The term “Diet“
Most of the time people get confused with the term diet, as they usually think it is a short term change of the food pattern, to get us to the result we want to achieve, but in that case, those kind of diets are not really healthy solutions and in over 90% of the studied cases people can not maintain it on the long term. Mainly people that go for a search of a diet is usually for weight loss purposes and not for the health-related purposes. We could even be misled by thinking they are actually good for our health as well, but in most cases, they are not, because most of the diets are not nutritionally sufficient, and they have big caloric restrictions so therefore we do not get most of the vitamins and minerals that the medical nutrition recommends. So the term diet is something you can maintain on a long term and it is well planned, with sufficient intake of all the nutrients our body needs, majority of the diet should come from the plant-based sources.
Short term diet vs long term diet
With short term diets, we want to achieve the result as soon as possible, usually because we are not happy with the way we are right now, and this could be for various reasons. We need to be aware that with the short term diets there comes some side effects such as digestion problems, feeling hungry most of the time, with lack of energy or even a big changes in the energy levels during the day, muscle tone loss, bad regeneration and so on, which we are willing to ignore until we are on the diet, but for sure we can not maintain those kinds of diet on a long term. Studies show that the compliance rate is very high as people want to stick to the diet until the end as they see quick results and this is something that keeps them going, but after a while, the “improvement” stops. So that is why the retention of result from the short term diets and keeping the result in the long term is very low with popular diets. Many of them work on the short term in case of losing weight, which is unfortunately mostly on behalf of muscle mass, water and glycogen, but dropping body fat is something completely different. In the majority of popular diets, they were studying people that lost 10% of excess body weight on a certain diet, and the results have shown that most people regain even more bodyweight within the year or two years time and then again every new attempt of not well-planned diet drops the success rate as most of them slows down the metabolism and they are already in the muscle mass deficit so it is even harder to get to the result we want with each attempt. So as we regain the body fat after, we mainly regain it on the behalf of fat tissue which becomes even more saturated than before and as a consequence, we will have an even bigger problem with losing it afterwards and it even puts us in the extra risk of developing some chronic diseases. So the answer would be: search for a long term diet.
The difference between healthy and unhealthy diets?
People think differently about health, some think looking great is healthy and then others think looking good and feeling great in the long term is healthy. Healthy nutrition should give you the possibility to maintain proper body weight and help you to avoid chronic diseases. But studies show that most of the chronic diseases start already in childhood and we can not see the consequences straight away but with years, as we grow older. There is a very popular term train more and eat less, but it is actually not exactly like that, because in that case, you are losing weight based on muscle mass, water and glycogen, but not actually losing fat, as mentioned before. Instead, it would be ideal in our case to maintain or even gain muscle mass and lose fat when we are pursuing a weight loss result. The best combination is to find the appropriate diet that is healthy for us and having a healthy amount of physical exercise as well. There is another case where we decide we will be losing our bodyweight-only by exercise and it actually goes like this; in most cases, we will gain bodyweight as our appetite raises and we will be eating even more than before. If we do not eat we are losing muscle mass the most so consequently our appetite raises and we actually eat more than we are burning. We need to expose as well that our immune system decreases. So when doing any of the results try to use body composition analyzer and not the normal scale. With the normal scale, you can only check your body weight from which you are not aware of what your body is actually built of. In the opposite case using the body composition analyzer, you can see your muscle mass level, body fat, visceral fat, water, approximate calories your body needs on a daily basis and you can trace on a long term and if your progress is going in the right direction. Losing weight by dropping body fat. And we need to be aware that without the appropriate workout we can not get the body tone we would wish for.
How diets affect our health?
We have many kinds of diets, like Low-carb diet, Keto diet, Mixed diet, Mediterranean diet, Vegetarian diet, that we can split to a vegan diet and as well a Junk food diet. The diet can have an impact on our health from 70% to 95%. When we are looking at it from the perspective of the chronic disease, to avoid any of the listed; not being obese, diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, depression and so on… You can achieve this with a healthy diet in 95% or even more, everything is in our own hands, even with having enough sleep and doing all the needed work. So as we see from the studies, diet affects our health the most! If we check the studies of how the longest living population live or the shortest, the results of a large randomised clinical study, when we see what kind of diet our animal relatives eat like monkeys and gorillas, then twin studies and many kinds of studies. You must not watch the randomised studies about diets but you need to check the bigger picture overall different study cases. We have some people that say as well ok I will enjoy my life and not pay attention to my diet and rather live those 5 years less, but on fortunately it is not just 5 years less it is actually 40 years less as if someone gets the diabetes type 2 after being 40. he will have less quality of life up to 25 years on, but the life expectancy will shorten up to 15 years and if you have any other diseases by the age of 25 it will have the impact on us for up to 40 years so it is not just the matter of 5 years.
How to choose the right diet for me?
After checking the studies regarding diets over the last 20 years the diet we choose should be very simple, tasteful, available locally, financially sustainable and it should fit the individual lifestyle (either you are an athlete, a mother with a small baby, you have cooking skills, you have a really busy lifestyle, etc.), you should have a good post-workout recovery and good prevention from most of the chronic diseases. And the most important thing with choosing the proper diet for yourself, regarding on your goal and lifestyle, you should be having the proper support and the follow up on your way of the transformation as without the support system this attempt of change could become a part of the failure for yourself. So what do I mean by support? That you get some proper education on the common myths on a misconception by the diet and health, cooking skills, shopping skills, motivation from outside as not all the people have that strongest inner motivation on the long term, and even if they do, there comes a day we do not, so in that case, at the beginning of the process, we all need someone to follow us on our way to success on a long term. Many people also get frustrated as they think they need to be perfect from the day one, but the thing is every transition is a process so we need to allow ourselves to make mistakes, even tho we are trying our best, as this is something completely normal, it is a PROCESS.
You need to find someone you trust, have the eye to see who is who. Who can be followed by an example, who does the work he is talking about, and what the science says. This person should have the results constantly let us say 3 years, 5 years, 10 years long and this somebody should not just lead by example but should also provide the support system for you to guide you through, having a good history of the results in practice and offering extensive support and to teach you how to do a proper workout.
What should be the right indicator that the diet I choose is working for me?
So the right diet is the one that gives you the bodyweight reduction on regards of fat in case you need it, and that is healthy and that you can maintain it in the long term. Not being tired, not being hungry not just to convince yourself you are not hungry. Let us say you are on a well-planned plant-based diet, the intake of fibres, water and enough proteins are providing you that you are not hungry, because hunger is the biggest reason that we can not stick to the diet on long term as we are losing muscles and we do not have the energy. You should have good prevention for chronic diseases which you can measure by giving a blood sample, to check your blood levels, or some other diagnostics, as for example; the cholesterol levels, biomarkers, blood pressure, etc. This should be the main pointer that the diet is working good for you. And as well you should be first of all feeling good in your body, that you have enough of energy during the whole day, that you do not have any skin problems, that your skin colour looks healthy, and the most important that you can maintain the proper body composition even when you are over 30, 40, 50 years old. But a big problem in this picture is actually, that the most side effects of a certain bad diet, we can not sense in the short term.
Source: Boštjan Jakše, Physical Educational teacher and conditioning coach. PhD in Nutrition. Author of the book “Chronically ill are business” (Slovenian version) and many other studies in Nutrition.