Dr. Atkins rocked the diet world – in two different decades – with his rebel yell, “Cut the carbs!” Weight Watcher tells us, “Eat whateva you want, yo…just don’t eat too much of anything because at the end of the day, it’s all about calories in vs. calories out.” And Pollan says, “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” And of course, the vegans, chanting to the tune of Ohm, “Whatever you do, doooooooon’t eat animals. Vegans live loooooonger. Look how sexy-skinny we all are in our Lululemoooooooon hot pants!” More recently, Tim Ferris came along with the “The 4-Hour Body” diet, and told us to “EAT LEGUMES ‘TIL YOU PUKE!”
Confusion ensues. Are carbs bad? Should I join Weight Watchers? Would I be better off going vegan? Should I buy stock in Beano?
While all the above-mentioned schools of thought hold validity, I am here to give it to you straight and simple; any diet that you can maintain for the long haul (i.e. YOUR ENTIRE LIFE) is the best choice for you. If you love bread and pasta, then by all means, don’t torture yourself trying to do Atkins! If you are a singleton who can’t digest beans and want to get laid, don’t do the “4-Hour Body” diet. And if you hate numbers, don’t do Weight Watchers.
One thing that all of experts seem to agree on is that refined sugar and flour are major culprits in obesity and disease. All of us – vegan or carnivore – should avoid sugary and processed foods.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have cake on your Birthday, beer at happy hour, or pie at Grandma’s. But it does mean that there will never come a day when you can gorge yourself on whatever you want and still be lean.
A healthy physique is akin to a healthy savings account. You don’t accrue wealth by spending money and you don’t get a tight bod by eating junk. In order to improve your financial figures, you budget and save. In order to improve your posterior, you exercise and avoid crap food.
Here are some simple tips that you can take with you that will work on any diet program:
- Quality counts. This means that the oatmeal you get at McDonald’s will be far inferior (a bowl of sugar) than oatmeal cooked in your own home. Try to buy foods that don’t contain a laundry list of ingredients.
- Calories count. At the end of the day the law of thermodynamics is the most tried and true. There are certainly exceptions to this rule and I can assure you that if your diet is heavy on the sugar and refined junk, even if you are staying within your calorie range, you will not be thin for long. This has more to do with how the foods affect your body once they enter it and is an argument for another time. Just bear in mind that balance is key.
- Want directions? Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables, the other half with a quarter proteins and a quarter whole grains, and top it all off with a serving of healthy fat. This ensures a good balance of macronutrients.
- Write it down. You can’t make changes when you don’t know what needs changing. Journaling or logging calories will give you a clear idea of what you have been eating that isn’t working and better inform you on how to make tweaks that will give you the results you desire. You will see where you are going overboard, what time of day you tend to get most hungry, and be better able to make adjustments.
So which is right – “Calories or carbs?” The answer is neither. And both! The bottom line is that you need to be able to sustain your diet for more than the time it takes to simply lose weight, and to do so it is best to focus on eating foods that are wholesome and as close to their natural form as possible. I know, this isn’t the magical answer you may have been looking for, but take it from a girl who has spent her life trying to figure this thing out: it’s legit.