Diet Fusion- A Practical Approach To Long Term Weight Loss
I got an email last night from a subscriber to our Tip Of The Day weight loss coaching/training newsletter. The person asked for some general tips on what to eat now that they have decided to lose weight. We really refer out to the experts as much as we can, but I introduced her to something we call "Diet Fusion." This is something we talk about in the Point of No Return as well, I think in week three. But here is what I said to her in response to her specific question:
"This gives me a great opportunity to get a little more clear and focused on one of the key "organizing themes" of our overall coaching program.
First of all, you need to see your doctor for specific advice. That is not just boilerplate- we mean that. And you will see some videos coming from a great doctor who will be explaining the role they have in this process, and also what a great doctor should be doing. Not all doctors are great, but finding one is well worth the effort.
Now, one of the key themes we talk about in the overall PEERtrainer coaching/training program is an approach I have termed "Diet Fusion". Diet Fusion is customization, finding what works for you, depending on your life stage. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that having only one diet for fitness regimen works for very few people. This is a list of some of the diets we have seen work:
-Fat Smash Diet, this is something we see to help kickstart a diet. Very popular, very effective in the short term, very easy to fall off track. But it is a good shock introduction to better nutrition, and does take a page or two from Joel Fuhrman's work.
-South Beach Diet- another diet we have seen help people drop a quick 5 pounds. It works well especially if you are in metabolic risk. But this should be done in combination with WW points and a high nutrient diet like Eat To Live.
-Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live/Eat For Health- The most important idea of his is that intense amounts of greens help you lose weight, and that not all foods are created equal. He has designed a point scoring system to guide you to the best foods. He is probably the primary innovator in weight loss today, with people like Weight Watchers now following his lead.
Again the idea here is really find what works for you. Here is also a list of some very general principles, things we have seen work, and ideas put forth that we have seen help people on PEERtrainer get off the yo-yo cycle.
1. Nutrient Density- What this means very generally is eating a diet very high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans with a specific focus on greens. We see this work over and over again when it comes to successfully losing weight.
One of the things we continually focus on in our program is tips and ways to practically, cheaply and easily get high amounts of plant based foods in the diet each day. And making them taste good. And uncover the myths we tend to cling to that prevent us from seeing these as easy choices.
If you want to learn more about the work of Dr Joel Fuhrman you can read what we have written about his new book "Eat For Health". We tend to reference tips from him, simply because we see the specific effect his ideas have on people in the PEERtrainer community. We also like to link out to specific experts in different fields, to really make sure our readers and clients are exposed to as many ideas as possible. The core idea of Diet Fusion is customization, and the more good ideas you have, the more tools in your toolbox. We want to keep filling up your toolbox with things we see work.
There are many other doctors out there as well who are all focusing on the idea of pointing people towards diets that totally rebalance what we assume to be a "proper diet." The reality is that a growing number of people are really challenging our widely held assumptions. Dr. Bradley Willcox for example is another who is focusing on examining the habits of people in Japan who regularly live to 100, do not gain weight when they age and who tend to not get disease at anywhere near the rate Americans do.
It is important to point this out because what worked for you when you were 25 and single might not work now that you have a husband who you are eating with every night. Maybe you are a 70 year old man who is still eating with the diet assumptions you had in 1955. If what you are doing is not working you really need to be open to a real examinations of your assumptions. That is Diet Fusion.
2. Weight Watchers Points- this is another proven tool in our "Diet Fusion" approach. No matter how well you eat at home- fruit with every breakfast, salad as an entree, low levels of overall "animal protein" intake, spinach at every possible point- you are going to continually get out of your comfort zone. You will go out to restaurants, go to parties, be at the mall, on the road. You will be in situations where the option of nutritional excellence is not available to you.
So you have to be able very easy figure out how many points are in a bagel, and how to eat 10 point meals when you are out. A great way to do this is quickly to google "Weight Watchers Points Calculator" and start learning to add in calories, fat and fiber. Or go to a meeting or brush off your Points if you tried WW in the past and it did not work for you. This is much better than just plain calorie counting because the points system makes you look for high fiber, low calorie foods. Which incidently tend to be plant based. "Fiber" is the stuff in plants.
I have even recorded a short video that explains my own process of how I thought I was making the right choices, until I really mastered portion control.
3. Focus On The Transition- this is another very key point in the "Diet Fusion" approach. Restrictive diets fail because they are often all or nothing approaches. You are not going to go from eating cheeseburgers and bacon, egg and cheese bagels to spinach and fruit in a week. It is going to take time and take some work. So give yourself time and realize you cannot fail at this. View each day and each meal as an opportunity to make incremental progress. Something as small as deciding to eat a plate of veggies at a party instead of what the waiters bring around is a win- and should be celebrated.
