By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Last week, I wrote about an idea called the September Pledge: a personal commitment to healthy habits in the advent of the holiday season. Habits take more than 60 days to form. If you want a new, healthy habit established before the onslaught of holiday cookies, now is the time to start. This week, I’d like to focus on diet.
Diet is a dreaded word for good reason. For centuries (maybe longer) we’ve fretted over just what to eat, how to eat it, when, how much… the list goes on. An entire industry is devoted to selling you a diet. Diets are big business, too. Annually, the weight-loss industry makes $20 billion. But what are they selling? The science to support one diet over another is scant. A study published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, found little to no difference between once-trendy diets including The Zone, Weight Watchers, and Atkins.
The JAMA study also found that most studies of diets didn’t test rigorously enough. Since 1966, there have been less than 50 blinded trials (in a blinded trial, participants do not know what treatment they are receiving and thus are not affected by the placebo effect.) There were less than 8,000 participants in all the studies from 1966 to 2014. The trial for each diet study usually lasted only 24 weeks and included around 100 people.
Are diets a load of bunk? Here’s the short answer: probably. Long answer: trend diets that promise the moon usually can’t back up their claims. (The JAMA study found that diet trials weren’t able to determine whether a particular diet lowered the risk of disease.) In a sea of lose-it-quick schemes, it’s easy to get discouraged. The key to a healthy diet is moderation and simplicity, not the obsessive calorie counting, juicing, cleansing, all-meat, no-meat, raw food foolishness.
Lots of people “fail” their diets because they overcommit, find their new restrictions oppressive, and then break down and give up. It’s not you; it’s your diet. A rigid plan that restricts a lot of foods is bound to fail. The best plan to succeed? Long-term goals that are slowly integrated into your daily life .
If you want to improve your diet, (what you generally eat) start in increments. Spend a week keeping a food journal. Write down what you ate and when, and if you can, add in why. Did you eat a frozen pizza on Tuesdaybecause you got home late and couldn’t bear to cook? Put it in the journal. At the end of the week, look for patterns. How often did you treat yourself to something sweet? So many times that “treat” has been rendered meaningless? (You’re in good company if you have.) How much of what you ate was processed? Looking back, did you get enough fruits and vegetables? Did you eat meat every single day? Did you have an alcoholic beverage every evening after dinner?
Here’s the secret to the best diet: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Ideally, our diet consists of whole, unprocessed ingredients and includes a large variety or brightly colored vegetables. In an ideal diet, our meat intake is around 2.5 ounces a day and includes chicken and fish in addition to beef. If you decide your diet isn’t up to snuff and want to change it, start small. Identify one habit you’d like to change, and make a concerted effort to modify your habit.
Remember: one habit at a time! As an example, say you’re eating too many processed frozen meals during the week. Find a healthy recipe you like that can be doubled easily, like a soup or stew. Gather your ingredients and spend a couple hours in the kitchen on Sunday. Have the soup on hand during the week so you won’t need to rely on frozen pizza as often. Buy some no-prep or low-prep sides like apples, romaine lettuce for a salad, or some good, crusty bread.
By the time the holidays roll around, you may even have perfected a new dish worthy of the Thanksgiving table.
About Health Care Practice
Managing a health care practice, hosted by David Martin, President/CEO of VeinInnovations
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