What is the "best diet"?

It’s no secret that popular diets come and go. Who remembers the Atkins diet? How about the Prism Weight Loss plan? Paleo? The newest “kid on the block” is the Ketogenic diet. I do my best to keep up on the latest “trending” diet and truthfully, unless you live under a rock, you probably know someone who has tried one of these. As with everything, there are those who try every new trending diet, and those on the complete opposite side of the fence. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I am often intrigued by the science through which each is thought to work.

As a physical therapist, most of my patient’s are active or are striving to become more active. I’m often asked my opinion on how best to lose weight or gain muscle, by way of changes to daily eating habits. I was asked last week, “what’s the best thing to drink, besides water?” I answered, “more water!” I was attempting to be funny, but then gave a more serious answer. Water will always be the best thing to drink for your body, but other drinks low in sugar aren’t going to kill you. As a matter of fact, most non-alcoholic drinks are probably ok to drink in moderation. Having the ocassional can of pop is actually going to be the best thing for your diet, if you’re someone who used to drink a lot of pop.

My reasoning behind this follows the same logic as my advice to those who hop onto the latest fad diet. Most people simply will not succeed with these diets in the long-run because it requires them to “cut out” entire groups of food or drink in order to be successful. Let’s get more specific.

Completely cutting out your favorite drinks, indefinitely, typically results in the person “falling off the wagon” altogether. Think about your favorite beverage. If you were told that in order to be healthy, you’re not allowed to drink that ever again, how successful do you think you would be?

The same principle applies to fad diets. The ketogenic diet is similar to the Atkins diet in that they both require you to stop eating most, if not all carbs, for long periods of time. Can these diets be effective? Potentially! I’m not here to say that the science doesn’t make sense or that people haven’t lost weight with these diets. In short, the ketogenic diet asks that you eat a diet very, very high in fat and very, very low in carbohydrates (sugar, bread, fruits). As we know, most American’s love bread. We love our carbs!

The pattern that I’ve seen time and time again goes as follows: Jack is upset because his doctor told him he’s overweight. He knows he needs to lose weight, so does some research and finds the Ketogenic diet. So, he starts eating foods heavy in fat and reducing his carbs. He sticks to the plan for about 2 days but then decides that he wants to eat a couple dinner rolls, because he thinks it won’t effect his diet if its just once. The problem is that by eating that bread, his body comes out of “ketosis” and all of that fat he has eaten over the last few days is not being burned. Instead, its being stored. He has actually gained weight by trying to lose weight.

Reach out to me if you want to discuss the science further, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll keep it simple.

The best solution to weight loss is and will always be exercise and consistently eating healthy. Most of us know what food is healthy and what’s unhealthy. Fruits, vegetables...other foods low in salt, and unprocessed foods are your best bet. Stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store, where they keep the produce and fresh, uncanned meats.

Don’t fall for the fads. So many of us are desperate to lose weight that we look for short-cuts but unfortunately, those short-cuts don’t exist. If you want to look and feel healthy, the key is to eat healthy foods, get to the gym, and get more sleep. Forget the fad diets unless you have the focus and discipline to stick to them for the long-run.

Thanks for reading and please reach out with any questions!

Dr. Cameron Dennis, PT, DPT

Back on Track Therapy and Wellness

Wapak and Lima