Diets often do work. On any given day 100 million Americans are dieting. Diets frequently help people lose weight, albeit temporarily. How many people do you know went on the Atkins diet? Did they lose weight? Perhaps. Did they keep the weight off? Likely not. Why? It’s not sustainable. But, it’s simple. All you have to do is stop eating carbohydrates. That’s it! But is it the baked potato that’s the bad evil creature? Or is it the company it keeps? Can’t have a baked potato without the butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. Is it the pasta or the quantity of pasta served at a restaurant or filled on a plate at home—equivalent to 6-7 slices of bread.
Why Paleo ‘works’
Okay so the Atkins diet is passé. Let’s look at a more popular one—the Paleo diet. Why has it gotten the attention of so many? Before embracing the miracle, Paul J was eating a horrible diet—fast food every day— and drinking soda and beer frequently. But he discovered Paleo and turned his eating habits around. Was it the Paleo diet or because he stopped eating so poorly?
Most diets ‘work’ because they get the attention of the person embracing it. The dieter starts eating better, abandoning old unhealthy eating habits and subsequently loses weight. Is it the diet or the awareness and making better choices that facilitates change and weight loss?
This is what amuses me about the Paleo diet. Jan D came for a visit—wanted to know my thoughts. I can’t argue with many of the components—more protein, fewer carbs, no refined sugar, and of course, no processed food. But then Jan pulled out a Paleo turkey jerky bar, “What do you think about this?” I chuckled and we laughed together when I asked how can a Paleo product exist in a package? Seriously?
I clicked on a link on the website of a popular fitness chain—it had an impressive list of what you can and can’t eat. No potatoes. Okay then why was there a recipe right next to the article that included sweet potatoes? The recipe also had maple syrup. That’s a sugar. Why is that allowed and not plain granulated sugar? I find it amazing to see how many recipes there are for Paleo bread, Paleo pancakes—carbs, carbs, carbs.
Alcohol? Depends on which Paleo version you look at. Diet soda is even allowed on one. Hmmm, wonder where our ancestors made that stuff. Anyway, I digress.
Why gluten-free ‘works’
Another popular movement is “no-wheat/no-gluten”. Wheat is the problem and we’ve gotten so fat because our bodies were just not meant to process wheat as it is manufactured today. All chronic diseases will be resolved by eliminating wheat. Really?
There is a component of wheat called gluten that for some can have a detrimental effect. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is only treatable with a gluten-free diet. Another group of individuals may benefit from a gluten-free diet. They’re thought to be gluten-sensitive but it is difficult to diagnose a gluten sensitivity. Not uncommonly someone may cut wheat from their diet and feel infinitely better. Perhaps it’s the wheat gluten or maybe it is the more wholesome products consumed.
Eliminating wheat and gluten will also eliminate the refined white flour found in donuts, pastries, pies, cookies, cakes, white bread, pizza crust, snack foods, and a host of other products. Most any product that does not require a label is likely free of gluten. Think fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish, and beans as well as dairy. That’s a healthy diet.
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Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach