It is the beginning of a new year, and for most Houstonians, weight loss is a priority. The new year resolution for a healthier lifestyle is synonymous with a good diet and the question of what plan to follow for year 2018 assails most of us. Indeed, deciding what to eat on a daily basis has become a dilemma for most of us. Should we adopt a high protein or vegan diet? Should we buy organic or conventional apples? Should we eat butter and cheese or avoid dairy products altogether? Is sugar bad for me even in moderation? And how about soy products, food additives, frozen meals…
The omnivore dilemma, as Michael Pollan describes our eating situation, is a daunting reality in Houston. Almost every patient I treat at Houston Weight Loss Surgery Center, requests the “diet plan” to follow. The reality is that there is no one diet plan that fits all. There are basic principles, however, that the nutrition experts at Houston Weight Loss Surgery Center recommend.
First, the best diet to adopt is a diet you can maintain for the long term. The longevity of your diet is determined by many factors including your eating habits, your access to certain food items, your grocery shopping, your family and friends… For instance, if you don’t have time in the morning to prepare breakfast, then sooner or later you will go back to grabbing an egg McMuffin on your way to work. If you don’t have time to shop for fresh produce, you will eventually stop cooking at home and go back to eating out. Any diet plan you adopt must fit your lifestyle to be able to maintain it. Adopting a plan for the first 3 weeks of January only, is not going to help you for the long run.
Second, contrary to what most commercial diet plans advocate, a successful plan requires you to cook at home. Home cooking is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your health for 2018. Only you can control the ingredients in your food. Restaurants and food companies will not do it for you. You will never add any artificial ingredients or excessive amounts of fat, sugar and salt to home prepared meals. Once you start relying on yourself and you are able to prepare a meal at home, from scratch, you are on your way to success.
Third, eat local and in season. Limiting your food options to your local environment not only is good for the environment but also for your health. Local produce is fresh, taste better and contains more nutrients than packaged food that is at least 2 weeks old. Locally grown food has limited variety. Limited food variety forces you in a routine. You tend to consume similar items on a regular basis. Boring food is good for weight loss. Exotic food items are more likely to be consumed for pleasure or out of curiosity rather than due to hunger.
Fourth, eat mostly plants. Fiber is an essential element in our diet for colonic health. Numerous studies have shown that gut bacteria affect our physical and mental health at different levels. Fiber is what these bacteria feed on. Fiber is calorie free and it fills you up allowing to control your hunger and limit your calorie intake per meal. I am not a huge fan of the high protein and high fat diets like Atkins and south beach. Meat, especially non-grass-fed meat with high fat content ought to be consumed in moderation. Studies have clearly shown a strong association between meat consumption and a number of diseases like cancer and hypertension.
Fifth, STOP sugar, and other forms of processed carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar per year. This is too much for the body to process especially in the setting of sedentary lifestyle. High glycemic index food items, in the presence of insulin resistance, are transformed into fat. Excessive fat is deposited in liver and skeletal muscle causing further increase in insulin resistance and more weight gain.
Last but not least, a perfect diet in the absence of daily physical activity is bound to fail. An exercise routine in conjunction with a balanced and reasonable diet that fits your lifestyle can help you improve your health in 2018. Remember that Rome was not built in one day. Start changing your habits slowly and gradually to achieve durable success. Develop a healthy food culture in your house that can last for years to come. You don’t need Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem to succeed. You just need to be get in the right mind set.