Kim Porterfield is a certified nutritionist and fitness specialist who helps people not only discover their best selves but keep their bodies that way once they achieve their goals. In yesterday’s post, she discussed the basics of nutrition and designing a program that works for her clients. You can find it here. Today she gives us the skinny on all the diets out there you have heard of and maybe even tried and tells us what she likes and dislikes about each of them. Take it away Kim!
At the end of the day, the ideal diet is the one that works best for you. One that allows you to maintain muscle, drop body fat, and one you can continue to do for a lifetime. Each of the diets I will be commenting on has their positives and their negatives. But I was asked for my professional opinion on each. As a clinical nutritionist that measures the body fat percentages of 8-12 people daily (over the past 15+ years), I have seen it all. I have had clients try every plan I will be discussing, some with better outcomes than others. Some of these plans with simple modifications to things like portion sizes and meal timing can work very, very well long term. Others, however, are so restrictive that they are bound to fail in the end–even if the person loves it in the beginning. Humans are not wired to tolerate deprivation long-term. That is why so many people gain their weight back after extreme diets. At our clinic, we pride ourselves on a more moderate approach that has been proven for over 40 years to assist with relapse prevention. So just know, my comments are based off real-world experience with thousands of clients and I am not trying to step on anyone’s toes if I personally do not support the plan you choose. That does not mean I do not support your choice to choose that plan. And if it is indeed your perfect fit, congratulations! So here we go–my brief thoughts on the following plans:
The glycemic index (GI) assigns a numeric score to a food based on how drastically it makes your blood sugar rise. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose (sugar) given a value of 100. The lower a food’s glycemic index, the slower blood sugar rises after eating that food. In general, the more cooked or processed a food is the higher its GI, and the more fiber or fat in a food, the lower its GI. But if you add a protein to the meal the glycemic load of the meal lowers dramatically. So, if you eat balanced meals, the glycemic index is unnecessary. The balanced meal will actually help keep blood sugar levels in check. So, is the glycemic diet the key to fat loss? Not really. There is much more to what causes body fat gain and loss than just the effect on blood sugar certain carbohydrates may have.
If you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. It incorporates fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limits unhealthy fats. It does include ample amounts of healthy fats like olive oil that unfortunately can stand in the way of significant fat loss if the fat content is too high (fats—healthy or otherwise—always store in fat cells. You must be active enough to burn it off). It is also a proponent of red wine for heart health which sounds great on the surface until you consider alcohol of any type is strongly linked to head, neck, esophageal, colon, rectum, liver, and breast cancer. So heavy wine consumption may have a negative effect on your health in other ways. Not to mention, we find higher body fat percentages in people that consume alcohol unless they are very active and do plenty of cardio to offset it.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension) by encouraging a balanced diet with a reduction in sodium. It recommends whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, legumes, and encourages a small serving of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can also eat red meat, sweets, and fats in small amounts on the DASH diet. While the DASH diet is not technically a weight-loss program, you may indeed lose some weight if your diet was based on unhealthy choices or high-fat foods before. But at a certain point, you may still need to consult with someone to get the balance of the meals correct for your unique needs.
I think a Flexitarian diet may be one of the healthiest diets out there but if trying to get leaner (meaning only losing fat and not lean mass) it may not be the best choice. I have worked with vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians for years and I have actually practiced each version myself at some point. But most of those clients came in thinking they were eating a healthy diet that was meant to cause fat loss but was actually getting fatter. When analyzing their diets, I typically discovered that their carbohydrates were too high, protein was too low, and fat content was too high. As a result, they were carrying a low amount of muscle with a high percentage of body fat. After balancing their protein and carbohydrates and reducing their fat, they all would get leaner. So, can it be done as a flexitarian? Absolutely but with personal tweaking. On a side note; people considering this style of eating can become deficient in zinc, iron, calcium, and B12 so proper meal planning and supplementation is essential.
I strongly dislike fad diets but I particularly dislike Keto. I will refer you to an article written by my partner Keith Klein CN, CCN on my blog called “The 10 Reasons to Avoid a Keto Diet.” He does a very good job explaining why it is not safe and why it is unsustainable long term.
An independent panel of nutrition scientists, physicians, and nutritionists ranked Whole 30, Keto, Body Reset, and Dukan diets at the bottom of the list of the US News and World Report on healthiest diets. The panel slammed the diet as having “No independent research. Nonsensical claims. Extreme. Restrictive.” and tied it with the raw food diet as “the worst of the worst for healthy eating.” I have to agree. Not a fan.
The human species isn’t simply a collection of adaptations to life in the Paleolithic era. We are an ever-evolving species with an accumulation of inherited characteristics that have been evolving through the ages. This evolution has continued over the past 10,000 years — and won’t stop any time soon. So, evolutionary arguments do not hold up with educated nutrition professionals. The main benefit of this diet is the avoidance of processed foods. Who can fault that? But the evidence for excluding dairy, legumes, and grains isn’t strong. Most people do just fine while including those foods, are healthy, lose body fat, and look and feel amazing. And following a list of “good” vs. “bad” is not typically effective long term. People are not naturally wired to be overly restrictive for extended periods of time.
High fat/low fat
We need fat in our diets to produce hormones and neurotransmitters. But a high-fat diet will not help with fat loss and a diet too low in fat will create hormone issues. So we teach clients a moderate fat, moderate carb, moderate protein approach that has worked well for thousands of clients.
Women should not fast longer than 12 hours! I have had clients try Intermittent Fasting for longer periods and developed hot flashes, anxiety, and sleep issues. When tested they discovered they had menopausal levels of hormones. When we put them back on their meal plans, their hormones returned to normal. For more information on our clinic’s opinion on intermittent fasting, please click here.
Appointments can be made with Kim Porterfield by calling 713-621-9339. Her blog can be found at https://breakingthefatlosscode.com