Making sense of the insanity

Oh! Stop the insanity, DIET has become a four letter word.  The dictionary defines diet as the kinds of food a person, animal or community habitually eats.  However, today diet is associated with starvation, deprivation, anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders and negative body image. It has spiraled downwards into confusion and rampage, people who do not need to diet continue to diet and people who need to diet dig their feet deeper and proudly declare curves as the new standard of beauty, stomping on people’s fear of being politically incorrect.

You can have a high-horse opinion about quick fixes and restrictive diets but there are times when a person with morbid obesity/serious condition needs to bring their weight down drastically in a short time for many reasons.  Some short cuts are necessary to kick start the process but a long-term approach after the short cut is of the utmost importance for both medical/healthcare professional and patient to focus on. Why am I in any way supporting short cuts? Because in some cases, staying put where they are isn’t an option anymore. I will be touching on that in my future articles, so please stay tuned.

Let me set the ambience for this article; we are somewhat concerned about our health, we are not suffering from any serious illness but we do not feel tip-top. We are busy with work, with our families, with people other than ourselves and we do not have time. In short, we are frogs in slow boiling water. We know we are not feeling the scald yet but we are getting there.

When will we actually start to realize that society is afflicted by the deteriorating state of our food today and take steps to examine why or how we should be able to tell if we are in sub-health condition?  The absence of disease is not a certainty of health.  The science behind nutrition is relatively new and still inaccurate in many aspects but like a lot of things scientific, it is a process.  An example is the fairly recent (1994) discovery of leptin and its role in regulating our body’s energy input, energy output, appetite, and so forth.

This is not to say that anything traditional is not scientific but more to open our eyes to the fact that there are scientific explanations behind a lot of traditional modalities. I for one take an open stance and tweak my understanding of nutrition by accepting the possibility of my own erroneous beliefs, all in the sincere effort to continuously improve my trade. Don’t be judgmental, be discerning, make sense of vested interest and bias and understand the information that you are reading out there including this one, of course.

Let us have a peek into the “supposed” insanity in more general categories –

Low-calorie diets

Eat less; move more is a typical and over-simplistic way to justify low-calorie diets. While it is true, it is ignoring many other factors that could help someone who has way more to deal with than just 4 words to explain why they are where they are.  Counting calories is tedious and so far, the mathematics is not yet crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. There is an average error margin of 50%. There is a range depending on who determines it and it has its own error margin.  If you have more than 10 kgs to lose, you may succeed easily on calorie counting because the devil is in the details and you do not need to aim accurately with 10kgs or more.

Low-fat diets

The low fat diet is linked to the low calorie diet.  The food guide pyramid by some of our most “trusted” authorities introduced grain-based foods to be 50-75% of our diet for healthful living. There are many factors to consider when eating grains; phytates, lectines, trypsin inhibitors to name a few. They all have to do with what nature has granted these living plants, a chance to survive the digestive tracts of grazing animals so that they come out intact from the other end. In other words, it is already not easy to break down grains in a cow stomach, think about how it will do in yours. Moreover, vitamins and minerals bind with grains, so they also end up not being absorbed in your system.  That would leave you malnutritioned and hungry, don’t you think? So thanks to the industrial age, we process them, make them easier to digest but they become sugar as soon as you chew them and the enzymes in your mouth starts processing them. Sugar spikes your insulin and an excess of that will make you resistant. Figure out the logistics.

Low-carb diets

Would you believe that the first low-carb diet book was written almost 140 years ago?  This was based on the philosophy of the Metabolic Diet whereby fat release/storage was dependent on the hormonal response to the foods we eat.  Hence the emphasis on the relationship between sugar/simple carbohydrates and insulin spikes.  Highly dense caloric food (fat and protein) also gives people a feeling of satiety and thus prevents them from over-eating.  The diet works by starving the body from carbohydrates, therefore kicking off ketosis (burning of fat for fuel).  There are side effects of ketosis like bad breath, lethargy and constipation.  I would add more leafy vegetables into the diet and the Paleo version of the low-carb diet allows for some fruits to be eaten whole.  The Paleo diet emphasizes more on the avoidance of highly processed foods.

Other very popular diets would include Intermittent Fasting, Blood Type diets, Alkaline diets or Food Combination diets.  Whichever diet you choose to follow, do your research, be smart about the few factors, most importantly, your ability to follow the diet because the only thing that works well is your ability to maintain the weight loss by being consistent and staying on course for the long term.  So choose wisely but do it only for the sake of your health.

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