By Kalama Hines
Curb your hunger with a cigarette instead of food. If food is absolutely necessary, eat cabbage soup and a grapefruit, but chew each bite a minimum of 100 times.
To many this may sound awkward. And it is.
Since Fletcherism debuted in the late 1800s “fad diets” have become a part of daily culture. They are unveiled at a rate of more than one per decade.
With the new year just a month old, there are still many who have high hopes in their new year’s resolution. The most common of those resolutions is weight loss, according to a survey done by the University of Scranton.
Many of the Americans who aspire to shed those excess pounds will find their way to one of these “fad diets” that have become a dime a dozen, but that is one of the worst decisions they can make.
Las Positas nutrition professor and registered dietician Marsh Vernoga is one of a long list of experts who believe there are far better options than the next “fad diet.”
“I don’t really like (fad) diets,” Vernoga said, “they set up restriction. Generally what (fad) diets do is take out whole food groups, so its not very balanced and puts your body in starvation mode.”
The fad diet, as defined by Segen’s Medical Dictionary, is a weight-reduction diet that eliminates one or more of the essential food groups. They may also recommend consumption of one type of food in excess at the expense of other foods and rarely follow sound nutritional principles for weight loss, and are generally not endorsed by the medical profession.
What these fad diets do not seem to take into account is that the body has many nutritional needs that not only promote complete physiological health, but are absolute necessities.
The hugely popular Atkins Diet, for example, called for a complete disregard of carbohydrates, but those carbohydrates are a key source of the body’s energy creation.
Not only do carbohydrates provide the body with its necessary energy creation nutrients, they are also a huge factor in the processing of an organ that is largely unacknowledged by many fad diets – the brain.
“There are a lot of fad diets out there right now,” Vernoga said, “that try to remove carbohydrates from the diet for weight loss. That is the worst thing you can do for the brain, because the brain only runs off of glucose from carbs.”
Las Positas Psychology professor and author of a widely used series of psychology text books Ernest Jones agrees that carbohydrates play a massive role in brain health.
“Carbs actually help other essential chemicals and nutrients get to your brain,” Jones said, “and if you eliminate them it makes it harder for some of those to get to your brain.”
The key, both Jones and Vernoga agree, is finding healthy sources of carbohydrates. They advise against sugar-based grains, like white flour. When planning the consumption of carbohydrates it is recommended to find what is called “complex carbs,” or natural carbohydates.
So instead of white bread or French fries, substitute 100 percent whole grain bread or sweet potatoes.
Along with “carbs,” another word that dieters cringe at the mere sound of is “fat.”
However, fat is yet another nutrient that the human body absolutely needs.
Internationally revered neuroscientist Dr. David Perlmutter has taken up the mantle of fat and its role in overall health.
“For just the past 3 decades,” Perlmutter writes on his website, “we have somehow become convinced that dietary fat represented a threat to our health. Mind you, fat has been a critical macronutrient for humans and our forebears for at least 2 million years. But suddenly, fat became responsible for every health woe you could think of.”
Obviously it isn’t the stance of any dietary or physiological expert that their patients and others go out and have a double bacon cheeseburger whenever possible. Foods high in healthy fats include grass-fed beef or fish.
Vernoga’s belief that the body’s fat needs can be met, through the healthy fats in avocados and walnuts, without indulging in what she calls “animal foods.”
Her stance is to maintain a diet that is physiologically appropriate – one that is high in fiber and plant foods, while cutting back or eliminating processed foods and animal foods.
Fiber as well as protein are other nutrients that play largely into the health of the body as well as the brain.
Neither of these nutrients are argued against by any fad diets or their creators. However Vernoga and Jones, as well as Perlmutter, urge both dieters and non-dieters alike to be sure that their body is provided with enough of these dietary elements.
While protein allows the body to build strong bones, muscles and joints. While fiber helps to lower cholesterol, controls blood sugar levels and has a direct hand in the body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Yet another popular trait to fad diets is the counting of calories. But calorie restrictions slow down you metabolism, which is the process by which the body burns fat and unneeded weight.
“As soon as you start cutting back on your calories,” Vernoga said, “your metabolism slows down. I’ve worked with people have gotten themselves down to like 900 calories and their still overweight.”
Along with adjustments to their dietary intake, those interested in a healthier lifestyle are advised to not overlook the other variables to which they subject their body.
Healthy stress relievers are monumental. Stress causes worlds of negativity to the physiological state.
Finding a hobby is something not considered by many when aiming for a healthier life. But no, that isn’t to say spending an extra hour on Madden will improve state, as sunshine itself will go a long way in stress relief.
Like taking selfies? Make them outdoor selfies.
Is reading your thing? Instead of sitting on the couch with your kindle, grab an apple and enjoy a snack and Fifty Shades of Grey in the backyard.
That’s right sleep does extensive good. But like all other factors, proper moderation is key.
The average American adult sleeps less than seven hours per day, according to the National Institutes of Health. But the Mayo Clinic advises that an adult needs a minimum of seven hours of sleep per day.
This sleep demand may serve as an especially tough task to the average college student, who may be carrying a full-time class load and paying for it with a full-time job. Fact is, the lack of sleep build what is called “sleep debt.” When this “sleep debt” reaches certain levels the body and brain will begin to function at a less efficient rate.
The answer to this problem is one that may spark excitement. Naps.
That’s correct – the body and brain can receive colossal profit from a 30-minute nap.
Finally, the most important part to a healthier lifestyle is exercise. The experts agree that, coupled with a healthy diet and sufficient sleep, one hour of activity per day is paramount to complete physiological health.
The only disagreement is which part of the body is better served by regular exercise.
“There are some in the field (of psychology or neuroscience),” Jones said, “who say that exercise may be more important for the brain than the body.”
There is also a word of warning to those who rely heavily on nutritional supplements. There is revealing research that these supplements do not provide the body with what they claim – what the body needs.
One popular such supplement is Omega-3 or fish oil pills.
These supplements are consumed by many to achieve the effects of eating fish without having to choke down a food that many feel difficult to eat. But, as Jones said, it is highly likely that our body does not make full use of these supplements, and the consumers of them often, as he put it, “end up just having expensive pee.”
Vernoga advises those who find it tough to eat fish that there is actually a better source of these important Omega-3s, as she claims is the case with all other supplements and animal foods. In this particular case, fish owes its high Omega-3 content to its own diet, a diet that consists of sea algae – like seaweed – which contains higher levels of Omega-3.
So eating something like a seaweed salad is much better for your body than taking a pill and is not accompanied by the hardship of wading through the overpowering taste and smell of sardines.
There is also the option of including flaxseed, which is extremely high in Omega-3s, in your diet. If it is in the form of flaxseed oil, Vernoga warns, do not cook the oil as the nutrients will actually be cooked out of the oil. Instead, the oil can be added to salad dressings or smoothies.
So, forget the fad diet. Forget counting calories and cutting carbohydrates. Instead, get the rest your body needs and have at least one hour per day of sustained activity, and start by making one healthy nutritional choice a day.
Don’t make health a fad. Make it a lifestyle.