People have learned to be averse to the term “diet.” Whenever we step out of the doctor's office with advice to diet, it is almost always associated with a disease, such that if we decide to chuck that advice out the nearest window, that disease will certainly progress. Well, who wouldn't be averse to it? For many, to diet is the end of the world as we know it. In fact it is, for all intents and purposes, to DIE(t)!
But it is basically this misconception of dieting that pulls the curtain of doom over our heads. To diet should not be viewed as to eat less and starve ourselves to death. Since the most common reason one is asked to diet is a disease called obesity, this misconception has been propagated nonetheless. It might be quite accurate to a point, since to diet sometimes entails depriving one’s self of a few things one used to really enjoy eating.
Diet, as its basic Merriam-Webster definition states, pertains to the composition of the things we ingest on a daily basis. As in, "What's in your diet?" Or, "I am on a low-salt diet for my hypertension." Thus "to diet" means not to cut down on the things we eat, but basically to change the contents of our diet that are harmful for us or would serve to negate treatment of our disease.
And the good news is, we can replace that harmful stuff with better, healthier stuff. For example, if we used to gorge ourselves on a 16 oz steak for dinner every night, we shift to a six-ounce serving and increase our salad accompaniment from a plateful to about a bowlful. Well, that really didn't sound so encouraging but sometimes, that's what we have to do. At least we still get to enjoy our steaks. That example, or better yet, advice, applies to those with hypertension, ischemic hearts and arthritis as well.
But what about the real reason most people even think of the term “diet”? For the vast majority who are sentenced to diet in the doctors' offices? Those who could stand to lose a few pounds (or kilos) here and there? The overweight ones? Ouch! Okay, the weight-challenged, to be politically correct. So for our main purpose of discussion here, the advice to diet should not be the proverbial bitter pill to swallow at all.
Allow me to stray a little from the mainstream. Our bones and joints should be viewed as a complex system of mechanical machinery for doing work and all the stuff that we enjoy doing. Needless to say, like any other machine in our close possession, we need to take good care of it to expect it to serve us well for years to come. Overloading a car at a constant rate makes it do more work than one that is not as loaded. Therefore if one exceeds his ideal body weight for height, the complex machinery that is our skeletal system will not last very long. Particularly, the weight-bearing parts of this machine, namely from the spine down to the foot.
Of course, it’s only human to seek the shortcut towards the goal that is ideal body weight. Who wants to exercise to burn off unwanted calories when there is liposuction? Who would rather spend a fortune on a gym machine when one can spend that same amount on bariatric surgery? But the thing is, what the advertisements for these procedures so conveniently fail to mention is that, to maintain the figure accomplished by such surgical technology, one still has to incorporate a form of diet and constant exercise into one's lifestyle. In fact, the more conscientious plastic surgeons preoperatively (as in before the operation) put a candidate for liposuction on the diet program that he (or SHE as it is more commonly the case) will have to adopt after surgery. Face it, folks, proper diet is inevitable—that is, if you want that machine of yours lasting literally a lifetime.
So back to the mainstream topic, To Diet; to put the right stuff into our regular, daily, life-defining food ingestion program. Pardon the cliché, but since time immemorial, fat has been the unwanted substance in our bodies. Moreover, it has no practical use especially in a tropical country like ours. First, we don't need it under our skin for insulation, unlike our northern hemispheric brothers. And second, we don't want it showing up whenever we wear our swimsuits as we hit our oh-so-gorgeous beaches.
Medically speaking, fat serves only as a storage area for certain hormones and enzymes that we can store elsewhere at least. But what your doctor may also have failed to explain is that much of the fat in our bodies comes, not as much from fat that you eat, but from carbohydrates eaten and not burnt at all. Thus, the most logical way to avoid getting it in our system is not to ingest it at all.
An ideal diet should be one that is not only low in fat and, and, this is the clincher, substances that get converted to fat as their storage form. Example: it's easy to cut the fat off that piece of lechon. But we down that savory piece of pork with gobs and gobs of rice, which, being a simple carbohydrate, gets converted to fat when unburned in the body.
Although a good, conscientious diet cannot be the same for everyone, the commercial diets we see on television, books and the Internet are one and the same. They are all composed of the right foodstuffs one should have in their daily diets. Less simple carbohydrates (rice, bread, pasta). Less animal protein. More complex carbohydrates (starch and cellulose from fruits and vegetables). More fiber. And the most popular diet plans are the ones that make it easy for the person to follow and adopt into his lifestyle without much change to it. But what many fail to grasp is that diets are not a “quick-fix” solution to be abandoned after hitting the goal weight, but a lifestyle change for the long run.
To this end, the best way to get into it is to do it gradually; change one aspect or item of your diet at a time. You may choose to shift from simple carbs to complex ones (rice to potatoes, for example) on the first week. Then, red meat to lean meat on the second week. And so on and so forth.
Going on a diet should never be a grueling experience. It should be a progressive move into a better lifestyle: an elevation to a higher plane of health, so to speak. It does benefit no one else but the owner of that complex system of machinery we call our body.
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To DIET- To DIE with a T?
Benedict Francis D. Valdecanas, MD | February 29, 2016
Dr. Valdecañas is a specialist in regenerative medicine research for both hospital-based programs and clinical applications. He utilizes the latest findings and innovations that molecular biology has to offer in optimizing health and human performance through customized micronutrient supplementation, personalized exercise programs, and careful attention to diet and nutrition.