The problem with fad diets and a better approach.

We have become so obsessed with dieting, what to eat and what not to eat, good guy foods vs. villains, that I believe we have lost the basic fundamental principle that food above all is else is fuel — and every meal is an opportunity to nourish our every cell in our body so we have the energy and stamina that we want to give to ourselves and to the world day to day. 

Fueling our bodies is important to good energy and health, but the problem is that fuel, also known as food calories, are too easily accessible anytime and everywhere.

All calories are not equal, especially when they enter our individual and unique bodies. If there is one universal truth in nutrition, it is that everyone has a different metabolic response to that caloric energy when it enters the body. The way I metabolize a piece of bread is very different from you based on genetics, gut bacteria, immune system, stress levels, and even how active we are before or after the meal. That is why no one diet works for everyone. However, all energy is used in the same way in the human body. There are only 3 choices.

Food can be used for 1 – immediate energy 2 – homeostasis of resting metabolism, which involves the constant breakdown and maintenance of cells 3 – or storage and growth. In today’s world, the balance has been tipped toward Number 3.

Every metabolic disease is a disease of too much growth: Cardiovascular disease and too much plaque in arteries, brain disease and the buildup of amyloid beta proteins, autoimmune diseases and an overactive immune system, cancer and the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Fat itself is an inflammatory substance, and too much of it heightens the risk for any of these diseases. Clearly, we are consuming too much energy and too often, and suffering the price, becoming sick too young from these diseases of affluence. 

However, consuming too little energy through crash and fad dieting is not the antidote. It’s a recipe for disaster. These diets are unsustainable and too restrictive. They also often provide too few calories, essential vitamins and nutrients, and end up slowing down the thyroid, overall metabolism, and making us feel pretty crappy. So, when you can’t take it anymore and finally start eating enough to get your energy back and feel normal again, your body is in a starvation mode that makes it very easy to store fat. 

Over millions of years of evolution, humans developed many protective mechanisms against losing weight, but very few for gaining weight. And thank goodness this is so, or we would probably not still be around as a species today. We are great at slowing down our metabolism and conserving energy and fat stores when food is scarce. This has allowed us to survive and thrive as a species, but it does us no good in our current world of always-available convenience foods.

Clearly, we need some guidelines to protect us from overconsuming energy and switching into fat storage mode, BUT we also can’t slow down our metabolism, depleting our energy — because food is fuel — and live a life with so many restrictions.

A better approach would be to focus on food quality, and more importantly when you eat. I encourage you to follow these three golden rules of nutrition.