The word diet has it´s origins in the Greek diaita. Diaita was a noun that meant for the ancient Greeks “a way of living.” In its original context, diaita didn´t only focus on eating certain foods to achieve a specific goal, such as weight loss — it was meant to represent an entire way of life, encompassing food, drink, lifestyle, and exercise.
WHAT IS A FAD? – An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze (i.e., diets and fashions).
So the question is, are today´s diets, diaita (long term and health promoting) or fads (short term with unimpressive results) ?
A CONCISE HISTORY OF DIET FADS…Enjoy!!
1905: The Tapeworm Diet – tapeworm infestation can result in a loss of one to two pounds per week. When satisfied with weight loss, a deworming agent is given, which kills the tapeworm so it can be expelled.
1917: Los Angeles physician Lulu Hunt Peters introduced the world to calorie counting with the bestseller “Diet and Health with Key to the Calories.”
1920: First appearance of the KETOGENIC Diet – used successfully in certain cases for reducing the symptoms of epilepsy
1925: The Cigarette Diet coincided with the ad campaign “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”
1928: The Inuit diet: All the caribou, raw fish and whale blubber you can eat.
1930: The Grapefruit Diet, which resurfaced two decades later as the Hollywood diet, made a splash by promising weight loss if adherents ate grapefruit at each meal.
1934: The Bananas and Skim Milk Diet, promoted by the United Fruit Co.
1950: The Cabbage Soup Diet is one of the oldest fad diets still in use. “It seems to resurface with a new name every 10 to 15 years,” according to Diet.com.
1961: Weight Watchers launched, moving away from “dieting” and toward “eating management.”
1964: “The Drinking Man’s Diet” by Robert Cameron was just what it sounds like, prompting the Harvard School of Public Health to declare it … unhealthful.
1972: “DR. ATKINS DIET REVOLUTION” promotes a high-protein, high-fat, very low-carbohydrate regimen. It emphasizes meat, cheese, and eggs, while discouraging foods such as bread, pasta, fruit, and sugar. It is a form of ketogenic diet.
1975: A doctor created a cookie containing “secret amino acid protein blend” that he “mixed “with his own hands” at his Florida medical practice. It promised to help control hunger and help patients stick to a reduced-calorie diet.
1976: The Sleeping Beauty Diet sounds a bit like a vacation from the kids: Individuals were sedated for several days as a way to promote weight loss.
1981: The Beverly Hills Diet helped popularize long-standing ideas about food combining, or, as it were, non-combining: Fruit, under this diet, should only be eaten alone.
1985: THE CAVE MAN DIET touted food from the Paleolithic era, the precursor to the Paleo diet.
1995: “ENTER THE ZONE,” by Barry Sears, ushered in the 40-30-30 ratio of carbs, fat and protein, and a flood of Zone cookbooks, snack bars and more.
1995: The Sugar Busters Diet: Sugar was declared Public Enemy No. 1.
1996: “EAT RIGHT FOR YOUR TYPE” by Peter J. D’Adamo paired diets with blood type.
1997: “DR. ATKINS NEW DIET REVOLUTION”
2003: “THE SOUTH BEACH DIET” by Arthur Agatston admonished us to ditch the “white stuff,” such as sugar, flour and baked potatoes.
2010: “THE PALEO DIET” and “THE PRIMAL BLUEPRINT” books helped us get in touch with our inner meat lover.
2018: “KETOGENIC DIET” was 2018´s most popular diet.
As we can see from the above list, the word “diet” became primarily indicative of an all-consuming practice and desire to lose weight – an $80 billion dollar industry that, according to the National Institute of Health, fails 98% of dieters. After all these decades of fad dieting we still find that 1/3 of people in the U.S. are obese and 2/3 are overweight and despite today´s popularity of so many fad diets, we are not only getting fatter and fatter but also unhealthier and unhealthier… as evidenced by the annual global growth of chronic diseases. In other words, the diet fads have been having the opposite effect on our health.
Although most of the above fads eventually fell by the wayside, for one reason or another, there remain a few that pop up every so often (highlighted above with capital letters) and are actually very popular today…the so called “low carb diets”, touting the benefits of animal protein, saturated fats and low carbs…primarily for weight loss.
It´s unfortunate that for so many people, shedding pounds as quickly as possible is the priority…more important than long term health. If more attention would be directed towards our health and wellbeing then we could end up having the best of the 3 worlds…losing weight, preventing and even reversing chronic diseases and living a long and healthy life.
With Whole Food Plant Based nutrition, we get…
1. Fiber – a carbohydrate which is the food that our good bacteria eat. Consuming enough fiber leads to a healthy gut which minimizes the possibilities of digestive diseases (i.e., Crohn´s disease, ulcerated colitis and colon cancer). Fiber also gives us the feeling of fullness which calms our appetite and helps us to lose weight…naturally. It also helps to avoid constipation and varicose veins.
