When it comes to nutrition, it can seem pretty confusing. Your doctor may tell you that you should try to lose weight by counting calories. But one day at work your boss tells you that they completely cut out carbs and never counted a single calorie, and then you see Karen on facebook posted that she lost 12 lbs by doing Keto. So which method is best for you?
Over the years there have been many fad diets, each claiming that they will finally be the solution you have been looking for to help you lose weight. I have definitely fallen prey to several of these diets, it can be really hard not to! For years I ate “paleo” meaning I didn’t eat grains or dairy. I thought if I ate any other way it would be unhealthy. But guess what? I never lost weight, and I found myself stressed out in social situations, I was always worried about what I would eat when going out with friends. I drove myself crazy trying to find paleo versions of regular recipes when in reality a paleo banana bread isn’t going to be much better for you than the real deal, and it definitely won’t taste as good. After that I gave Keto a try, however I definitely didn’t do it correctly and was most likely never in ketosis, like most people that try this diet. I actually gained weight while trying keto and it caused my eating to become even more disordered.
You may be wondering, why are these diets so popular if most of them don’t work? In my opinion I think people like having something to blame for their difficulty in losing weight. It also makes it seem like the solution is easy and a quick fix. Having trouble losing weight? Cut out carbs completely, sounds simple right?
The reality is that the villainization of one specific food group or macronutrient has been going on for a long time. Years ago the sugar industry funded research that claimed fat was to blame for many problems caused by sugar, this led to the demonization of fat and the era of fat free and reduced fat products. But guess what happened when they removed the fat? It lost flavor, so instead they added more sugar. Just like with any information in life it’s not only important to review the findings but to look at where the funding is coming from. When coca cola is funding studies on nutrition do you think the scientists that are doing the research are going to publish anything negative about their products? Not if they want to keep receiving money.
When it comes to specific food groups like dairy or grains, unless you have an allergy or noticeably feel better when not consuming these foods, there is no reason to completely exclude them from your diet. Not all dairy products are created equally as well, most aged cheeses, like cheddar, have been fermented and are easier to stomach and digest if you are someone that has issues with dairy. Full milk fat products and soft cheeses may cause more issues. If you do not have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, there is no reason to cut it out of your diet. Most gluten free products are actually worse for you than their regular gluten filled counterparts. It’s the same concept as what i described earlier when I tried to make normal recipes paleo. It most likely will not taste as good, have more sugar and higher calories. In addition I personally feel that the increase of self diagnosed gluten intolerance has made it more challenging for those who truly cannot have it, it is less likely they will be believed and taken seriously when dining out.
There is a reason we eat all three macronutrients, if you are unaware of what they are, they are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Each macronutrient plays an important role in the body, especially for females. When we drastically reduce or completely cut out the amount of any of the three, there are many negative implications. I could write an entirely separate post about the role each macronutrient plays but I’ll keep it short and just name a few. Fat is essential for hormone regulation, cell function, and protection of vital organs, carbs play a role in brain, muscle and cellular function and is the body’s preferred fuel source, protein provides the body with amino acids which are the building blocks for growing muscle and are important for brain and nervous system function as well.
When we think about why people cut out specific foods or macronutrients, it is usually because they heard it worked for someone else or they read about it in an article or an ad that they saw online. In a world of over information it can be easy to get lost when trying to figure out what is best when it comes to nutrition. Just like I say with exercise the best thing to do is keep it simple. Don’t cut out food groups or macronutrients, as this is not sustainable. You will most likely feel deprived and fatigued, as they are essential to helping your body function properly. If a diet is not sustainable then it is not a good diet. While there may be times that you feel a little hungry and have to make some smaller sacrifices, you shouldn’t feel like you cannot live your life or like you’re always starving. Sustainability is also important for life after you complete a diet. If you lose a bunch of weight in an unhealthy and unsustainable way and then gain it all back was the diet actually successful? It’s important to think about the long term when it comes to nutrition. I promise if you choose to lose weight sustainably even though it may take longer it will be easier to keep it off and stay on track, as you won’t feel guilty for incorporating foods that you enjoy and you won’t have cravings or feel deprived after completing your diet.