Updated: Oct 28, 2021
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!
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.
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 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 plant protein. Many people say they are starving themselves. This is the hard part and great discipline is required here. Without the addition of 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!
A good way to keep yourself honest is to take a picture of everything you eat, every day. Include nutrition labels if available. Denial is a powerful thing in weight loss. Complete self-honesty is required for any successful diet. While a lot of diets can get the job done, there are a few common principles, highlighted below.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), Food Production, and Processed Foods (PF)
Genetically modified foods and processed foods are not intrinsically bad. Remember that olive oil, often touted for its health benefits, is in fact processed. One tablespoon of olive oil takes about 20 olives to make. Such processing can result in very high caloric foods.
Most GMOs foods contain resistance geans to pesticides like roundup (glyphosate). This allows food producers to spray said chemicals directly onto crops without killing plants. Consumers then eat both the foods and the chemicals sprayed on them. This is a really bad thing. For this reason, we recommend avoiding all GMO foods and trying to eat organic whenever possible.
Eat organic produce, free range chicken, grass fed beef, and wild caught fish.
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 Vegetables and Fruits, Add in Some Nuts and Seeds
Raw 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 vegetables and fruits. These should be in their natural form, as if just picked, as much as possible. While cooking them can make for some delicious dishes, try and eat them in their raw form, close to the time of picking, as much as possible. The amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients in vegetables and fruits 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.
Due to the large amounts of pesticide chemicals sprayed directly on conventionally grown agriculture in the United States, we always recommended consuming organic produce.
Food From Animal Sources
Why is everybody bashing animal protein these days? The reasons are simple. Ever since we started eating large amounts of animal protein, our rates of heart disease have skyrocketed. As heart disease is the biggest killer on the block, this is a big problem. When other cultures around the world have adopted our United States meat centric diet, they too have developed heart disease. In areas like Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Icaria, Greece (blue zones) where people regularly live to > 90 years and remain in good physical condition, a modest, mostly vegetarian diet is enjoyed.
My recommendation is to enjoy animal protein much more sparingly than most other Americans, or if desired, to avoid it entirely. Try to limit meat consumption < 7 meals a week. Enjoy heavier, fatty meats only on special occasions. Sadly, we should probably eliminate processed meats like bacon from our diet all together. In the old days people would eat a big steak at special events like a wedding. Now, many Americans eat this dish multiple times a day. In fact, many of us eat every meal like it’s a feast. This is not good.
On top of the health concerns, serious environmental problems also exist. It takes 10 times the resources to produce protein calories from meat that it does from plants. Several sources have stated that the meat industry has a higher greenhouse gas footprint than the transportation industry.
In spite of the above problems, meat can be a very good source of nutrition when sourced properly. For those individual looking to add muscle mass or in need of dense energy, animal protein can be great option. Always try and eat free range chickens and eggs, grass fed/grass finished beef, and wild caught fish when consuming meat. Feedlots are disgusting. Do not eat meat raised in this manner. Farm raised fish are fed GMO corn. We are what we eat. So is our livestock.
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. It is always a good idea to avoid a given type of food for 4 to 8 weeks, if you believe it is causing problems. This is commonly done with dairy and gluten.
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 mostly plants and other whole foods
Eating healthy fats is a good thing
Shoot for at-least 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day
Eat organic produce, organic free range chickens, organic grass fed beef, and wild caught fish whenever possible.
Avoid processed foods in bags and boxes and fast food at all times
- Tuso PJ. Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. Perm J. 2013
- Ornish et al. INTENSIVE LIFESTYLE CHANGES MAY AFFECT THE PROGRESSION OF PROSTATE CANCER. J. of Urology. 2005
- Ornish et al. Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA. 1998
- Frattaroli et al. Angina Pectoris and Atherosclerotic Risk Factors in the Multisite Cardiac Lifestyle Intervention Program. Am J of Cardiology. 2008
- Silberman et al. The Effectiveness and Efficacy of an Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation Program in 24 Sites. Am J of Cardiology. 2009
Pischke et al. Lifestyle Changes are Related to Reductions in Depression in Depression in Persons with Elevated Coronar