Why The Most Popular Diets Are Making You Fat
When it comes to losing weight or improving health, the vast majority of people seek out some magic “answer”. Approaching the body as if it is some mystery to be solved and one diet is going to cure all their problems. Surely, there has to be some way to fast-track and obtain that ideal body! I’m here to tell you there isn’t one diet that will solve all your problems. In fact, the diets you are trying are actually making you fatter.
Obesity is epidemic and you don’t need the statistics to see this; just take a look around. In 1962, 23% of the US population was obese. This number jumped to 56% by 1997 and 67% in 2010. The CDC estimates that by 2020, a whopping 75% of the US population will be obese. You want to fix our healthcare? Maybe we should teach people how to EAT again! The trouble is, people are seeking the answers in restrictive diets and nutritional dogma and it clearly isn’t working. Think about it, we currently have available to us, more access to food, more information, advanced technology and unlimited access to nutritional resources, yet we are fatter and unhealthier than ever before. There are more cleverly named “diets” nowadays than ever in history. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out THIS ISN’T WORKING! But why not?
The answer lies in that not every diet will work for every person and even more importantly, the sustainability of eating according to strict nutritional dogma is not realistic for the vast majority of the population. Now there are definite positives to some of the most prevalent and “real food” based diets out there (think paleo, primal, vegetarian, keto) but there are definite negatives too. That’s what this article is about. Pointing out the limitations and real world examples of why most people should stay clear of extreme diets.
Let me first say that I have personally experimented with just about every eating methodology out there and coached hundreds of people who have eaten varying diets over a lifetime. My journey to health started by eating a strict paleo diet, so let’s start there.
The paleo diet was my first exposure to what it means to eat real food. I will always give credit to this way of eating and to CrossFit for being the starting ground for what would become my true calling. Eating a paleo diet allowed me to lose weight, improve my gut health (because I was no longer eating processed foods) and overall educated me on the importance of cutting out modern day grains. Wonderful! What could possibly be wrong with that? Well….a lot. A serious lack of carbohydrates, combined with high intensity training lead me to constant injuries, adrenal damage and some serious hormone disruption. While eating plenty of protein and fat is certainly beneficial, a lack of starchy carbohydrates wreaks havoc on people who are highly active.
The paleo diet can also be detrimental to those individuals who have difficulty metabolizing fat or high amounts of protein.
Meet Chelly, a woman I have been working with for years. Chelly followed a fairly strict paleo diet for nearly a decade. She is a farmer, raises her own grassfed beef and believes whole heartedly in eating foods the earth provides. She works out regularly and also does serious manual labor on her property. The trouble is she has consistently gained weight over the past several years. What? How can that be? Well, she has a sluggish metabolism and hormones that aren’t well-balanced. Think of your metabolism as a fire. If this fire isn’t burning hot, and you consistently dump bricks in the form of fat and protein on a poorly lit fire, guess what happens? You put the fire out!
You can imagine the frustration she has faced. She is doing “all the right things”, yet gaining body fat. The answer for Chelly came from determining what was going on under the hood by working with a renowned naturopathic medicine doctor and incorporating a more well-balanced variety of foods. While her food quality has been good, too much protein and fat in Chelly’s case was actually harming her health (and waistline) instead of improving it.
I am not sure what the keto advocates did at the first of 2018 but boy oh boy was keto the buzz during the new year! I literally received countless messages on my social media account asking my thoughts on eating a ketogenic diet. It is worth mentioning that nearly all of the inquires came from people who do not regularly eat quality food or struggle with weight. Their reasoning behind considering the keto diet was merely based upon things like “my co-worker, sister-in-law, a women who works at the school, et. al. are doing it and supposedly it really works!”
Let me introduce you to Lisa. She has been a client of mine for about the past 9 months. I coached her individually on nutrition initially, and now she is involved in my on-line programs. Lisa originally came to me because her weight-loss had come to a screeching halt after her initial 40 lb. weight loss from doing the keto diet. Although she had lost weight, a good portion of the weight was muscle mass and she still had over 40% body fat. She was devastated, frustrated and beating herself up with constant negative self-talk. Just like Chelly, her food quality as excellent and she was not overeating, yet she couldn’t lose weight.
