Stop This Diet Rollercoaster… I Want to Get Off!
Here’s how to break free from the crazy carousel of
dieting – for good.
Sam Rose, CN MS
Are you a diet junkie?
Check which of the
___Do you avidly seek the latest
guru to give you the magic answer to weight loss?
___Have you endured liquid
diets, high protein diets and low protein diets not to mention cabbage soup and
___Does your home bookshelf
feature more diet books than amazon.com?
___Can you name the number of
calories in dozens of different foods?
___Do you combine, measure
and weigh your food so often that you wish you’d majored in biochemistry?
___Does your brain hurt from
constantly trying to remember exactly what amounts of carbohydrates, protein
and fat are optimal to melt your fat away?
Healthy eating was never
meant to be this complicated. This year forget about counting calories,
calculating your BMI and physical over-training. If you really need to lose
weight, it’s time for a radical, new approach: Common sense. The tips that
follow, taken from my experience and that of other holistic nutritionists, can
help. Before we get into these practical tips, however, let’s look at why
diets are problematic and why so many people are overweight.
studies indicate that over 50% of America’s adult population is overweight, and a staggering
30% of everyone over the age of 40 is obese. (Obesity is defined as 20% over
the normal weight for your age.) In all my years as a clinical nutritionist, I
have never seen such confusion about a subject as there seems to be over weight
loss. More people than ever are attempting to avoid the foods that will make
them fat. Ironically, as statistics show, more of us are fatter than ever
Maybe you’re one
of the 80 million Americans who went on a diet last year and failed to keep the
weight off, as 95% of us do. If so, you may be asking for trouble. Chronic
dieting can lead to gallstones, arthritis, edema, high cholesterol, damaged
liver function, pancreatic complications, disordered heart rate, abdominal
pain, gout and decreased libido. If that’s not scary enough, check your wallet.
Annual revenues of Weight Watchers are $1.6 billion, Jenny Craig takes in $400
million and NutriSystems tips the scale at $225 million.
Some of the blame
for our unnatural preoccupation with weight has to be attributed to society’s
arbitrary definition of physical beauty. Culture to culture, century to
century, our physical ideals have changed, presenting a moving target few
people could actually hit.
Vanity may compel
us to squeeze into the physical mold glorified in fashion magazines, but our
bodies will naturally return to the size and shape to which we are genetically
predisposed. The guilt, frustration and, in some cases, self-hate associated
with falling into the trap of societal esthetics perpetuates the alternating
cycles of self-deprivation and dietary excess called the yo-yo phenomenon. If
you’ve been on the diet rollercoaster, it’s time to get off.
Diet: What’s in a Name?
The word “diet,”
to most of us, connotes a dramatic and temporary shift in our eating behavior,
depriving ourselves of the foods we love for a seemingly interminable amount of
time in the hopes of dropping a few unwanted pounds. After this, we go right
back to our old pound-producing habits.
The truth is that
the word “diet” comes from the Latin “diaeta,” meaning “way of life.” It is our
way of life, not the occasional hiatus, that dictates the extent of our girth
and overall health. If you are serious about losing weight, you’ll need to
change your way of life. Don’t bother making a commitment to lose a certain
amount of weight. Your pledge to take off 10 pounds will sustain you only long
enough to shed the weight, and you’ll find yourself back where you started (or
heavier!) faster than you can say “double cheeseburger and fries.”
On the other hand, if you make a commitment to achieve and maintain good health,
you’ll not only lose weight but you’ll keep it off for life. Know that the
amount of weight you lose isn’t nearly as important as keeping this amount of
Getting Back on Track
your way back to health and an optimum weight will require a willingness to be
honest with yourself to determine which elements in your way of life produced
the unwanted weight. In my experience, the cause is most often a combination of
two or more of the following factors: Malnutrition, inactivity, internal toxicity
and stress. Try these four simple strategies to correct for these factors and
begin your new, healthy weight loss journey.
Strategy 1: Think Dense
(Nutrient Dense, That Is)
It sounds silly,
but most overweight people are undernourished. Their bodies are starved for
nutrients. Nature intended the human machine to run on small amounts of
nutrient dense food. The heavy person is invariably consuming large amounts of
nutrient deficient food such as highly refined or processed foods, white flour products,
sugary foods and fatty fast foods. The human body’s natural instinct to
survive will always, in the face of a shortfall of necessary raw materials,
conserve the energy it has and look for ways to store more. That
energy being conserved is the fat you want to lose.
