Debunking Diets: The Whole Foods Approach
Most people go on diets thinking it's the solution to rapidly lose weight, and to improve their health.
Last week we mentioned some of the dieting extremes people are willing to take.
The thing is, diets imply only a temporary behaviour. After dieting, things can go off again, we begin to regain weight, and start to lose the benefits we were feeling because we're "done dieting".
So the question we must seriously ask ourselves is "why go on a diet"?
What people actually want is to live peacefully, feeling and looking their best. We long to live life without stressing out about what food we can or cannot have so that we can focus on doing the things that make us happy. We want to be able to be guilt-free in our eating habits, and just enjoy delicious meals and share them in good company.
But how can we get to this utopia??
For many, it means to readjust our tastebuds, become educated, and incorporate some new habits.
This is where the whole foods "diets"/ approach really shine through. These are the ones that don’t require calorie counting, scale measurements, fancy tools, and severe deprivation.
Their message is rather simple, "nourish yourself with real food."
What we like about diets like the Whole 30 and Mediterranean diet is that the idea is to retrain ourselves, our tastebuds and our habits. By eating real food, and providing our body with the rich nutrient density, our bodies don't have to send out distressing signals. These come in the form of cravings, a sign that nutrients are still missing from what we just ate, and steer us to make unhealthy choices - typically consisting of food-like substances.
Food-like substances which are products developed by food chemists in labs vs. kitchens. These foods often last for a long time (meaning even the bacteria don’t want to go near them - yuck!), contain unpronounceable ingredient lists, come in packages, proudly display health claims (a humble sweet potato is packed with nutrients, but doesn’t need to advertise it), and are foods that our great grandmothers would never recognize.
These are the what often prevent us from obtaining our foundation of health.
Diets like the Whole 30 stresses eating real food that your great grandmother would recognize, but may be too limiting for some (whole food groups such as grains and legumes are omitted), which may be helpful when addressing specific health concerns. Restricting us from certain groups can also lead us to discover new ingredients, and explore different flavors. So, in terms of teaching us how to expand our meal repertoire, it's principles are along the right lines.
The Mediterranean diet may be better because it doesn’t remove entire food groups ie. grains and legumes, rather it encourages healthier alternatives within each category. For example in the grains category, include whole grain brown rice instead of white. Ideally you eat with the culture in mind. You can even get into it by extending the experience to incorporate a lot of the social aspects that surround Mediterranean tradition. Check out the basics to a Mediterranean lifestyle here, and here
By trying these whole foods diets, we are able to change our taste buds (which can happen as quickly as 10 days!), and encourages us to learn how to shop for, and cook for our health. They reintroduce many of us lost wanderers to find satisfaction in taking back control, so we are not left at the mercy of food chemists and professionals to tell us how to eat.
Know that lasting impact for our efforts requires a sustainable plan of action - one that keeps the long-term goal in mind.
Re-learning these rituals are necessary in sustaining long-term health and a healthy weight (unless you can afford your own personal chef! Kudos to you if you can – we love dinner parties ;)
Speak with any of your favorite naturopaths for guidance on integrating whole foods into your life!
You can learn more about a lifelong optimal diet from the CHIP study
Long term effectiveness of the community based Complete health Improvement Program (CHIP) lifestyle intervention: a cohort study. (2013). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3840335/
Mediterranean eating pattern. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5439355/