When we set Lisa up with our naturopathic doctor, the answers became pretty obvious. Her hormones weren’t properly balanced and her thyroid wasn’t properly functioning. If you suffer from a poorly functioning thyroid, the keto diet is most likely going to cause it to get worse. The thyroid needs glucose to produce hormones and dramatically cutting out most carbs can further suppress the thyroid’s ability to do its job.
Did Lisa already have thyroid problems before she went on the keto diet? We will never know. But what we do know is it certainly didn’t help and now Lisa is left with a long road ahead to fix her hormones and thyroid before she will be able to experience sustainable fat loss. I am confident she would tell you those initial 40 lbs. she lost weren’t worth the work she is now doing to undo the damage. Lisa is working everyday to remain patient and optimistic about the long term outcome and I am honored to be on this journey with her.
Vegetarian/Plant Only Diets
While eating an abundance of vegetables will undoubtedly provide tremendous health benefits, the reality is, most so-called vegetarians are actually “carbotarians”. Consuming diets comprised of high-glycemic foods such as pasta, breads, rice, inflammatory grains and sweets. While these individuals may not struggle with weight, they are walking around with elevated blood glucose levels, which will undoubtedly feed disease in the long term. For the sake of this article, I am not going into a lengthy debate on vegetarian vs. animal based diets because there are a large number of quality resources that discuss this topic.
However, you need to ask yourself these two questions if you are eating a vegetarian diet…
- Does your diet consist mostly of healthy plants or processed carbs?
- How do you ensure you are consuming adequate levels of complete proteins? (those proteins consisting of all 9 essential amino acids)
Regardless of opinion on the ethics of eating animals, no one can argue that consuming high levels of processed carbohydrates is healthy.
Avoid the Extremes
The examples I have presented to you in this article aren’t the exceptions. Most people seeking to lose weight and improve their health are not good candidates for these sort of extreme diets. So what do you do?
- The first step is to change your mindset. If you are overly fat, it didn’t happen overnight. Excessive body fat and lack of health stem from years of bad habits. You cannot change this in a short period of time. Resolve to build awareness and honesty around what got you here and make small steps towards treating yourself better. Whether you like to hear it or not, your current state of health represents what you are willing to accept.
- EAT real food! Rather than taking an approach of deprivation and removing foods, start by learning what foods you should eat. There is a world of flavors the earth has provided us that we are simply ignoring. After nearly a decade of coaching people, I realized that the world needs to learn what it means to eat again and I delivered the perfect tool.
Evie Fatz makes nutrition simple again. In the information age, too much information has distracted us from simply eating GOOD, NUTRITIOUS food. EAT is timely in that it empowers it’s followers to eat and live well; no counting, no picking a side, no confusion…simply follow directions to feel better. Nature used to be this bold to simply tell us what to eat, how to prepare it and what time of year to eat it…now we need Evie Fatz. I highly recommend this to anyone who just wants to simply eat healthy again!!!
-Dr. Jeoffry Drobot, NMD, American Center for Biological Medicine
- Be more selective about where you receive your nutrition advice. Putting yourself through a specific diet or using a product or meal replacement because a friend did it and it worked for them is insane! You are talking about your health. Yo-yo dieting isn’t just ineffective, it causes severe long-term metabolic and hormonal effects that can take a lifetime to repair.
- Improve your gut health. I have said it over and over again but gut health and hormone balance are the two most important factors when it comes to weight loss. Clean up your diet, chew your food adequately, stay hydrated, walk, sleep and get sunshine. These basics will take you further than any diet out there.
10 years in the fitness, nutrition and lifestyle business has taught me one thing above all else…the extremes in every area of life lead to negative consequences. Health, a confident body and a thriving mind happen when we stay a little closer to the middle!