Everyone knows by now that weight loss protects against a slew of diseases and reverses most of them as well. Every year people pledge to lose those extra pounds, get healthy and look better in the mirror. How many diets have you tried in order to achieve your weight loss goals? If you're like most people, you've tried several. And if you're like most of those same people, you've found it hard to either lose the weight or keep it off long term. We're left discouraged about our health and disappointed in our appearance, convinced we have metabolic disorders, bad genes, or no willpower.
The sad fact is that 30-40% of Americans die of heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer and yet it is totally preventable 99% of the time simply by embracing a healthier lifestyle that includes eating more plant foods and exercising. For some, a frightening doctor's report is the only thing that motivates them to drive by the fast food joint and pull into the grocery store parking lot instead. Others bitterly accept the test results, give in to unnecessary surgeries, or go home to die.
The really good news is that we don't have to be a statistic or suffer through miserable low-calorie diets. There's a new diet on the block proven to prevent and reverse disease, normalize weight, and leave you looking and feeling great. We'll get to that in a minute, but next let's talk about what's wrong with most weight loss programs.
We're told to mind our macros (macronutrients=fat, carbs, protein,) reduce calories, work out harder in order to lose weight. Fad diets promote high or low protein, high or low fat, high or low carb, high or low calories and variations of each. For folks who are used to eating the standard American diet, many of these diet programs do lead to better health and weight loss at least temporarily. And to their credit, many of them encourage a higher fruit and vegetable consumption which leads to improved health. Unfortunately, some weight loss programs enforce calorie counting and usually promote the consumption of processed low-fat, or low-carb faux foods. Hardly a healthy or tasty way to lose weight.
Most of these diets will work for weight loss at first simply because they exclude the bad stuff, you know, things that come in a package with a mile long list of ingredients/chemicals. Or greasy fast food, soft drinks and the other "foods" that contribute to weight gain and illness. That's great and can be a game-changer, but after awhile people get tired of excluding potatoes and bread, or avoiding their favorite fruits or whatever natural, whole food is on the no-no list. In the long run, most of these fad diets don't lead to better health. Do we just want to look good in spite of the health consequences? Healthy Girlfriend doesn't think so and we present an alternative to flavor-of-the-year diets that doesn't focus on the macronutrients of carbs, fats, or proteins. Plus, we liberate you from counting calories....forever.
For true and lasting weight loss, stop focusing on carbs, fat, and protein. We propose that you focus on the nutrient values of food instead. That is, foods with the highest number of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. We talked about some of these super foods here and here already, so we won't make a top ten list of the most nutritious foods again. But we will tell you why it's more important to consider what you eat in this way rather than counting calories (how last century!) or worrying about avoiding certain macros.
Healthy Girlfriend acknowledges it's not easy to change our eating habits, but if you can stick with it for about a month, your taste buds will readjust to prefer this way of eating and the rewards will be greater than you ever imagined. One of the greatest obstacles with old-style traditional "diets" is doing without your favorite foods and going hungry in the name of calorie reduction. Honestly, if you're favorite foods are a Big Mac and french fries, then yes, you're going to have to avoid those things and probably deal with some detox effects from their addictive nature. Not only do these manufactured foodstuffs lack vital nutrients your body needs, they promote disease. Watch "Supersize Me," if you need some motivation.
This nutrient-dense lifestyle allows you to eat as much as you like, not because fresh fruits and veggies are low in calories (which they are) but because these foods are packed with fiber and micronutrients that fill you up and nourish your body like nothing else. If you are afraid that you'll be deprived of meat, fat and bread, we assure you that you can enjoy these foods in moderation...as long as you are choosy about the quality.
And anyway, what's more important than living a longer, healthier life with people you love and feeling good enough to enjoy those extra years? Sure it's easier to do what everyone else is doing, such as visiting the drive-through on a busy day, or grabbing the family size box-o-food from the freezer section, but going along with the crowd isn't worth a bunch of pill bottles in your bathroom or a stent in your arteries. It's not even worth collapsing on the couch after work because you don't have enough energy to have a conversation with your mate or play with your kids/grandkids.
Another great tool for weight loss is Intermittent fasting. If you're not ready to do a juice cleanse or detox, IF is easy to incorporate into your busy life right away.
