Even though our habits and behavior around food, and specifically our relationship to food, is crucial to whether we can actually attain and maintain a healthy weight, there are several diets that can help us lower our weight and improve our health.
Since our body and health are largely a result of our lifestyle, we can often make positive physical changes when we alter our diet. I have seen countless times this effect. When meat and potatoes guys begin a vegetarian diet, they will loss weight and fat; in the same way, overweight vegetarians and carbohydrate overeaters will get results eating a higher protein and vegetable-focused diet, minimizing their sugars and starches. The key is to make appropriate changes in your behavior and food choices, and then you will be much more likely to achieve the results you visualize for yourself.
Specific diets for weight loss and/or weight maintenance include:
- The Fish-Poultry-Vegetable Diet
- The Whole Grain/Legume, Vegetarian Diet
- The Allergy-Rotation Diet (False Fat Diet)
- The Ideal Diet-The Haas Plan
The Fish-Poultry-Green Vegetable Diet is a fairly healthy weight-loss diet that could be used safely for a couple months. Several pounds a week can be lost fairly easily with this diet even with only moderate activity. It includes seafood – fresh ocean fish, tuna, shrimp, and trout; organic poultry; and green vegetables, both raw and cooked – all to be eaten in the quantity desired (within reason, of course).
One piece of fresh fruit and one or two cooked eggs daily are also suggested. This provides a pretty good balance, though it is fairly low in fiber. Some bran and/or psyllium can be used to support bowel function. Salad dressing should be limited to one or two tablespoons of vegetable oil daily, such as olive, with some fresh lemon juice or vinegar. If no oils are used, an essential fatty acid supplement should be added. Herbal teas and/or spring or filtered water are the main fluids. Some clear soup broths are fine. Daily fluid intake should be 8 to 10 glasses (8 oz.), with two glasses being drunk first thing in the morning and 30-60 minutes before meals. A general multivitamin-mineral should also be taken daily for health insurance.
The Complex Carbohydrate Program has been less popular in recent protein-focused weight loss diets, yet many people will fare better on this more Vegetarian-focused Diet. This is not exclusively starches and sugar foods–it includes some fruit, lots of green and other vegetables, and protein foods–but the key foods are the whole grains and legumes, along with some pasta, potatoes, and starchy vegetables, such as carrots and squashes. These high-fiber complex carbohydrates when eaten at the beginning of a meal will provide bulk and thus decrease the appetite and give a feeling of fullness. They are also relatively low-calorie foods because they are low in fat, another advantage, but only if they do not have sauces, gravies, butter, or oil added to them.
The complex carbohydrates also provide a consistent energy production and can stabilize the ups and downs that some people experience. Vegetables can be consumed as desired, at least several cups daily. They are also low in calories. A couple of pieces of fruit daily are suggested. Dairy foods, red meats, and any fried, fatty, or refined foods are all avoided, as are sweets.
One meal, early in the day, can include a concentrated protein, such as fish, poultry, eggs, or, for strict vegetarians, some tofu, nuts, seeds, or beans. This diet can be a good weight-loss plan for overweight vegetarians, especially if they avoid excessive grains and sweets. Soups and salads are helpful. Water intake is 8 to 10 glasses daily for this diet also. A multivitamin product can be used, along with extra B12. Care should be taken that iron and calcium intake are adequate; these and other minerals might be supplemented, although most should be found in sufficient amounts in this diet.
Note: A carbohydrate-based diet can add weight, and clearly, the main cause of obesity is excess simple sugar calories from processed foods made mostly from refined flour and added sugars-breads and other baked goods, candies, sodas, etc. This diet is primarily used when low-fat and vegetarian choices are the focus for health improvement to handle the problems of high blood pressure and high cholesterol from a meat and fat-focused diet. Drs. John McDougall and Dean Ornish have made this diet popular.
The Allergy-Rotation Diet is becoming more popular for weight loss as well as for general health, especially when there are food allergies present. This is the basis of my recent book, The False Fat Diet. (The Ideal Diet, described below, is a modified rotation diet.) If you suspect food allergies, you could be helped by testing or by the guidance from a nutritionally-oriented physician. The False Fat Diet tells you how to do this on your own. Any foods shown to be a possible problem should come out of the diet for one to two months – – varies depending on how much sensitivity you experience. After that time, individual foods can be tested again (this is called a “challenge”), but only one food per day.
