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Monday, May 12, 2014

The Diet Fix: Book Review

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 Good Monday morning!  It's a hot and sunny one here.  How was your weekend?  Ours was loads of fun.  My mom was visiting, Big A had her birthday party on Saturday, Little A had 2 back-to-back birthday parties to attend, and yesterday was Mother's Day.  Adam treated me to my annual shopping spree (yes, I do have the best husband) and then we had dinner at my in-laws.

Today I have a great book to tell you about!

One of the goals of this blog is to provide clear health information.  It annoys me to no end how poorly the media conveys (and confuses) research data to the public.  If you don't understand how to interpret/critique research and/or identify credible information sources, it is easy to be misled by all the messages you see and hear.

But it's not just the media that is to blame.  I am often flabbergasted by the inaccurate information spewed by many supposed health professionals.  My philosophy is, recommendations should be evidence based.  If there is no proof, how can you make a claim about cause and effect?  If you stick with the proven facts about nutrition, the message is always the same and can be basically boiled down to Michael Pollen's advice: Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.  The one thing that complicates this message, however, is that most North Americans don't know what food is.  That's because we live in a toxic food environment where the most affordable, readily available products is merely highly processed garbage with no nutritional value.

There is no evidence that eating gluten-free, low-carb, Paleo, alkaline, etc., etc. will necessarily make you thinner and/or healthier, however, these fad diets continue to emerge and catch on like wild fire with enthusiasts claiming that they are the key to solving the obesity epidemic.  Yet, as a society, we just continue to get fatter and sicker.

I have long been a reader of Weighty Matters, the blog written by obesity expert, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff.  He is one health professional who really seems to 'get it'.  He understands how to interpret research data and to present the information in a clear way that anyone can understand.  As a physician who's practice is dedicated to helping patients lose weight, he also shows incredible empathy towards those struggling to lose weight.  While he acknowledges the role of personal responsibility, he also understands how difficult it is for most people to lose weight because of the misinformation and myths about weight loss, the stigma of being overweight, and the challenges of living in an obesogenic environment.  So when I heard he was publishing book called The Diet Fix, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon.

If you are someone who has long struggled with your weight, I suggest you pick up this book!   I have already recommended it to all my weight-loss clients whom I counsel.

First, Freedhoff describe's Dieting's Seven Deadly Sins:
1. Hunger - Whatever diet you are on, if you are always hungry, you are not going to stick with your eating plan.
2. Sacrifice - If you feel constantly deprived, you will not stick with your eating plan.
3. Willpower - An inappropriate/too restrictive diet cannot be mastered by just mustering up more willpower.  Willpower is finite for each and every one of us.
4. Blind restriction - Completely eliminating a food or food group sets most people up for failure.
5. Sweat - Trying to adopt too extreme a workout routine does not encourage adherence.
6. Perfectionism - Making perfection the goal sets you up for failure.  Flexibility, rather than black-and-white thinking is most useful when it comes to your diet.
7. Denial - Overly restrictive diets are almost impossible for most people to maintain long-term.

Freedhoff also examines some of the trauma associated with repeatedly failing at diets (guilt, shame, failure, depression, despair, binge eating, and weight cycling) and suggests that if you cannot stick to a prescribed diet, than you should view the diet as the problem, not internalize it as a sign of personal deficiency.

The book also outlines a 10-Day Reset plan, with the goal of adjusting your relationship with food and your body.  It involves a particular task or focus each day:

1. Gear Up - get the necessary resources for your new outlook/lifestyle
2. Diarize - Learn how to write a food diary and start doing it every single day
3. Banish Hunger - Discover how to plan your meals so that you don't ever become too hungry (we are all programmed to seek out high calorie food when our body perceives we are in a period of famine!)
4. Cook - Cooking is a life skill everyone should have...it can save money and tons of calories!!
5. Think - Practice self-compassion and stop striving for perfection
6. Exercise - Find an activity you enjoy and can stick with (consistency is the most important variable at the end of the day)
7. Indulge - Learn how to incorporate splurges into your life without going to extremes
8. Eat Out - Become an informed consumer so you know how to go out to restaurants and enjoy yourself without mindlessly consuming excess calories, salt and fat
9. Set Goals - Explore the best way to set realistic, achievable weight and health goals
10. Trouble Shoot and Move Forward - Be patient, expect and accept setbacks without judgement.

Freedhoff provides a great deal of detail on how to accomplish each daily task.  I was thrilled to read the section on diarizing because that is the habit I struggle most to get my clients to do.  In most cases, they say it is a pain, too time consuming, or are fearful of the shame they will feel by being forced to see a record of their food consumption.  Freedhoff explains how to make diarizing a simple task that takes no more than 5 minutes a day, and reminds people to try and complete the exercise without judgement.

So which diet or way of eating does Freedhoff recommend?  The healthiest one you can enjoy, maintain long-term and that allows you to remain at a healthy weight. Exactly what I tell my clients!He is not against or in support of any fad diet, in particular.  He does seem to like the Paleo diet, since it is centred around whole foods, rather than processed and fast foods.  Herein lies the only place where I disagree with Freedhoff.  He feels there is not sufficient evidence that saturated fat is harmful, but I believe there is.  The May 2014 issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, explains the methodological flaws in a recent study that had the authors' concluding that saturated fats do not increase disease risk.  At the very least, if you want to do the whole low-carb or Paleo thing, I would stick with fish, poultry and eggs over red meat (and of course avoid cured and processed meats!!).

Freedhoff includes a section covering other factors that can affect weight, such as sleep, health conditions and certain medications, and one that is filled with yummy, nutritious recipes.  The final section compiles resources to help you reach your health goals.

Overall, this book is a must for anyone who either struggles with their weight, or has developed a dysfunctional relationship with mood (although this is not meant to substitute treatment for individuals with clinical eating disorders).  It is also a good resource for anyone, like myself, who supports people trying to lose weight in a professional capacity.  Nice work Dr. Freedhoff!

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