Like discussions about religion and politics, talking about what we should eat and how to lose weight is almost certain to become a heated debate. There are so many diet plans and books out there that one can become easily confused. Each diet claims success and the conventional medical world reduces the problem to a simple relationship. Whatever calories we eat must be worked off as activity or the excess will be converted to added body weight. The problem is that all these voices are all somewhat right and all somewhat wrong!
Eating and dieting are more than just an equation. Eating is a psycho-physiological activity. People eat because they are hungry but they may be hungry because they are depressed, anxious, bored, and experience an emptiness inside. That emptiness may even represent a spiritual crisis for some people. Eating patterns may be decades old even though the stressing event that induced an unhealthful pattern is long since gone. So, whatever diet plan you choose, add a psychological component to the plan. This could be individual or group counseling, hypnosis (or self-hypnosis), or listening to tapes. Hemi-Sync tapes by the Monroe Institute can help with weight loss, particularly the following titles: De-Hab, Mobius West, Eat/No Eat, and Let-Go.
Many of the conventional notions about good nutrition are unfortunately based on junk science sponsored by food producers and processors over the past several decades. We now know that many of the oils which the American public was force-fed for years were actually bad for our hearts and arteries. Even today prevention of heart disease has been simplistically reduced to controlling cholesterol levels. As Americans eat less fat they are gaining more weight, have increased fasting insulin levels and more are becoming diabetic. Many of my vegetarian patients have elevated cholesterol levels! The conventional wisdom about this is that Americans have just increased their portion size and that if they just follow the simple equation mentioned above, all will be well.
The simple equation idea is true but there are other considerations. I believe that in the near future the study of the human genome will confirm what we have actually really known all along – that there are distinct metabolic types. Processed food on supermarket shelves will be color coded by metabolic type and fresh, whole foods will be arranged by these same metabolic categories. The calories in – calories out equation will still apply, however, we will be able to fine-tune out eating based on who we are genetically. This is the reason there are so many diets out there each claiming success. They are addressing different needs of different types of people. Some diets advocate more carbohydrates, some are low fat, others are high protein diets. Even the prestigious Institute of Medicine has issued a report entitled, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids, recommending ranges of nutrients as opposed to absolute percentages. The report recommends the following: 45-60% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat, and 10-35% protein. This is a step in the right direction because it is no longer the one-size-fits-all recommendation.
So, until we have scientifically identified the existence of metabolic types, we are left with just trial and error. In the meantime, however, you could look into two diet systems based on types. One is a new system called Eat Right for Your Type, based on your blood type. While I have serious doubts about the anthropology behind the diet, some patients have reported good results. The other is an ancient system of medicine from India called Ayurvedic Medicine. Books such as The Handbook of Ayurveda, by Shantha Godagama or Ayurvedic Healing, by David Frawley will give you enough guidance to make substantial dietary and life-style changes based on Mind-Body types*.
Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners, by Amadea Morningstar and Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha and Vasant Lad are good resources, providing recipes organized along Ayurvedic principles. The Ayurvedic Guide To Diet and Weight Loss, by Scott Gerson presents an organized and extensive program for weight loss based on Ayurvedic principles. It also explains the physiology of obesity from western and Ayurvedic perspectives*.
Alternatively, you can experiment with one of the popular diets out there today. Select a diet whether it be The McDougal Plan, The Zone Diet, the Atkins’ Diet, Weight Watcher’s, etc. Whatever plan you select, here are some guidelines that apply to any diet plan:
- If you are being treated for a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting a new diet. Your medication may have to be adjusted or the diet may aggravate a current medical condition. A base-line set of blood tests is a good idea.
- Set realistic goals for the diet such as 1-2 pounds per week. If the diet claims to lower cholesterol or blood pressure, etc. then in 1-2 months recheck these values. If the diet hasn’t worked – stop the diet.
- When hunger strikes try drinking some water or herbal tea first. The number of ounces of water you should consume per day is roughly equal to your age divided by two.
- Whatever the diet, eat as close to nature as possible. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
- Exercise is an important component of any plan. Know your limitations, start slowly and build gradually. Find a type of exercise that will not be boring to you. Check with you doctor for suggestions if you have a physical limitation.
- Take some time each day for quiet reflection, prayer or meditation.
*Please note that these books contain information on Mind-Body types that go beyond diet. It includes information on cooking herbs, herbal teas, essential oils, meditation, yoga, gemstones, and the treatment of medical and psychological conditions, etc. Use the books to determine your type and to make necessary changes to your diet including which teas and spices are useful for you. Don’t forget that mint teas will weaken the effects of your homeopathic remedies, however, there are many other tea choices listed. Patients are advised NOT to self medicate based on the information in the book. Further, the use of certain essential oils for massage will antidote homeopathic remedies so please ask Dr. Masiello about these before using massage oils, etc.