If you seem to be addicted to any foods, that is, you crave them and eat them every day (or at every meal), those foods should be completely removed from the diet for at least several weeks before testing them. However, avoiding them even for only four days will allow your body to be sensitive enough to their true effects. If you can be aware of your diet such that you can know which foods are doing what, then you can know which foods to eliminate. But remember, some foods cause delayed sensitivities, and these can be the most difficult to identify.
For this reason, the rotation diet can be very helpful since it includes a wide variety of foods, which tends to minimize food reactions. To desensitize to other possible food allergies, a rotation diet means setting up a four-day plan–any food eaten on one day must be excluded from the diet for the next three days. For example, if apples, corn, or peas are all eaten on Monday, you would not eat them again until Friday.
This diet is not very easy to initiate, but once started is not too difficult. It does, however, require limiting restaurant eating and preparing most of your own foods. Just planning foods and meals and preparing food ahead of time creates better eating habits and limits munching and spontaneous treats. Eliminating allergenic foods also reduces water retention by reducing subtle immune reactions and secondary inflammation, and may allow you to feel much healthier while you trim.
The Ideal Diet is discussed thoroughly in Part Three of Staying Healthy with Nutrition, and is the focus of my book, A Cookbook for All Seasons. It is very good for weight reduction and maintenance for most people–a well-balanced diet that incorporates aspects of all the previous diets. It is a rotation diet, good for food allergies; has a high fiber content from the whole grains and vegetables; is low in fat; and contains good-quality protein. To reduce calories more, the morning nut snack can be replaced with another fruit.
So the plan would look like:
• Early morning – one or two pieces of fruit
- Breakfast – starch, such as a cereal grain or potatoes
- Mid-morning snack – fruit (or nuts or seeds)
- Lunch – protein and green and other vegetables
- Mid-afternoon snack – vegetable or fruit
- Dinner – starch or protein with vegetable
- Evening snack, if needed – vegetable
Water should be consumed as usual – 8 to 10 glasses per day, mainly drunk about one hour before meals.
A basic multivitamin/mineral supplement could be used, including essential fatty acids or some fresh vegetable oil, one or two teaspoons daily. (Refer to the seasonal Ideal Diet charts and recipes in the above-mentioned two books, or to Staying Healthy with the Seasons for the general concepts of seasonal eating.)
In pursuing any program for weight reduction and improved health, the first goal is to increase willpower so that you can change those habits that are a problem. The more water and fiber in your diet (mostly with low-calorie, vegetable foods), the more you’ll tend to feel filled up and decrease your appetite. Water and fiber (and fiber foods) are the two most useful and inexpensive nutrients for weight reduction and maintenance. They’re low in calories, fats, and sugars. Even more, they will support good colon function, which is helpful to keep the body detoxified and reduce food cravings. Increase foods high in vitamins and mineral, such as vegetables and small amounts of nuts and seeds, as well as supplemental nutrients that support optimum metabolism and aid in weight loss.
Exercise is also crucial. Few weight-loss programs are effective without increasing physical activity. To lose weight or mass, you need to reduce intake and increase output. Reducing fat stores and adding muscle improves energy utilization via using more calories for active metabolic tissues. Exercise also improves general metabolism and vitality and lowers that important “set point,” allowing you to maintain lower weight and body fat with the same food intake. At a good level of exercise, the body will burn more calories than usual, even 12 hours afterward. Regular exercise is clearly needed to keep weight off.
Daily exercise is essential. If you are just starting out, you should first begin slowly and build upon that to a regular daily program. If you make it a habit, you will see the real benefit. It’s important to take at least one day off a week to rest the body; even so, you should at least stretch and walk that day.
Some aerobic activity is ideal, even 20 to 30 minutes a day, five or six days a week. Our body stores energy, not as calories, but mainly as fat. Aerobic-type exercises will burn and reduce fat stores, without reducing muscle tissue. Weight-loss programs without exercise can cause muscle loss. One to two hours daily of activity is fine; you must make the commitment and take the time to do it. You can add a couple of brisk walks to the more strenuous activity as you get into shape. A 30-minute walk about half an hour after meals, is just the thing to further help digestion and assimilation. With more exercise, your vitality, endurance, and ability to handle stress and life will all improve. Try it!
Behaviors are crucial to long-term health and the optimum weight. How you live creates the body you have, and often these behaviors/lifestyle habits start early and are difficult to change. Yet, there are possible and important to change with a bit of focus and consistent effort. Behavior specialists suggest it takes three weeks to change patterns. So, that’s not overnight, but it’s not very long to persist because these improved habits can affect your health for life.
Isn’t that what you’re looking for – a healthier and more vital future? Begin now! It’s never too late.
Elson M. Haas, MD © 2017
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