2. Complex carbohydrates – are nutrient dense and provide us with the energy and the vitamins and minerals our body requires. Athletes load up on carbs before competitions. And since they digest slowly they´re good for weight loss and weight control
3. Anti-oxidants – Substances found in plants that can protect against the cell damage that free radicals cause, known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis and vision loss.
4. Phytonutrients – also called phytochemicals, are chemicals produced by plants. Plants use phytonutrients to stay healthy. For example, some phytonutrients protect plants from insect attacks, pesticides and fungi while others protect against radiation from UV rays. As a result, phytonutrients can provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection for humans as well as strengthen the immune system, repair DNA damage from exposure to toxins and detoxify carcinogens.
With Whole Food Plant Based nutrition, we Don´t get…
A. A fad
B. Dietary Cholesterol – According to Dr. William C. Roberts, who has not only been the editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology for more than 30 years; he´s the executive director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and has authored more than a thousand scientific publications and written more than a dozen textbooks on cardiology claims that there´s only one true risk factor for coronary heart disease: cholesterol. You could be an obese, diabetic, smoking couch potato and still not develop artherosclerosis, as long as the cholesterol level in your blood is low enough (total cholesterol below 150 and LDL below 70).
C. Saturated Fat – The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats – which are found in butter, cheese, red meat and other animal-based foods. Decades of sound science has proven it can raise your “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk for heart disease. The buildup of fat, especially saturated fat, in our muscles and liver has been linked to type 2 diabetes by inhibiting insulin to deliver sugar to the cells…for energy. Note: Coconut and Palm oils contain saturated fat but with 0 cholesterol.
4. Animal protein – IGF-1 is a growth hormone that is found in animal protein and is crucial for regulating cell growth. As a child and adolescent this growth hormone level goes up. As an adult, the IGF-1 level diminishes since growth is no longer necessary. If the levels remain too high then our cells would keep on growing and dividing and thus increasing the risk for developing cancers. Also, because animal protein is acid forming and inflammatory it can lead to kidney failure, kidney stones and osteoporosis.
Low carb, high fat diets emerged as a consequence of the growing obesity problem which was being blamed on the Standard American Diet (SAD), of meat, dairy, eggs, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. People were looking for answers and Dr. Robert Atkins appeared at the right time and place and came up with the idea of putting the blame on carbohydrates. He even coined the phrase “low carb diet”, meshing together all carbs…processed or whole. Since plants are the source of all carbohydrates, this decision to prohibit them, turned most plant foods, considered historically as the healthiest choice, into evil and fattening no nos…and to be avoided.
My Take #1:
The healthiest and longest living people on the planet have never followed fad diets. Instead, their way of living closely resembles the diaita way of the ancient Greeks…a lifestyle that is time tested. For optimal nutrition, the foundation for these people has always been based on whole plant foods. None of the longest lived, most vital peoples have been nourished by animal protein foods or diets high in saturated fats and low in carbohydrates. If all of the above doesn’t make sense to you then fad diets can be enticing…especially because there is information that supports every one of them. However, if the whole food plant base regimen rings true for you and you make the commitment to pursue it, it could mean a longer and healthier life…one in which you´ll end up thinking in terms of healthspan instead of lifespan.
My Take #2:
Now, if you´re interested in a health and a wellbeing plan “not” to die for…to keep your inner and outer “you” in tip top form, I offer the following suggestions that have worked very well for me, during these past 10 years (I´m now 77). Note: They are compliments and not substitutions for what we eat…which I consider to be the foundation for optimal health.
1. Moderate Daily Exercise – for heart health (i.e., walking briskly, aerobics, swimming) and weight bearing exercises for maintaining strong bones and sustaining muscle mass, especially as we age.
2. Move Around Frequently – Sitting for more than 6 hours a day can cause circulation problems as well as hemorrhoids (it happened to me). If you have a sitting job, stand up and move around as much as possible (every half hour).
3. Stress Reduction – Constant stress from daily life releases hormones such as adrenaline that can cause havoc within our bodies. Meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques and exercise can help to reduce stress. I find that meditation helps me to separate my inner self from the stuff that´s constantly bombarding me on the outside. We may not be able to remove the cause of the stress but can control how we respond.
4. Real Life Communication and Sharing with people you care for…apart from social media.
5. Do What Moves and Fulfills you – Have a passion for something (i.e., volunteering for a cause, making people laugh, singing, helping others, sharing your expertise)?
6. Get the amount of sleep your body requires – Everyone´s different so find out what works for you and you don´t end up yawning the next day (I require at least 6 hours with 7 being ideal).