Welcome to 2011 and another opportunity to embrace dieting and weight loss in the New Year. Losing weight is probably the number one New Year’s resolution. More than any other vow, losing weight is embraced with passion and vigor; but often just as quickly the excitement fades and the frustration of dieting ups and downs becomes a reality once again. Soon the old eating habits have returned and things are right back where they first started.
Will 2011 be a different experience? Is this the year when you finally lose some extra weight and keep it off? More importantly, is this the year when you make those eating and lifestyle changes permanent and take yourself on the road to a more healthy you? I believe it can be that year and I will share those things that in my experience most often are the obstacles to lasting weight loss as well as those areas that are often neglected by the common weight loss approaches.
Most of the diets people follow create weight loss through one of two approaches or a combination of both. The first is to simply decrease your calorie consumption over time to lose weight. Often this is done by limiting portion sizes and/or replacing a meal or two a day with a low-calorie nutritional bar or shake. The other common diet plans shift the body into a ketogenic “fat-burning” state by limiting the consumption of carbohydrates below a physiological threshold so that the preferred source for energy moves from foods eaten during the day to the body’s own stores of energy… or fat.
In general most of the diets today utilizing either approach are encouraging more balance and diversity in the food choices that participants eat. That is a good thing and I think these approaches work. In fact, I see it over and over again in my office. Folks come in and they have lost weight in the past on various plans, but they have easily put the weight right back on. So what is wrong with these approaches and how come the results don’t last?
There is not anything wrong with a low calorie approach to losing weight. The problem arises when the lower calorie count is the result of meal replacement by bars or shakes. Though this may be an effective way to curtail calories during the diet, too often the number of calories consumed jumps right back up when eating returns to the pre-diet patterns. Meal replacement bars and shakes do not support long term diet goals because it is not sensible to continue eating that way indefinitely. Instead we should focus on cooking and eating “real food”. Being aware of the portions we consume is also recommended practice for our daily eating. Unfortunately, there is an accepted disregard and unconsciousness with which we eat today; often unaware of the colossal portions we mindlessly shovel into our mouths. Decreasing portion sizes is a good thing. Individuals have to become versed in fixing real foods and eating correct portions on a daily basis if health is to be obtained. A successful diet should impart practices that carry over to daily eating after the weight loss goals are met.
A ketogenic, or low carb/high protein diet, approach to weight loss has become increasingly popular during the past two decades. Participants are typically drawn to this dietary program because it generally allows an unlimited consumption of approved foods – mostly high protein meats and fats. The body naturally shifts into a ketogenic, fat-burning state, and weight loss soon follows. This dietary technique also keeps blood sugar and insulin levels stable during the day. An added benefit of this approach that is quite often not discussed is the elimination of the more common food sensitivities. Here are the foods that I most often see individuals being reactive to: wheat, corn, soy, and dairy. The structure and requirements of the ketogenic diet eliminates these common foods. Wheat, corn, soy, and dairy are not food allergies in the more traditional sense. Instead the problem they present is more accurately described as a low-level sensitivity where frequent consumption increases systemic inflammation, decreases and stagnates digestive functioning, and leads to chronic water retention and weight gain over time. The actual food sensitivities vary from person to person, but most individuals that remove food sensitivities from their diet will lose weight, regardless of any other dietary changes. If someone loses weight following a ketogenic diet and secondarily unknowingly reaps the benefits from the elimination of food sensitivities, the weight will come right back on when they begin consuming the sensitive foods again. A lasting approach to weight loss should help participants discover their individual food sensitivities so that they can avoid them long term, maintain their ideal weight, and greatly improve their overall health.
There really isn’t a magic bullet or quick fix weight loss solution. The keys to successful long term weight loss are very simple in theory, just not necessarily easy to implement. The first step is to consume real foods in reasonable portion sizes, with a balance of proteins and carbohydrates at each meal and/or snack to keep blood sugars and insulin levels stable throughout the day. The next step is to avoid processed junk and convenience foods. Finally, in order to keep unwanted weight off, discover and avoid your individual food sensitivities. By following these important lifestyle practices 2011 will be the year you start down the road to a happy, healthy you.