Can I just say (like I do every year) that it’s freakin’ hot in Texas during July and August? This year has been mild in comparison, but still…
It sucks the drive right out of me to workout. Even with air-conditioning I just want to sit down and wait it out till September. Walking from the house to the car and from the car to the gym seems to shrivel me up into a little bump that just wants to sit on a log and bide my time until a breeze blows through our corner of Tornado Alley.
I don’t feel that guilty about it but I have been considering ways to avoid gaining weight from all the ice cream, snow cones, margaritas and eating that I do while hibernating indoors. (Yes, I hibernate in the summer – not the winter.) So, I’ve been researching the newest rage in the fitness world. (Drum roll, please) The Keto diet.
It’s actually not all that new. The Keto diet was created in the ‘20s for patients with epilepsy and is still used for that purpose today. It’s been used as a diet for athletes since the ’80s and is, interestingly enough, also used to help obese patients lose significant amounts of weight. I say “interesting” because the diet is based on the idea that you take in most of your calories in the form of good fats which is contradictory to what most people have been taught for decades. Proponents of the diet say that it also clears mental function, helps with sleep and can prevent diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. The intake of fat in the Keto Diet helps to combat insulin spikes in the body so that the digestive system begins to use fat as fuel rather than glucose. There are studies that support these findings and I have friends who have seen drastic health benefits by adhering to the plan, but here’s my thing….there are plenty of other studies, some of which are much more extensive, for other diets as well.
The China Diet for instance. It’s based on one of the largest comprehensive studies of human nutrition ever conducted. This study was done through a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. Data was collected over a span of 20 years. It showed that the diet significantly effects the body’s ability to fight cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye, and brain diseases. The China Diet is plant based! Vegetarian in other words. (My grass-fed cattle are throwing a little party right about now.) Although scores of studies show the benefits of eating vegetables, fruits and grains, many in the fitness industry scoff at the idea of not eating animal protein. However, it’s one of the best documented diets in the world in regard to helping the body fight disease.
However, there are also plenty of scientific studies that prove grains can cause inflammation and that inflammation is related to obesity, joint problems, cancer and digestive issues. The Paleo Diet is a favorite among people that have experienced issues such as these. Studies on this diet show benefits to the human body in losing weight and decreasing the effects of arthritis, IBS, etc. The Paleo diet encourages consumption of healthy fats, eating “whole foods” and animal protein in moderation while avoiding sugar, additives, chemicals and processed foods. More studies are being done on the side-effects of overly processed foods and the myriad of chemicals that are added to the American diet and the finding aren’t encouraging.
Add to these hot diets the Mediterranean diet which is also backed by plenty of studies showing that it helps lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, lowers stress and extends life expectancy. (I think that’s due to the fact that red wine is part of the diet). Researchers have discovered that people living in the area of the Mediterranean have these health benefits in common more than in other areas of the world. It’s no wonder, considering it includes healthy fats (olive oil), seafood, low amounts of red meat, large amounts of fruits and vegetables, pasta, rice and grains. (Is it just me or does that sound like the best part of every diet rolled into one? Maybe it’s just that I REALLY love Italy) Anyway, the point is that this diet also has an abundance of scholarly support for the fact that it’s a healthy way to lose weight and to live a happy life.
But don’t they all say that?
So, what’s a person to do? I could go back to my Tootsie Roll diet that I used one month in college when I’d run out of money and lived on a huge bag of tootsie rolls for a week. I lost weight! But, that’s probably not the best or healthiest plan. Or I could go into Intermittent fasting and cut down on the number of times I even need to worry about these decisions. (Which, by the way, has a respectable number of studies supporting its’ health benefits as well. However, if you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, don’t even go there.)
What I do know, based on both research, medical studies and observation, is that the American diet is horrible. If you still want to argue over whether sugar, processed foods and preservatives are bad for you, go right ahead, but you’ll probably have that talk with your doctor soon enough. More than likely, no one can convince you otherwise anyway. I’m sorry about that. I’d hedge a pretty healthy bet that if you could avoid these things for a month, you’d be shocked at how much better you feel.
But for the rest of us, while we want to be healthy, we’re bombarded with opinions. Eat meat, don’t eat meat, eat grains, don’t eat grains, eat soy, don’t eat soy…
So, here’s where I’ve landed. Nothing works if you don’t do it and not everything works for every individual. I know what doesn’t work for my body. Processed grains don’t agree with my digestion. I’m easily addicted to carbs and have difficulty eating small amounts of them. I eat out of habit and boredom at night so I need tea in my hand to stay distracted. Sugar substitutes cause my joints to hurt immediately and, alcohol makes me sluggish the next day even if it’s just a bit. So, I’m trying this Keto thing for a few weeks just to see if it makes my brain feel less foggy but if I can’t get into Ketosis, I’m not going to fret over it. That will tell me something about how I handle, or don’t handle, carbs and fats.
You may have to play around with different diets to figure out which one, or what hybrid, works best for you – but you’ll get it. When you do, stick with it.
What we know from all of these diets is…
Vegetables are great! Eat more of them! That’s across the board.
Eat foods in as natural a state as possible and with as little processing as possible.
Stop being afraid of good fats like olive oil and avocados. Your body needs them.
Don’t be afraid of complex carbs but don’t make them the majority of your diet. (That should probably be veggies if we go back to the common theme in all these diets.)
Do avoid simple carbs.
And finally, moderation is key. My mom always said that so I’m sure it’s true. She’s usually right. Oh, and let yourself enjoy life, food and the gifts God has given us. Be grateful…consciously and purposefully. And enjoy the company of other people. Don’t just eat mindlessly and on the run. Make meals an event. At least, those are the things I want to do to get me through these long hot months in Texas. That and the occasional serving of “Heavenly Chocolate Crap” or Braum’s Ice cream cones. Hey. you only live once.