Every time you stand in line at the grocery store you are bombarded by magazines that tell you the fastest, quickest and most efficient way to lose weight. The problem is that most of these diets have excellent short term results and horrendous long term results.
These diets will help you lose weight super fast but that weight loss comes at a price. That price is your long term health and wellness. Current research is showing more and more that a healthy, well balanced diet is the optimal way to lose weight and keep it off while benefiting your long term health. A well balanced diet means that you include ALL macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) in your diet in the correct proportions.
A quick overview of macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates– These are the simplest foods and provide the body with an immediate source of fuel in the form of sugars and starches that are easily digested and enter the bloodstream as glucose.
What is glucose? It is the most basic nutrient your body needs and uses. It’s what your body prefers to use as fuel. Even though this is the preferred fuel for your body, it is short term as it is quickly used up.
- Fats – These are a more complex form of fuel than carbohydrates and are found in both plant and animal sources. When the fats are broken down, essentially they are used to fuel the body as glucose. The difference is that this process takes longer to perform and therefore acts as a longer term fuel.
- Proteins – These are essential for the development and maintenance of individual cell structure and function as well as the regulation of hormonal activity. You can see based on that definition why so many “fitness buffs” rely on protein so heavily. They believe that in taking extreme amounts of protein, it will help fuel and rejuvenate their muscle cells faster and more efficiently. Excess protein can harm your body just the same as excess fat and sugar.
When the proportions of these macronutrients are not correct, the body is forced to utilize, process and store nutrients that are not needed. In doing this to your body, it is forced to make many changes to how it functions and it can harm you in the long run.
How a Low-Fat Diet can harm your body:
- If we don’t eat enough healthy fats (such as nuts, seeds, canola oil and fatty fish), we cannot survive. Every cell in our body contains fat and NEEDS fat in order to function properly. Your brain contains about 60% fat! Think of what you could be doing to yourself by cutting your fats to an unhealthy low!
That being said, you don’t want to overindulge in the bad fats saying that you’re just trying to gain a few brain cells. Stay away from trans fats in all circumstances. These are generally processed fats that are put into processed foods.
In Canada we are quite lucky that our market is moving away from being able to put trans fats into foods so they are used much less than they are in the USA. You also want to keep your saturated fats on the lower end.
How Low-Carbohydrate Diets can harm your body:
- Even though many of these diets (such as Atkins) result in rapid weight loss, you need to consider what you are losing. The majority of what you are losing is water and lean muscle mass. If you are not getting your dose of carbohydrates your body improvises by making the liver work over time to produce glucose from the protein that is meant to stay in your tissues. This means that in the future you may not be able to burn fat as quickly because muscle is your body’s natural fat burner.
That being said, not all carbohydrates are created equally. When carbohydrates composed of mainly simple sugars are consumed, your blood sugar shoots up and then falls quickly. This can create a sugar high and low. A sugar high may give you a lot of energy (while taxing your pancreas) but a low may create cravings that are very hard to ward off. The more fibre a carbohydrate has, the lower chance of a sugar high/low. Vegetables, fruits and whole grains are excellent carbohydrates.
So what kinds of guidelines are right to follow? Go back to the basics. Check out Canada’s Food Guide.
Quick fixes are just that. They are a quick way to lose weight…but remember that you are most likely only losing water and lean muscle mass and doing your body harm. Do not underestimate the power of moderation. In the long run your body will thank you for leading a healthy lifestyle that allows for all sorts of foods…and yes that does include the occasional dessert.