Most disorders that patients come to see me for, are at least partially related, if not directly related, to poor dietary habits. Thus, after I discuss their particular condition, it is quite common for my patients to ask me for a written diet.
As a physician, I have found that diets are not the answer. Diets, especially written diets, by nature are restrictive, and therefore, 94% of the time, are destined to fail. Rather, I tend to concentrate on changes in lifestyle, which do not require a written list, and allows people to make good nutritional choices, which is the basis for long term health, and prevention of diseases. However, national health authorities have published various diet programs which I am frequently asked about.
In this series of letters, I will discuss these various diets and nutritional programs that can assist in controlling various disorders, and in many cases reduce the reliance upon medications, or even allow an individual to completely get off of medications. As a general guideline, healthy nutrition requires high fiber, and avoidance of sugars, and simple carbohydrates (processed wheat products and other grains—bread, cakes, cookies, crackers, pretzels, etc.). The beauty of a lifestyle plan, rather than a diet, is that a lifestyle is less rigid, and you can ease into the full lifestyle. Falling off of the plan for a day does not ruin the program, as long as you resume the good habits the following day.
All of the programs are best if primarily organic, hormone free, antibiotic free, and Non-GMO whole foods are used. When eating meat, poultry, and dairy, organic and grass-fed products can actually lower bad cholesterol and improve good cholesterol while lowering total cholesterol.
All of the programs can be used for weight maintenance. Weight loss or gain is a direct function of how many calories a person burns daily, and how many calories are consumed. In order to assess calorie needs, you will need to honestly estimate your daily activity. Unless very muscular, women will require approximately 20% less calories than the average man in the same age group. Daily caloric needs are divided into age groups 19-30, 31-50, and 50 or over, needs going down by 20% in each of the mid and later age groups.
I frequently hear complaints from patients that they “used to” be able to eat everything without gaining weight, or they seem to be gaining weight and can’t lose it, even though they are “hardly eating anything”. This is a direct function of reduced calorie needs and reduced physical activity that occurs with aging. As part of my practice, I offer Age Management programs, which center on better nutrition, proper supplements, and better exercise activities, to increase metabolism, and maintain muscle mass. An individual in his or her fifties or sixties, with a good program and higher muscle mass, will have the metabolism of a person in their thirties, and usually feel as they did when they were twenty years younger.
Activity can be summarized as: Sedentary: light or minimal physical activity daily
Moderate: physical activity equal to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles daily (think 10,000 steps), at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour (fast walking, slow jog), in addition to other light physical activity throughout the day. Active: physical activity more than 3 miles daily plus the other requirements of moderate activity.