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Confused by weight loss and nutrition advice? Just stick with the basics

woman in a kitchen, wearing an apron and cookingIntermittent fasting…the keto diet…to eat red meat or not to eat red meat – the media is awash with weight loss and nutrition advice that is often contradictory and confusing.

If you want to try something like fasting or keto or some other form of diet plan meant to burn fat, by all means, give it a try. Just make sure to do your homework first to be fully aware of all the pros and cons. And if you have a specific healthcare concern or medical condition that carries its own associated risks, then please do first consult with your family doctor.

Remember, for every claimed benefit, there can be a downside.

Take intermittent fasting. Some plans call for you to skip certain meals, while others have you severely restricting your intake of calories for 24, even 36, hours at a time.

Sure, there are studies that indicate how effective this can be for weight loss … for some people. On the other hand, your body can respond with increased stress hormone production, which can lead to food cravings and push your body into survival mode where it resists weight loss. And if you are physically active, your energy levels may fall through the floor during those fasting periods.

And then there is the ketogenic diet. This diet plan was first developed to help reduce the severity of epilepsy in children and to help fight certain cancers. It’s a very low-carb and high-fat diet similar to Atkins and other low-carb diets. The goal is to reduce your carbohydrate intake so much that it forces your body into a state of ketosis, in which it starts burning fat for fuel, instead of the sugars and starches from carbohydrates that it usually does.

This again has its challenges. By skipping those carbohydrate sources, you can be depriving your body of important nutrients for its healthy function. Keto can also lead to liver and kidney problems, fuzzy thinking, and mood swings.

And then came the news recently of a new study that refuted years of other research with the assertion that red meat isn’t bad for us after all.

Of course, the author of this study was soon criticized for not disclosing his past associations, and funding support, from the meat industry.

What is the average person to do?

Between weight loss plans that have you either skipping entire aisles of the grocery store or not eating at all, and contradictory research about what is healthy to eat and what is not, it’s easy to be confused.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to stick to the basics:

  • Moderation in all things: Whether that is how much sugar you eat in a day, how much animal-based protein of any kind, or how many times your hand dips into that bag of chips. A free app like MyFitnessPal is a great way to easily keep track.
  • Wholesome whole foods: Which of course means skipping all together that bag of chips, any processed food, pre-packaged frozen entrée, or pastry/ treat made from refined white flour.
    Instead, it’s fresh fruits, veggies and legumes, lean proteins, nuts and seeds. For a drink, limit the alcohol, the fruit juices and soft drinks (yes, even “pure” fruit juices are almost as much of a sugar hit as a cola).

    Check out these past posts for more information on sugar and understanding good fats from bad fats.

  • This has to be a long-term lifestyle change: Often, people fail in their weight loss efforts because they attempt too much, too quickly. They restrict themselves so much that they are setting themselves up to fail because eating this way is just not sustainable long term. It’s all about making practical and prudent changes you can live with that become habit.
  • This means treating yourself, too: One rule of thumb to consider is the 90-10 rule – 90 percent of your meals are healthy and balanced, while the other 10 percent can be an indulgence. But again, moderation is key – this doesn’t mean you should wolf down half that pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner!
  • And exercise regularly: OK, this is a bit off-topic, but regular exercise – a well-rounded combination of weight training and cardio – when combined with these new eating habits, will have a huge impact on your health, weight, mental clarity, and energy levels. Check out this past post on the topic here.

So, start with, and stick with, these basics – with so much conflicting information out there, this is likely your clearest way forward. It just takes a little will power.

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