My regular readers know that I am not a fan of diets. Yet, at any time, millions of Americans will be on some type of diet. For the short-term, individuals lose weight; however, for the long-term, they gain back 98% of that weight. So, why waste your time with any diet? More importantly, what’s a better solution? My recommendation is not to eat less. My prescription is to spend more on your food.
Superficially, the makes no sense. Let me explain. Americans spend less on food per capita than any industrial country in the world, but we spend more per capita on health care than any industrial country in the world. That means that our food is cheap; the quality of food is poor; and we pay for it later with more illnesses and a higher cost for later health care.
Now, it should be easy to see our choice. Do we want to continue to spend less money on cheap food and develop these illnesses, or are we willing to spend more money on healthier food, so we do not have to spend as much money later on health care? Do you want to buy cheap food and develop cancer or would you be willing to spend more money on cleaner food and never get cancer?
Some experts will argue that it is not so simple. But think about it. It costs less money to buy French fries at a fast food restaurant than it does to purchase broccoli at a market for a salad. It costs less money to buy grain fed beef (cattle that were fed grains for their entire lives) than it does to purchase grass fed beef (cattle that lived on the range, roaming the land and eating grass).
Our problem is simple. We have let the agricultural giants take control of our food supply. We have lost millions of small farms and millions of small farmers who have been replaced by 5-7 agricultural giants. Guess what? Our Congress still subsidizes those agricultural giants. That was necessary after World War II when Europe was starving. However, today, it is all about politics, gaining donations to your campaign, and winning re-election. The loser is not our vote; it’s our health.
So, there is rationale for spending more money on our food. If you are willing to buy more expensive meat and/or more expensive vegetables, you are going to improve your health. Just as importantly, you are going to lower your weight. All of those toxins in the cheaper food disrupt your digestion, flood your GI system with contaminants, interrupt your insulin function, and increase fat storage.
For many people there is a sticking point. They believe that reduced calories equals reduced weight. That is not always the case. Counting calories is not the best path toward weight loss. Because counting calories does not equate to long-term weight loss. Let me give you one universal example. Dieting, especially with cheap and contaminated food, increases your stress hormone, cortisol. A high cortisol level blocks the proper functioning on other hormones; and it causes inflammation in your intestinal tract, which lead to a host of problems, includes poor digestion, more improper fat storage, and further weight gain.
Processed foods don’t improve our diet; processed foods devitalize our bodies, causing us to gain weight. With the advent of processed foods, Americans have grown progressively fatter; and with the advent of all of these books of dieting, Americans have grown even fatter. Do you think that part of the solution – so our bodies can return to a healthier weight – might be to return to healthier, but more expensive food?
What is the healthiest way to lose weight? The solution does not lie in restricting; the solution lies in switching from restricting to substituting. You need to add, not take away. With real food, you are not going to have those cravings for a chocolate chip cookie or hot fudge Sunday. What constitutes a real food? Anything that’s not man-made and pre-packaged. Anything that existed 10,000 years ago.
This approach, although more expensive, provides you with nutrients, not just calories. Take the nutrient omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in real food, not processed food. Those omega 3 fatty acids will improve your immune system, lower your cortisol (stress hormone), decrease your GI inflammation, help you burn more calories, and lead you to a gradual, but more permanent, weight loss.
Here’s my refrain. Caloric restriction does not work. Never has, never will. Want a lower weight? Want better health? Switch to real foods. My closing thought? Weight – and life – comes down to creating the right basic habits. I’ve said it before: the small advantages (the small habits) can lead to the greatest triumphs. A short-term diet of cheap food is not a habit. You want habits that will keep you alive.
To develop those right eating habits, here is my closing recommendation – and it reflects my advice to spend more money on your food. Specifically, I encourage people to consider using a nutritionist. I would rather you see a nutrition expert than a physician when it comes to long-term eating habits. A nutrition expert can educate you better; and a nutrition expert can map out the best food choices for your long-term weight and health.