DIET IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
LC Arisman, Certified Health Navigator & Personal Trainer
My grandmother had a magnet on her refrigerator that said “Diet is a Four-Letter Word.” As a child, I thought it was funny because there are four letters and I did not yet know what a four-letter-word meant. But year after year, I’m discovering that as usual, my grandmother was right.
45 million Americans go on a diet each year and we spend $33 BILLION each year on weight loss products. If diets and weight loss products worked, we’d be a very healthy country. But more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, so something isn’t working.
Generally speaking, I don’t stand by any “diet.” A diet is usually restrictive and temporary, and therefore not very effective. Consistency is key, whether we’re talking about exercise or nutrition. It’s not just about what you do today, but what you are able to do over the course of a week, a month, six months, a year. And restrictive, temporary diets are not sustainable.
Leading researchers agree that the composition of a person’s diet is more important than the overly simplistic “calories in, calories out.” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity expert and the medical director of The Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa and Hall, believes in flexible programming that can be tailored to individual patients based on their own strengths and challenges. This, he believes, is more important than identifying one diet that will work for everyone. After all, everybody is different and every BODY is different. Kevin Hall, a physicist at the National Institutes of Health is also a proponent of helping people sustain healthy lifestyles rather than determining which diet is “best.”
The “best diet” is going to be one you can stick to. And here’s where I start to bend my “no diets” rule. The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower the bad LDL cholesterol, and reduce the incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases.
More of a way-of-eating and less of a “diet,” the Mediterranean Diet focuses on eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Fish is emphasized over red meat and herbs and spices are used instead of salt to add flavor. Rather than counting macros and fat totals, the Mediterranean Diet focuses on choosing healthier, unsaturated fats like olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and fish. There’s also an emphasis on enjoying food with family or friends rather than on-the-go.
In fact, in a food pyramid, physical activity and socialization create the base, which then fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seed, and spices build upon. After that comes fish and seafood, then poultry, eggs, and dairy, with sweets and meats at the tippy top. Water is encouraged as the primary beverage, with an allowance for red wine. Because of these components, I am a fan of the Mediterranean diet. It can be easily adapted and enjoyed without a feeling of deprivation.
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