be excessive even at your so-called ideal body weight. You will be what is referred to as “skinny fat”. If you are skinny fat, you are no more healthy than you were at a heavier weight. Thirty percent body fat is no more good for your body at 125 pounds as it would be at 200 pounds.
Only because I have seen it in the news lately I am going to address Keto, yet I am not going to promote it as good nor am I going to put it down as bad. Keto involves consuming a high fat high protein diet with only 10% or less of your calories coming from carbs. The concept is to deplete your body of glucose and then go into a state of ketosis where you burn ketones for energy instead of glucose. Ketones are produced by the liver from fat directly which means you are burning fat for energy all of the time instead of glucose. Thousands of people have lost weight and have retained their health through the Keto diet. Keto in the short term is very effective, and there are about as many reports of bad studies as there are good when it is practiced in the long term. Therefore it is easy for people to be mislead in favor or against it. I will list a few pragmatic points in regards to Keto, both pro and con:
- If you are diabetic you might consult with your doctor before beginning Keto. A problem is that with almost all of the calories coming from fat and protein, some people will over eat protein to the point where the excess can be converted to blood sugar. This is going to be more of a problem if you consume more calories than you burn through exercise. This is one of the issues which arise from too restrictive a diet.
- On Keto, you are supposed to eat more fat than protein which can become a problem when people still have unrealistic expectations in regards to consuming fats. Refer back to the last paragraph for emphasis.
- Keto has been used primarily to treat pediatric epilepsy. About half of the chidren who have been placed on Keto saw a drop in the instances of their seizures.
- Many people lose weight on Keto and report not only weight loss, but also healthier numbers on their blood labs than when they were obese. While this is great, lowered blood lab numbers can also come just from losing weight, period. Correlation does not always mean causation.
- Because you are no longer consuming carbs, your cravings for sugary foods will go away. To be honest, you can simply just quit eating added sugars while still consuming complex carbohydrates for the same effect.
- Your intake of fiber is greatly reduced on Keto which means you can, and maybe should, expect constipation to become an issue.
- Keto is great for reducing the amount of visceral fat in your abdomen which reduces your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Many people report feeling more energized while on Keto. Of course, the same can be said for a healthy diet which provides a variety of foods which deliver all of your essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
- Keto burns fat by putting you in a state of ketosis. This can also be accomplished by a high protein, low carbohydrate diet coupled with intermittent fasting on the 16:8 protocol where you fast for 16 hours and then consume all of your daily caloric needs during your 8 hour feeding window. The latter might take a little longer to reach your weight loss objective, but slow weight loss is always healthier than rapid.
- Keto will cause a drop in your triglyceride levels which are usually elevated by a sedentary lifestyle and high consumption of simple carbs. Lowering your triglycerides in turn lower your risk of heart disease.
- Some women report painful periods or menstrual cramps once beginning Keto.
- I have seen several reports lately about what is being referred to as Keto Crotch where women are allegedly having problems with feminime odor when Keto changes their PH balance. I have also just read a long detailed report by Lauren Streicher, MD Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, where she debunks this myth and said this has never truly been studied.
- There have been a few different news reports also of late where Keto is being blamed for Atrial Fibrillation or A-Fib. I honestly need to read up more on this, but my question would be; since the people in the study have been obese in the first place, what are the odds they would have developed A-Fib regardless of Keto or not? Correlation is not always causation. Be careful in believing what you read which leads to another consideration in regards to Keto. I concede I may be off track here, but it seems in my experience as of late, most of the bad publicity I have seen in regards to Keto have been popping up since Weight Watchers lost 33 percent of their value on the stock exchange. Again, correlation does not always mean causation even when the timing appears perfectly aligned. Just remember, a good portion of what you read comes from those with an agenda.
Friends, eat a healthy diet where all your body’s needs are taken care of and with doctors approval, begin some kind of physical fitness regimen even if it is walking. Check our Calorie Calculator for your daily caloric needs and then begin tracking what you eat in order to ensure you do not exceed your needs. Make this a part of your lifestyle where it is just something you do after each meal. It need not be complicated nor time consuming. If you exercise, do not over estimate your caloric burn. This is a huge problem for many. The number of calories burned on treadmill read outs and some fitness trackers are not always accurate. If you are eating healthy and exercising while still gaining weight, it is because you are still eating more than you are burning. It is truly that simple, you are not a special snowflake where this concept does not apply unless there is an underlying medical reason. But in reality, even conditions such as hypothyroidism which will make it easier for an individual to gain weight, can be mitigated by a common sense approach to their diet by reducing calories
One Comment Add yours
David, this is a great, timely piece. We can always find excuses when we’re not losing weight, especially if we work out. This article reveals some of the reasons behind the excuses. Excellent work!