4. Focus On The Volume Of Food When You Have A Chance To Eat Well. We tend to think of dieting as simply limiting calories. This is an incomplete approach for many, especially for the long run. How many times have you started a diet and then fell off?
You sort of have to do portion control, which is why Points are so important. But you have to feel full, not feel hungry. A truly healthy diet probably will not leave you cranky and hungry all the time. A large salad, that only has a tablespoon of olive oil in it, some lemon juice and garlic for flavor, with beans to make you feel full, tons of vegetables- can an ideal thing. You get a lot of plant based nutrients, but you also feel full. You can also feel full eating a lot less.
This is something that we have seen work and is something that has worked for me. Here is something that I do at home all the time- I take a two dollar bag of frozen organic spinach and a one dollar can of organic black beans. I throw it in a frying pan and heat it up. Maybe a touch of olive oil, throw some garlic in there, maybe some curry spice for flavor. Serve it with some rice. Fast, easy, cheap. I eat it, my husband eats it, my kids eat it. In fact, my husband cooks this so often that our daughter refers to them as "daddy beans". And for guys, the volume aspect is particularly important, if you are familiar with what I call "insane man hunger." I am using this as an example of how to think about the volume aspect of it.
Maybe you are out at the Cheesecake Factory for example. They serve HUGE portions of foods. But they also serve huge salads. Make that work for you. Order the salad, as for dressing on the side. Better yet, ask for 4 lemon wedges. Maybe get some steak or chicken on top of the salad. There are all sorts of options. (Their menu is like a book). Squeeze the lemon wedges on the salad, maybe some pepper (try to avoid the salt), a tiny tiny amount of whatever dressing they have. And wham- you have something that fills you up and will help you lose weight.
And make sure to keep the cheese and butter out of it. Cheese and butter are diet killers because of the hidden calories. Restaurants for some reason put cheese and butter in everything. Get in the habit of asking for butter and cheese free dishes. Interestingly some of the higher end restaurant chains in the US have removed butter from the menu. Seasons 52, a very good restaurant chain in the Southeast US have no butter in their dishes. Each dish is designed to be less than 500 calories as well. So this seems to be a trend.
5. Rethink Your Notion Of Hunger. One thing that Dr. Fuhrman teaches, and I just saw this talked about in the PEERtrainer community, is the idea of "true hunger". What this simply means is that real hunger is something you feel in your throat and mouth. It is not a panicky feeling, it is your mouth watering. If you are between meals and feel like you have to snack on something, reach for a piece of fruit, or a Lara bar or Kind bar. Nut bars are great diet tools. Very practical things you can keep with you.
Overall, this idea of "Diet Fusion" is really finding what works for you, and making it a practical habit. Diets fail when we feel hungry, they fail when we don't correctly control our portions, and they fail when we feel like we can't do them. How often have you felt that "losing weight is just not possible", or that "gaining weight is just something that happens when we get older." It truly does not have to be this way.
So instead of simply restricting calories, focus on a gradual transition to more plant based stuff. And this does not mean that you be a vegetarian- although some people do that for many reasons. I don't. But I keep reading more and more research that indicates that you don't want more than 10% of your diet to be animal based. Again, this is very general and there is a lot of conflicting information out there. You have to find what works for you.
The hardest part of all of this is developing these good habits in the face of overwhelming societal pressure. Maybe you are a mom struggling to feed healthy foods to your kids. Then the grandparents come to town and their version of love is force feeding them cheeseburgers. Maybe you are a guy who works in a stressful environment, job and the only choices seem to be sweets in the vending machine. Or you go to a restaurant and want to make some good habits, only to feel subtle but strong pressure from the waiter or waitress. One thing we focus on in our intensive coaching/training program is literally training you, ingraining in you a set of habits that help you get what you want. We do this with the help of a trained psychotherapist, because it is that hard!!
I will close this note with a simple idea- everyone talks about the importance of a "balanced diet". But what if you body is out of balance? Hitting the salads hard, and keeping the fat out of them, might be a great way to get back into balance.
Update: People have loved this basic concept over the years, and have found it "liberating." One thing people have said though is "ok, I get the basic idea. Now tell me exactly what to do." People wanted an eating plan to help put this advice into practice. So we developed a very simple to follow list of foods to focus on and foods to move away from. We call this the "Cheat System." It works incredibly well. It is free to download from this page.