Don’t go on a diet


What does “going on a diet” mean to you?

If you’re like most people, you probably think that dieting to lose weight and improve your health means you need to eat less. It sounds like a simple math problem: If food contains calories and consuming too many calories causes weight gain, then in order to lose weight you need to consume fewer calories by eating less food. The solution is so obvious, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. As any veteran dieter will tell you, eating less may help you shed a few pounds in the short term, but it simply does not work for the long haul. Even the words “going on a diet” has been accepted to mean that the dietary change will only be temporary, just until your weight loss goal is achieved (at best), or until you fail and give up (at worst). Either way, you’ll be back to your old self in no time.

Some of the most popular diet plans rely on caloric restriction, such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, HCG, Nutrisystem, Optavia, and Body for Life, just to name a few. So why exactly do these diet plans fail to help people reach their long-term health and weight goals?

Ratcheting up your hunger

As you are reading this, you are probably breathing at a rate of about 1 breath every 4 to 5 seconds. That’s the rate your brain tells your respiratory muscles to contract and relax in order to achieve optimal oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Now look at your watch and consciously slow your breathing down to 1 breath every 8 seconds. Don’t breathe deeper, just slower. How do you feel? After a short while you will feel an irresistible urge to take a deep breath. That’s air hunger, and it is your brain’s way of making sure that you take enough breaths whether you want to or not. This response is powerful and automatic and cannot be overcome by willpower.

A similar response occurs with food hunger. Our stomachs have two types of receptors that help our brains estimate how many calories we consume at a meal. When our stomachs stretch from being filled with food, stretch receptors send signals to our brain to tell us how much food we ate. Our stomachs also have nutrient receptors, and they sense the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the meal. These receptors tell our brain what type of food we ate. With these two pieces of information, our brains can estimate the number of calories in the meal. Only when the sufficient number of calories has been consumed do our brains send out signals to tell us that we are full. When we go on a diet and consciously try to reduce the volume of food we eat, we don’t adequately stretch our stomach to get those satiety signals, so we remain hungry. Eventually we will overeat to compensate for the food reduction, whether we want to or not.

Feeding your cravings

“Betcha can’t eat just one!” More than a marketing slogan, Lay’s potato chips are actually physically addictive. Loaded with salt, oil, sugar, and intense flavorings, today’s processed foods are designed to make your mouth water, rev up your appetite, and keep you coming back for more. Unlike hunger, which is your body’s way of telling you that you require food, appetite is your desire to eat even when you’re not truly hungry.

Point or calorie tracking diets often advertise that you can “eat all the foods you love and still lose weight!” Addictive, disease-promoting foods, including steak, ice cream, and processed foods and snacks are allowed and even promoted on many of these programs. Trying to eat less when your food encourages you to eat more is a recipe for failure.

In addition, most of these plans have their own brand of highly processed protein bars, shakes, frozen meals, and packaged snacks. While these products obviously increase revenue for these companies, they come at a high health cost to consumers because they are often loaded with additives, preservatives, sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and excessive amounts of unhealthy protein isolates. Ironically, many of these foods are not particularly low in calories, but they are certainly high in disease-causing ingredients.

End yo-yo dieting forever

Calorie counting for weight loss has been around for a long time. One reason that this method is so popular is that people think that by not “giving up” their favorite unhealthy foods they will be better able to stick to the plan. In truth, the exact opposite occurs for the reasons we already described. Most people eventually fall off the program only to return again and again, lured anew by the same false promises they want to believe.

But there is a bigger danger here. Aside from not achieving the hoped-for weight loss results, chronic dieters frequently become unhappy. They often feel guilty, frustrated, discouraged, and deprived. They can develop low self-esteem from always feeling like a “failure,” they may feel a lack of control in their lives, and they may even engage in self-destructive or relationship-destructive behaviors. They sell their long-term happiness for short-term pleasure.

So how do you lose weight if you don’t reduce the quantity of food you eat? You increase the quality of the food you eat! By transitioning to a whole-food, plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, seeds, and nuts you truly get the best of both worlds. Since these foods are high in fiber and water while being naturally low in calories, you can fill your stomach without overeating on calories, so your natural hunger and satiety mechanisms begin to function normally again. Since these natural foods are delicious but not addictive, your appetite remains dormant and your willpower is restored.

Think that eating plant-based sounds dull and boring? Not by a longshot! With over 1,200 delicious recipes on our website including Baja Mango Black Bean Bundles, Tailgate Chili, and Creamy Fudgesicles you can fully enjoy eating without any associated feelings of guilt. That’s pleasure AND happiness!

Of course, eating this way is also the most effective method to reverse chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory diseases, and more. At Cleveland Nutrition we are here to help you improve your health and guide you on a new path toward a long, vibrant life. We can customize a diet plan for you that is tailored to address your specific medical issues, and we will support and coach you all the way to help you transition to a healthier diet so that you can achieve the weight and health results you desire.

Dr. David gutman small headshot

Dr. Gutman is the founder of Cleveland Nutrition, which offers a unique opportunity to use a dietary approach to medical care, with the support of a physician and specialized registered dietitians. The Cleveland Nutrition team teaches patients to use food as medicine to restore health, normalize weight, eliminate medication, and reduce pain. Their approach includes education and coaching to help patients change their mindset and boost their motivation, while offering them the accountability, tools, and skills necessary to change their health for good.

Is our program the answer to your health challenge?

Find out if a Plants as Medicine™ approach could help you find your way back to excellent health.

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