There are many different diets. From Paleo (caveman-inspired diet), Gluten Free (a lot of people without celiac disease are adopting this diet), Raw Food (no foods cooked about 116 degrees), Vegetarian (no meat but consumes eggs and dairy), Pescatarian (no meat except fish), Vegan (no animal products), Atkins (mostly protein, no carbs), the list goes on and on…
It’s said that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise (source) so it does matter what you’re eating, but there are many different diets out there so which one is the best? It seems most fitness diets promote a high protein, low carb diet, but is that necessarily the healthiest?
High Protein/Low Carb Diets
The thing I hear most in the fitness world is “protein”. It seems like everyone trying to “lose weight” or “get in shape” is so concerned with eating a ton of protein and minimal amounts of carbs. Seems to make sense, you’re trying to gain muscle and proteins are used to build muscle. Carbs tend to cause bloating…so I get it. However, most doctors disagree with this diet trend.
Eating only protein forces the body into starvation mode because most tissues, including the brain, typically prefer to run on glucose, or blood sugar, which is supplied by carbohydrates. On a carb-deprived, high-protein diet, trouble sets in.
“When there is not enough carbohydrate to convert into blood sugar, the body is forced to use stored blood sugar from the liver and muscles,” says Dr. Watson. “This process results in muscle breakdown. Because muscle is mostly water, one will lose weight very rapidly in the first few days. If the carbohydrate restriction is prolonged, the brain eventually will run on fat stores for fuel, called ketosis. Unfortunately, ketosis brings with it more than weight loss, but a host of problems — some serious. Ketosis is associated with irritability, headaches, and enhanced kidney work,” says Watson. “Also, ketosis may cause heart palpitations and has been implicated in cardiac arrest.” The effect of high-protein diets on the heart doesn’t stop there — the cardiovascular system comes into play as well. “High-protein diets are often also high in saturated fat,” says Watson.
“Increased saturated fat intake raises the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. In addition, some high-protein/low-carbohydrate diets limit intake of high-fiber plant foods, which can help lower cholesterol.’ Overall, these diets might be power-packed in the protein department, but beyond that, they’re lacking. High-protein diets lack critical nutrients,” says Watson. “Restricting carbohydrates means you restrict plant-based foods, which are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants. These chemicals offer protection against cancer and other diseases.” (source)
What Should You Do?
The reason why dieters constantly battle with losing weight then gain it all back is because what they’re doing is not sustainable. Any fad diet is going to be a “yo-yo diet” where you lose weight while on it, but you will eventually gain some, if not all, back. Choosing a healthy lifestyle is the only way to lose weight for good. Obviously, I always suggest a vegan lifestyle. Vegans typically are skinnier and healthier than meat eaters (source). Just eating vegan isn’t going to help shed the pounds because there’s a myriad of AMAZING vegan junk food on the market and I know it’s a big weakness for me!
Recently, I started adopting a lifestyle where I eat 80% raw foods and 20% processed. For me it’s sustainable because I’m still getting my carb fix but I’m still eating mostly fruits and veggies. Win-win!
Luckily with being vegan, the heaviest weight I have ever been is still the same weight doctor’s recommend is optimal for my height, however I still can’t fit into my pre-baby clothes and I’m used to being about 8 lbs. lighter. I can lose a few pounds here and there, if I can squeeze a workout in every single day and calorie count, but guess what? It’s not sustainable for a mom with toddlers to do that all the time. When I have busy weeks and no time to work out, I gain it all back. I’m active, we go on walks and I chase my little guys around outside and at play dates. However, when I have a few precious moments of quiet the last thing I want to do is a work out. Horrible, I know!
I knew I had to find a lifestyle that was sustainable for me, something where I can control my eating without dieting. I’m the queen of wanting sugary snacks and lots of carbs. After the initial carb cravings and feeling like I might starve to death (I don’t calorie count but sometimes there aren’t enough fruits or veggies in the world for me to eat, when I really want is a cookie), I saw the results. After the first week I lost 4 lbs, the second week I lost 3 lbs and the third week I lost another 2 lbs. and now I’m sustaining it all at my ideal weight, where my clothes fit me well and I feel good. Oh, and I still haven’t had a chance to exercise besides my usual daily activities.
I am not saying that you don’t need to work out, I think working out is great for the body. However, if you’re a busy mom and you can only focus on one thing (diet or exercise) at a time, then you don’t have to beat yourself up about missing a workout, I know I used to.
The Science Behind It
In a recent article on restoring alkalinity in the body, it was noted that changing your diet and introducing an abundance of living and raw foods provide a much safer alternative than traditional medicine in restoring the body’s alkalinity, and subsequently ensuring good health.
This notion has been an integral part of the Foundation’s philosophy, and one we continually share with our Scleroderma patients and their families. We believe that with a commitment by patients to changing their diets and add living and raw foods to their meals, will reverse any acidic imbalance in the body, and help them to live longer, healthier lives. A diet of raw food involves eating whole, live, nutritionally-dense organic uncooked and un-processed foods as a large percentage of one’s diet – as much as 75 -80%. These would include for example, fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit, and seaweed.
Heating food above 46 degrees celcius is believed to destroy enzymes in food that can assist in the digestion and absorption of food, thus diminshing its nutritional value. Heating has also been shown to create the carcinogens, mutagens, free-radicals and other toxins that are associated with many of today’s chronic diseases, from diabetes and arthritis to heart disease and cancer. The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet. It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber and health-promoting plant chemicals called phytochemicals. Proponents of the diet believe it has numerous health benefits, including:
- Increased energy
- Improved skin appearance
- Better digestion
- Weight loss
- Reduced risk of heart disease
When regarding our fitness, nutrition is a massive component. It’s what helps our bodies heal, regenerate and rebuild itself. We need to make sure we are taking care of it and giving ourselves vital nutrients. Not just to lose weight, but to be the healthiest we can be. It’s not about a number on the scale, it’s about being feeling confident and knowing that you’re healthy.