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How Do You Choose The Right Diet?

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

The new year is right around the corner and you might be considering a weight loss plan. All the gyms will have new year specials and the month of January is the most challenging time to get on a treadmill. It seems like EVERYONE shows up.

Perhaps you're thinking of starting a diet plan. With so many plans on the market and free plans on the Internet, how do you choose? Do you go with Keto? The Mediterranean Diet? The Whole 30? Do intermittent fasting? Do you choose a medically-guided weight loss plan? Or sign up for a "subscription service" like Noom, or Weight Watchers? Or sign up for a pre-packaged meal service, like Nutri-System or the myriad of meal services that have popped up in the last several years?

There is so much information to tease through, too many choices sometimes. How do you find the right plan that will help you reach your goals? Everybody and every BODY is different.

Hopefully, this article will simplify some of that information for you and answer some of your questions.

In order to lose 1 pound of fat, you have to create a 3500 calorie deficit, or eliminate 500 calories from your diet every day to lose one pound per week. You can lose more weight by eliminating 500 calories per day and increasing your activity level and finding fun, stimulating activities or workouts that you enjoy doing.

So, why not just do a grapefruit diet or cabbage soup diet for a month and lose the weight faster by limiting yourself to less than 800 calories a day? There are several diets on the market, such as Optavia, that promise 800-1000 calorie diets that will allow you to lose weight fast, but with several potentially undesirable consequences.

  1. They are unsustainable. Limiting yourself to one or several foods for a prolonged period of time does not do justice to how normal people live their lives. For people who eat out frequently for work or other purposes, you fail at your diet at your first client meeting. For people who work out of their vehicles, such as real estate agents, construction workers, etc., access to a microwave or even a table to eat at may be a challenge.

  2. They are expensive. Some of the most popular very low calorie diets you can invest in are actually multi-level marketing companies. What this means for the consumer/dieter is that, when you buy their food, you aren't just paying for the food. You're paying a commission to your "coach", their "coach" and all the "coaches" up the line. Many of the MLM diets can be reverse-engineered for 1/3 to 1/2 of the cost just by ordering bulk products off of Amazon or visiting your local grocery store. And with many of the plans involving investments of $300 and up, that's a huge grocery bill for what you are actually receiving.

  3. They do not change the underlying eating habits that caused obesity in the first place. Healthy habits need to be addressed with any diet and eating prepackaged foods or one single food temporarily does not give you the ability to maintain weight loss. One in 6 people who lose weight are able to maintain that weight at one year. Thirty percent of the weight lost is regained within a year and 50% of dieters using very low calorie diets return to their baseline weight within 5 years. Ever Google contestants from "The Biggest Loser", that TV show about obese people competing to lose the most weight? The vast majority of them are back to the weight they started at. A very low calorie diet and 8 hours per day of working out can melt the fat away, but unless you plan on living that way forever, you eventually end up where you started.

  4. They are not appropriate for people on certain medications or with certain chronic health conditions. Diabetics, for example, should NEVER use a very low calorie diet without medical supervision. These diets can also interfere with the body's ability to uptake certain medications, especially those for thyroid disorders. There are too many medications and chronic health conditions that will cause HUGE health problems with a very low calorie diet to list here. Suffice it to say, if you are over the age of 50 or take any prescriptions, a very low calorie diet should only be started and continued with a medical provider's supervision.

  5. Most very low calorie diets do not provide enough nutrients to keep from breaking down muscle. Most adults need 100-140 grams of protein on a very low calorie diet in order to keep muscle from breaking down. With the drastic reduction of calories, the body tries to "hang on" to fat in order to keep you alive in cases of prolonged malnutrition or starvation. Therefore, it breaks down muscle to convert into energy. It is not uncommon to lose 10-15 pounds of muscle on an extended very low calorie diet. People who consume 18% of their daily total energy as protein experience 50% less weight regain. because protein makes you feel fuller for longer than carbohydrates.

  6. These diets have common, undesireable and some dangerous side effects.

  • Diarrhea is common, as is nausea and fatigue, mental fogginess. Malnutrition is associated with prolonged ingestion of only 5-800 calories per day, which leads to hair loss.

  • Moodiness and constant hunger are also very common.

  • There is a higher occurrence of gall stones in people who have lost weight very quickly. The liver releases higher amounts of fat to be used as energy. When this fat mixes with bile, painful gall stones are formed.

  • Severely restricting calories can cause electrolyte imbalances, which in turn, can cause cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats that can be dangerous), muscle cramping and spasms and malfunction of your muscles and nerves.

