Another Diet, Another Lesson

March 9, 2012

So often I hear, “I tried every diet, and nothing has worked.”

For this discussion, it is first necessary to define what a “successful diet” is.  Is the goal of your diet to lose weight?  Gain muscle?  Correct a leaky gut?  Achieve pregnancy?  Reduce anxiety?  Gain energy?

Most of my efforts in experimenting with different diets have been centered around weight loss and management.  But since reaping other health benefits with dietary changes, I have expanded my personal definition of a “successful diet.”  If you learn something that leads to better health, is that not success?

Weight Watchers taught me about portion size, South Beach about stabilizing blood sugar levels and the negative effects of refined carbohydrates, the Zone about macronutrient ratios, and most recently, the Paleo diet taught me about eating food that my body is genetically engineered to properly digest and avoiding food that will cause inflammation.  My education and training in Traditional Chinese Medicine has ingrained the ideas of food as medicine, eating in accordance with the seasons, and eating to support one’s constitution.

Throughout my personal efforts and experimentation, I have not only lost – and kept off – around 80 pounds, but also regulated hormones, gained strength and energy, and nearly eliminated anxiety and depression.  I haven’t taken a prescription medication in over 7 years, a recommendation for a surgery was repealed, and my sleep, skin, and hair are as healthy as ever.  When asked how I achieved these successes, I reply with, “diet and exercise.”  But the more accurate truth is that my health was, and continues to be, a work in progress.  I learn something at each stage of the journey, and I encourage my patients to do similarly.

The only diet that taught me, and millions of people, incorrect information was the one centered on the idea that, “Food doesn’t make you fat.  Fat makes you fat.”  Do you remember Susan Powder?  She had the buzzed haircut, and an infomercial that sold us on the idea that as long as our food didn’t contain fat, we could eat as much as we wanted to and lose weight.  I remember eating an entire sleeve of Snackwell cookies (fat free), and thinking, “this can’t be right.”  And it wasn’t.  If you still think that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet is a heart-healthy diet, please read this.  If you are still afraid of eating saturated fat, please read these articles.  The old food pyramid is outdated and dangerous.

Every day I read articles, watch videos, and listen to podcasts all related to diet, nutrition, fitness, and healthy living.  A lot of information is enlightening, inspiring, and thought-provoking.  Some of it is contradictory, confusing, and controversial.

Rather than get caught up in the varying differences, I try to focus on the positive common themes (eg. vegetables are good, high fructose corn syrup is bad).  I think we all get something different out of a suggested way of living/eating depending on where we are in our own lives.   What I have found from personal experience and in working with patients is that we usually know our areas of weaknesses.  In other words, we typically know what part of our current regime needs improvement.  Happening across a new idea when we are open to change can lead to many positive outcomes.

Remember, if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting.  If you want to take your health (or anything in your life) to a new level, I encourage you to find a system that resonates inside of you and give it a try.  If that doesn’t work, try something else.  If you need a mentor or coach, find one.

How we eat today is a direct reflection of the ways we have eaten in the past combined with knowledge we have gained along the way.  In this way, we have direct control over how we choose to eat in the future.  Knowing that life is a process and change occurs over time takes the pressure off having to be perfect right now.

Remember, it’s always a choice.  And you are what you eat.

In good health,

Molly

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