Take your cue
from our Paleolithic ancestors who, like every other animal on the planet, ate
what the earth provided, in its natural, unadulterated form. They grazed
throughout the day eating when they felt hungry and stopping when they had had
enough. Anthropologists have discovered that the Paleolithic diet was comprised
primarily of fruits and vegetables and included a variety of animal and
vegetable protein sources. Grains were a relatively late addition to the human
diet, are not required by our bodies and should be eaten in
probably thousands of ways to mix and match these foods to keep things
interesting. It just requires a little imagination and experimentation. I
recently had the shiatsu therapist in our office start eating according to this
nutrient dense philosophy, and the weight is coming off so fast he can hardly
keep his pants up.
Strategy 2: Turn the Fat Around
There’s a saying
in the nutrition biz: exercise and any weight loss program will work; without
exercise, no weight loss program will work. That might be a bit of a stretch,
but you get the point. The human machine was designed for movement, yet more
and more of us lead sedentary lives. Data from the US Preventative Task Force
reveals that only 20% of the adult population exercise at a level recommended
for cardiovascular benefit, while another 40% exercise at much lower levels.
This leaves 40% who are completely sedentary.
ancestors were far more active than we are. Our challenge, in this age of
mechanized transportation and desk jobs, is to give our bodies an adequate
level of activity. This will vary from person to person. In general, 40 minutes
of some form of aerobic exercise done three times a week will do the trick.
This will not only burn up extra calories while you work out, it will also
enhance your rate of metabolism (and fat-burning potential) for a full 24 hours
after each session.
Strategy 3: Trash Those
toxicity is another element holistic practitioners believe to often be
associated with weight gain. Metabolic efficiency tests I run at my office
indicate that my overweight clients have poor digestion, absorption and
elimination. In most cases, these individuals are utilizing less than half of
the food they eat, leaving over 50% as waste.
The channels of
elimination of the body – the lungs, colon, lymph, kidneys and skin – were
designed to process roughly 20% of food as waste. When these systems are asked
to handle over two and a half times their capacity, the result can be a
build-up of metabolic debris, or toxins. As these toxins accumulate, the body
may look for places to store them away from its vital organs. It searches for
nice, safe places like fat deposits in the hips, thighs, buttocks and belly.
When there are not enough fatty deposits available, the body will manufacture
more of them to act as toxic waste sites.
If you are unable
to lose weight despite vigorous exercise and a reasonably healthy diet, the
reason could be internal toxicity. To lose the toxins, you’ll need to improve
your metabolic efficiency and cleansing your body of standing waste. As you
begin to use more and waste less of your food, you’ll take a tremendous load
off the eliminative channels and allow them to lower your body’s toxic load.
When the poisons are gone, your body will gladly let go of the fat it no longer
needs for defense.
Strategy 4: Hop Off the
If you find
yourself eating for reasons other than enjoyment and the nourishment of your
body, stress could be a contributing factor to your weight problem. Physical,
mental and emotional stresses all have disrupting effects on our bodies. When
not addressed or improperly managed, stress can create an imbalance that your
body will seek to rectify. “Medicating” yourself with sweet or fatty foods to
relieve stress or burying painful emotions under excess food will not improve
the situation. On the contrary, the extra weight brought on by these quick
“fixes” will ultimately become yet another stress for you to
techniques, meditation, yoga and exercise are all great for lowering the high
stress levels associated with our modern lives. Don’t underestimate the power
of stress. As long as your body feels threatened by internal or external
stresses, it will hold tight to its protective shield of fat.
Breaking Free From Dieting
is a primary risk factor for developing heart disease (the nation’s number one
killer), high blood pressure, kidney and liver trouble, diabetes and certain
cancers including breast cancer. Certainly, these are compelling reasons to
shed the extra weight you may be carrying. However, the solution isn’t rushing
around frantically counting calories and eating grapefruit and cabbage soup.
Instead, say No to chronic dieting and Yes to a healthy lifestyle and comprehensive
approach to weight management.
Common Sense Keys to
Use these simple keys to
enjoy a diet-free, healthy weight loss:
- Eat whole foods in as close
to their natural state as possible.
- Eat consciously. Chew
thoroughly and stop eating when your body tells you it has had enough.
- Separate foods that don’t
digest well together, most notably, proteins and starches.
- Relax. Calm down before you
sit down to a meal.
- Avoid late night snacks.
- Drink enough water. Thirst
is often misinterpreted as hunger.
- Detoxify your body.
- Get a handle on stress.
Sam Rose, CN MS is a licensed and certified nutritionist
and owner of Rose Nutrition Center in West Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-473-8835.