  • Lastly, a sustained diet of 500-1000 calories can slow your metabolism (the effectiveness with which your body uses energy). Before you start a restrictive diet, your body may need 1700 calories per day just to maintain weight. After a very low calorie diet, your body may adjust to only requiring 1200 calories to maintain weight. Thus, going back to 1700 calories a day means you'll actually regain a pound a week unless you do something to amp up your metabolism once more.

Unfortunately, there are no real "quick fixes" with crash diets. While they do allow you to rapidly shed pounds, you're almost certain to regain the weight within 1-5 years and, sometimes, at tremendous expense to your health.

What do we recommend? We recommend a diet that is unique to your needs, your health and your lifestyle. While it's not a good thing to live on prepackaged food with added preservatives and sodium, they can be a way to jumpstart your diet, help you learn portion control and let you try meals you've never thought about making.

We recommend setting achievable goals. If you have over 30 pounds to lose, set a goal for losing one pound your first week. If you can achieve that, then make your goal 2 pounds the next week. Break that monumental number down into smaller, achievable goals and make activity part of your daily life. Make a daily goal to achieve 30 minutes of activity that gets your heart rate over 110 beats per minute. And it doesn't have to be all at the same time!

Incorporate yoga into your daily life. One sun salutation (a flow of 12 of the simplest yoga poses which require little to no balance) burns, on average, 13.9 calories. The sun salutation is a great strength builder, improves muscle flexibility, promotes healthy digestion and enhances balance, focus and positive mood. If you do 36 repetitions of the 12 poses, you've burned 500 calories. You can run, cycle or swim for one hour to burn 500 calories or do 36 sun salutations in the privacy of your own home over 30-45 minutes and never invest in a gym membership. There are a myriad of free videos on YouTube to show you how to do sun salutations and to count them off for you. Check out this article about all the health benefits of yoga.

Get enough protein. Enough protein prevents muscle wasting, alleviates the sensation of hunger for longer and helps stabilize and control blood sugar. This means you are less likely to "crash" during activity and decreases mental fog during your day. Depending on height and weight, most adults will need over 100 grams of protein per day to stay healthy.

Invest in a smart watch. Watches have come a long way from being able to just

telling time or counting steps. Now, not only can your watch monitor your oxygen levels and heart rate and rate the quality and length of sleep, they can also monitor your body composition and measure skeletal muscle weight, fat weight, water weight, compute your Body Mass Index (BMI) and compute your daily caloric needs to maintain weight.

Make health your focus. Too many people define themselves by numbers...numbers on the scale, the size of their pants, their age. These numbers seem insurmountable and can cause depression, making it seem like becoming healthy is like attempting to go against insurmountable odds. Ignore the numbers. Incorporate our Food is Medicine list of foods into your diet and get in some kind of healthy activity every day. Make healthy living your focus and you'll find corresponding numbers soon enough!

When many people start a diet plan, they obtain the number of calories they need to maintain weight from a BMI calculator online or from a chart that takes weight and age into account to come up with a basic number you "should" need. The smart watch evaluates what you DO need and you can make dietary and calorie adjustments based on your true number, rather than an online "guesstimate". Your actual caloric need may be 100-500 calories less than you think it is.

Sign up for a calorie tracking app, such as My Fitness Pal. Most of the apps are free and, with your smart phone, you can scan barcodes of everything you eat. The calorie tracker will add that food to your diary and show you how many calories, grams of protein, fat and carbohydrates it contains and additional nutritional info to ensure you are meeting all of your nutritional needs. My Fitness Pal also has great articles on health and nutrition and recommended workouts for people at all fitness levels. It's a great resource for building a healthy lifestyle, which is the key to keeping weight off.

Never start a weight loss plan without consulting with your health care provider. While you may feel great, you may need some adjustment of existing prescription medications or new medications to accommodate your goals. Just getting an annual physical can reveal the need for medications to control cholesterol or blood pressure. These conditions come with dietary recommendations you wouldn't be aware of if you hadn't gone in for a check up. Your health care provider can also recommend prescription diet medications you might find useful in maintaining or increasing metabolism, making it easier for you to stick to your plan.

While we offer a medically-managed weight loss program at Louisville Medical Center, the details of which can be found here, our ultimate goal is to promote the health and wellness of Cass county. This is why we have this blog, put healthy living tips on our social media and have designed our medically-managed weight loss program to be the most economical and affordable program in the Lincoln/Omaha metropolitan area.

While we would greatly appreciate being a part of your health journey, we want you to have the tools you need to make healthy decisions. Let us help you discern your calorie, protein, fat and carbohydrate goals and make the process much more simple for you. If you have questions about starting a weight loss plan or would like to be evaluated before you begin one, please call 402-234-5049 for a low-cost appointment today!

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