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Why Do All Diets Seem to Work?

I hear it all the time in the office.  Someone just lost a great deal of weight on whatever diet is the latest fad.  Vegetarian, Paleo, Dr. Poon, the Metabolic Diet, The Zone, Southbeach, and on and on….

How is it possible that completely contradictory diets still seem to “work” for some people?  You can eat bacon double cheeseburgers on your diet and I can only eat grapefruits yet we both lose weight?  Doesn’t make sense!

Let’s assume a typical diet – milk, bread, processed foods, cereals, high sugar loads, combined with some meats, fruits and vegetables.  Now, introduce a “new diet” of only vegetables.
Removing milk, breads, and sugar and replacing them with more vegetables is a huge step in the right direction.  The result, for at least the short term, would be feeling better, possibly having more energy and even less inflammation.  The obvious conclusion of course – vegetarianism is the best diet. Any claim that it’s not, is echoed with the sentiment “it worked for me!”

However, there’s a massive difference between better and optimal.

How do we define what is optimal?

It’s not by the conventional standard of “what makes you feel better”; it must be based on what is required for the body to function in its healthiest state and the application of the actions that will meet those needs.

For example, the nutrient requirements of the body are protein, fat and micronutrients (carbohydrate is technically not required but still recommended in appropriate doses and quality – particularly as it relates to your activity level).  The more closely your diet approximates these needs, with as low levels of toxicity as possible, the healthier you get.

Eating an all-vegetable diet is better than an all Big Mac diet but it is far from an optimal one.  Walking on a treadmill or running 5k’s is better than lying on the couch but it won’t work as well as strength training and metabolic conditioning to improve your health.

So, when someone claims their new diet is amazing! Take that claim with a grain of salt and ask yourself… is it optimal or is it just better than nothing?

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