BWW Blog: MFF Discusses The Best Diet for Fat Loss - Atkins, The Zone, Mediterranean & More!
Disclaimer: I have to give total credit for this post to Fitness Super Hero John Berardi of Precision Nutrition. It's largely inspired by a speech I saw him give recently, but it really crystallized a lot of what I've been thinking recently.
Anyone who works in the fitness industry is constantly being asked questions about what to eat. Folks will read a diet book, or they'll see an expert on a morning show, and they'll be curious to know my perspective on it. And this makes sense, because it's confusing as shit to hear so many mixed messages.
There are books vilifying virtually every possible ingredient; meat, dairy, casein, carbs, fat, saturated fat, soy, corn, gluten, wheat, grains, sugar, fructose, non-organic produce. With a dizzying array of diets from Atkins to Ornish, from the Zone to the Mediterranean, these books bury consumers with promises of the One True Way. And when virtually all of these books are written by articulate, persuasive, and generally well-intentioned authors (virtually all doctors)... it can leave readers a bit lost.
Having seen folks thrive on all types of diets, and knowing that historically humankind has subsisted on an incredible variety of food intake, I think everyone seeking "the best diet" is unfortunately barking up the wrong tree.
You are unique.
There is no best diet. There's the diet that you can sustain with food you like that's logistically feasible for YOU. (TWEET)
WHAT DO I EAT?
When you look at studies comparing the long-term results of any given diet, what we've seen is that over time any difference in fat loss begins to even out. It would seem that compliance really is the most important variable. Fat loss and getting leaner is really a matter of taking in less energy than you're burning.
Some diets maintain you can eat unlimited calories because it's "really about hormones." This is not based on either logic or science. Just as no sensible person will say that quality of calories doesn't matter, to say calories are meaningless is also fraudulent.
(TANGENT: If you say, "We need to debunk the calorie is just a calorie myth," you're putting up a straw man argument. No reasonable person has ever said that, outside MAYBE the extreme "If It Fits Your Macros" crowd on bodybuilding.com forums. Stop trying to sell your book by talking about "the truth they don't want you to know.")
When we concede there are healthy lean people with great blood profiles subsisting on all kinds of diets, we also must concede there is no one magic bullet. And when we look for one (or try to sell one), we're doing violence to the larger societal conversation.
Anyone can grind it out for a few weeks, but what do you enjoy doing for the long haul?
As anyone who has tried one knows, unreasonably restrictive diets suuuuuck. Sure, if you're looking to get into shape, I'm not against going all-in to get closer to a healthy bodyweight. Do you have an upcoming nude scene on network television? Are you about to compete in a bodybuilding show? Maybe even a honeymoon on a beach?
Rad. I'm totally cool with you going all out and really trying to be super regimented about your intake.
But let's be clear this is not a sustainable nutritional lifestyle. It's a useful short-term strategy to achieve a specific physique goal. Very different things.
Right On Bro!! You Go Guurl! But... Seriously, What Do I Eat?
There are a few specific action steps you can take to help find a nutritional lifestyle that works for you for the long haul.
For one thing, let's be realistic about what you love. Instead of building your diet around food you can tolerate/ hate, start with foods you enjoy. Based on what you usually consume, you may have to actively search and look to add more foods. But you will do well to avoid committing to a life of food you don't really like.
As far as developing guidance around what foods to choose, you can't go wrong with one- ingredient items. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid stuff with many ingredients. More often than not, these foods will be perishable and live on the perimeter of the grocery store. And the more variety the better!
Lastly, if you're concerned about a possible allergy, try cutting it out for a while and see what happens. If you don't want to eat gluten, or if you think dairy is making you puffy, do an experiment. Cut that out for a couple weeks and see how your body responds!
While I will still caution to be aware of the human desire to hunt for the magic bullet, the fact is allergies and insensitivities are real. Don't expect it to be a total cure-all, but do feel free to see if you do better by omitting certain foods known to cause issues.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Ultimately, since we've seen no diet leads to better long-term fat loss and weight maintenance, you should feel empowered to follow your own preferences. While I will always lean towards diets that include a wide variety of whole foods over more restrictive ones, you do you.
Lastly, it's worth noting there other consequences to your food choices besides your personal health and hotness.
In addition to being "fuel," food has cultural, social, and psychological elements that we should continue to embrace. It's part of what makes food magic, and channeled appropriately, this is a great thing. Furthermore our choices as consumer do have political and environment ramifications. While a full discussion is outside the scope of this article, we should all be mindful that every purchase is a vote.
Hopefully this gives you a little mental freedom from the search for the "perfect diet." Regardless, whether you think I'm right or totally off base, I'd love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with me so we can chat further!