Over the past two or so years I’ve lost over 50 pounds (yea me!) and the first thing that people I haven’t seen in a while ask is “are you on ‘the Atkins’?”.
Nope. I think the Atkins diet is bad for you, and has long term consequences for your health that you may not notice for years to come. It makes people sick. Don’t do it. I know there’s been a great deal of controversy on this particular issue, and I don’t have tons of statistics on my side. Mostly instinct. We’re not made (evolutionarily speaking) to eat that way. Meat is hard to catch. The other big problem is that people do lose weight on the Atkins diet quickly, and that’s pretty encouraging. I just don’t think it’s worth the eventual consequences. It teaches people to forget that in the long run, at the end of the day, you have to expend more calories than you eat every day, or you won’t lose weight. That means that just because you’re eating too many calories that all came from fat you won’t lose weight any faster than if you’re eating too many calories worth of white bread.
My dieting strategy has had much more to do with the theories behind books like The New Glucose Revolution. The key issue to be concerned about is not whether or not you are eating carbohydrates, but what those carbohydrates are doing to your blood sugar. Eat carbs all you want, but choose carbs that have less impact on your blood sugar (and therefore insulin) levels. Wheat bread instead of white bread, rice instead of potatoes, whole grain cereals like musli instead of cornflakes. These are pretty simple changes to make, and they make a difference. I think this route leads to much healthier eating than does the Atkins diet. We’re supposed to be eating things with carbs. Look at pre-industrial society for clues there. We’re just not supposed to be eating refined carbs like white flour and sugar.
Anyway, I think that no matter which diet you choose, the single biggest factor is what I think of as “mindful eating”. I realize that sounds rather Buddhist (and it is, I suppose), but it makes a huge difference in how you feel and how much you weigh. Just think about what you’re putting into your mouth. It’s as simple as that. Ask yourself questions like
I’m not suggesting that you adhere slavishly to the answers to any of those questions, but I think you’ll find that just by asking them, you’ll eat better, and probably lose weight, if that’s your goal. I think way too many people these days eat horrible food because they don’t stop to ask these questions. I mean not just horrible in terms of health concerns, but just plain gross food. Take a look at some of the junk in the grocery store.
On that note, please take as much care about asking yourself those questions before you give food to your kids. They depend on us to feed them food that’s healthy and won’t harm them down the road.
I think if you get in the habit of asking yourself about the food you eat, you’ll find yourself eating more whole foods, and more food that’s better for your body (and your wallet, but that’s another story). You may decide that you worked out extra hard, and you just feel like a chocolate bar today. OK, eat it, but just think about why you're eating it, and what it means to your body.
One last note: I had been excersing pretty regularly for a couple of years, and not losing any weight until I changed my diet. Now that I've lost the weight, I find that how much I excersise makes a bigger difference now than it did before. Even if I eat mindfully, I still have to excersise or I'll start gaining weight. Remember, if calories in > calories out, you'll gain weight, no matter where the calories came from.