Here are a few false weight loss beliefs that need to get kicked to the curb:
The research is out there for anyone to read. For example, even the 2016 FDA recommendations admonish us to reduce the amount of protein in our diet. WHAT? That almost seems sacrilegious. It's been known for some time that too much protein, especially animal protein is a major risk factor of caner, heart disease, and stroke. Even Web M.D. reported this in 2000. So why are we still being inundated with false information about protein? Because the meat industry profits from this protein myth.
As far as dairy being the best source of calcium and bone protective, read this. The countries with the highest dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis and fractures. And the bad news about olive oil, and in fact all oils? Read this. Yes, monounsaturated plant oils raise cholesterol and damage arteries just like saturated animal fat does, just not as bad. Given that, it's still better to consume a little healthy plant oil than to eat butter, cheese and meat.
Genetics do have some influence on how you metabolize your food and what diseases you may be prone to getting but those influences are easily overcome by adopting a healthier, plant-based diet. And yes, some thin people have high cholesterol and acquire cancer and cardiovascular diseases. But when we check their eating habits, we almost always find a diet high in fat, protein, or processed foods which lack protective nutrients.
Recent studies highlight the fact that hours of high-cardio exercises don't burn significant calories. They are successful in making us hungrier, which doesn't help if that extra food we consume is nutrient-poor and calorie-dense. Sure, when combined with a superior diet, aerobic exercise helps with weight loss, but so does all activity. We're not opposed to an active lifestyle by any means and do recommend movement throughout the day as well as setting time aside daily for walks, yoga, strength training, swimming, tennis or similar sports. But killing yourself on the treadmill or in spin class for more than short bursts really isn't efficient for most overweight men and women.
One final note on myths...some diet promoters are fond of teaching people to eat smaller meals more often. This doesn't usually lead to weight loss. It does teach people to put something in their mouths when they have the slightest twinge of hunger, and unless a person is hyper-vigilant about planning those small meals in advance, that could turn out to be a sugar-laden treat like a granola bar (but hey, the package says it's only 200 calories.) Besides, when we have food in our bellies all day long, our bodies don't get adequate repair time. If you're not familiar with the benefits of intermittent fasting, please check this out. Finally, the 6 small meal thing is hard to do without resorting to packaged food for convenience. Anyway, if you're eating an adequate amount of whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts you won't be hungry until your next regular meal time. One exception to this rule may be for people who have weak adrenal glands. Eating every 2-3 hours may be helpful in healing that ailment.
Much of our recommendations are based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman's books such as Eat For Health and Super Immunity. Both books are interesting reads and packed with scientific evidence for a plant-based diet (an eating lifestyle that focuses on unprocessed plant foods with small amounts of pasture-raised meat.)
The healthiest diet is one that normalizes your weight, clears your body of unwellness, gives mental clarity, energizes, and prevents disease. This diet happens to be plant-based, primarily fruits and vegetables (raw and cooked.) These fresh plant foods, especially leafy greens, should take up most of your plate. Pasture-raised meat (not standard grocery store feedlot protein) can be on the menu a couple days a week but should be more like a condiment than the main attraction, which, if you don't know by now means that vegetables take the center stage. If you want to go vegan for ethical reasons or for the highest level of health, that's even better.
Whole, unprocessed grains like oatmeal, brown rice and 100% organic whole wheat are okay as long as you don't slather them with butter, cheese or oil. Organic potatoes in moderation are fine. They do contain some nutrients, especially the skins, but it's too easy to eat more of them than the colorful veggies that provide significantly more phytonutrients. Nuts and seeds are powerhouse foods, so don't be afraid of them but don't overdo it either. Eat small amounts with your salads (try a home made nut dressing) and other veggies to enhance nutrient absorption. Use the smallest amount of olive and coconut oils you can, as these are high in calories and provide relatively few nutrients. Get your fat from avocados, seeds, and nuts.
Ditch the dairy in favor of alternatives like homemade almond milk and organic soy milk. You may think cheese is yummy but even organic varieties contain addictive components and other things that are disease-promoting. If you're transitioning to a plant-based diet, there are various vegan cheezes on the market that can be used to fill that psychological gap for awhile. Chao brand is one of the tastiest. Better yet, learn to make your own delicious "cheese" from nuts and seeds.
Healthy Girlfriend wants you to be well, feel well, and look amazing. You can't get there by yo-yo dieting, but by embracing a new path of healthy eating and living. Give it a try for 30 days and see how you feel and look. Most people find it takes that long for their taste buds to adapt to the new, more subtle flavors. It also takes a few weeks to develop new cooking habits but once that happens, a plant-based diet becomes easy.
Here's to your health and to the end of fad diets!