Lose Weight Without Losing Your Health - Or Your Life

Life-long weight control is a marathon; fad diets are sold on the 100-yard dash. The UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s #1 rated [471] newsletter’s “Bottom Line” on Atkins: “Bottom Line: If you follow the Atkins Diet, you will lose weight–but it could be dangerous beyond a few weeks. All fad diets get you to cut down on calories, usually by limiting the kinds of food you can eat, so of course you lose weight. Most, like the Atkins Diet, deny that ‘calories count,’ but nonetheless trick you into cutting way down on calories by distracting you with strange rules and psychological/biochemical babble. As with all crash diets, keeping the weight off is the hard part. Virtually all crash dieters eventually gain the weight back, unless they learn the basics of healthy eating, which crash diets do not teach.”[472] Diets are not something to be followed for days, weeks, or months. They should form the basis of everyday food choices for the rest of one’s life.

So what are the “basics of healthy eating?” According to the American Dietetics Association, “The overwhelming majority of studies reported to date including both epidemiological and laboratory approaches, suggest that eating carbohydrate-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, and limiting saturated fat intake, over a lifetime, is associated with substantially reduced risk for vascular disease and some cancers.”[473] It may be no coincidence that the longest-living people in the world, even by some accounts outlasting the Okinawa Japanese,[474] are the California Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians.[475]

Every study of the Atkins diet over six months in duration found that the Atkins diet failed to significantly outperform the exact diet Atkins blamed our entire obesity epidemic on.[476] Why not, then, choose a healthier diet?

Fewer than 20% of Americans trying to lose weight follow what’s considered the optimal diet plan for weight control, the one most proven to be safe and effective for losing weight, keeping the weight off and promoting health–a diet low in saturated animal fats, and high in fruits, vegetables and high-fiber-containing carbohydrates like beans and whole grains.[477] How convenient that the most healthful diet also seems to be the one most successful in controlling one’s weight.[478]

To lose weight, one can cut down on calorie intake by restricting the amount of food one eats, or one can transition away from eating junk food–foodstuffs long on calories but short on nutrition–toward eating food that is nutrient-dense, but relatively calorie-dilute: foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. One can add nuts to the list as well, since despite their caloric density, a 2003 review concluded eating nuts every day might actually help one maintain or even lose weight.[479] People placed on nutrient-dense, calorie-dilute plant-based diets tend not to complain of hunger, but of having “too much food.”[480-482]

The healthy alternative to the Atkins Diet is not a fat-free diet, but a fad-free diet. “Nobody wants to hear this,” groaned Dr. James W. Anderson in an interview. Anderson is a Professor of Medicine and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. “People lose weight [on the Atkins Diet], at least in the short term. I am not arguing with that. But this is absolutely the worst diet you could imagine for long-term obesity, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. If you wanted to find one diet to ruin your health, you couldn’t find one worse than Atkins’.”[483]

The optimal diet is one centered around good carbohydrates (unrefined), good fats (like nuts) and the best sources of protein, which, according to the Harvard School of Medicine, are “beans, nuts, grains and other vegetable sources of protein…”[484] in other words, by eating a whole-food plant-based diet one can control one’s weight without risking one’s health–or one’s life. We don’t have to mortgage our health in order to lose weight.