Published: October 25, 2009
There is a growing amount of research directed toward discovering ways to live longer, healthier lives. Many approaches have been theorized to be helpful. Some theories survive testing, while others fall by the wayside. One theory that seems to stand up is that restricting calories while maintaining adequate healthy nutrition contributes to a longer, more enjoyable life.
Numerous quality research studies have shown that in humans and most animals, moderate calorie restriction contributes to longer, healthier lives. This applies to most of us. For those of you that are already thin, you are not likely to benefit from further reduction in the number of calories consumed. But for 80-90 percent of us, disciplining ourselves to gradually reduce calorie consumption will result in extending and enhancing our lives.
One key word in that statement is “gradually.” This is not about dieting. The benefits come as a result of a gradual, persistent adaptation to consuming fewer calories. In other words, this process progresses over years, not weeks.
Simply reducing calories with no attention being given to food selection is not helpful. Those calories that we choose should be nutrient rich and saturated fat poor. Convenience foods packed with sodium, MSG and trans-fats should be avoided. Fruits and vegetables are ideal. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grain foods are perfect. Protein sources such as lean meats are essential.
There is no need to get overly complex in attempting to achieve the goal of eating fewer calories and improving the quality of foods that we eat. Simply make an effort to consider the nutritional value of each thing that you eat, and gradually eat fewer foods that are poor choices and switch to foods that are better choices.
It may be helpful to think of positive dietary changes in the same way you would financial investments. You would know better than to invest in a scheme that promises huge overnight returns on investment without risk. You would also likely avoid throwing your money away on the latest trendy offer that has no track record. It is often extremely tempting to fall prey to diet plans that promise to help you lose a great amount of weight in just a short time. Just as you would shy away from financial schemes that promise unrealistic results, be wary of unrealistic weight loss plans or the latest fad diet that your friends are all talking about.
Although there are numerous proven benefits to gradual adaptation to calorie restriction by intentionally choosing healthier, more nutritious foods, there is no health benefit to rapid weight loss. Healthy weight loss is modest, gradual weight loss.
There is debate about which eating plan is superior in terms of limiting carbohydrates or fats, vegan versus meat-inclusive, and other principles. Generally speaking, any eating plan that includes a reasonable balanced amount of proteins, carbohydrates and beneficial fats that reduces overall calorie consumption is beneficial. However, some plans are more attractive to individuals than others and some are easier for some people to adhere to.
During the past several weeks my wife and I have been adhering to a positive calorie restriction eating plan that we put together based on sound nutrition principles. Our overall goals were improving nutrition, restricting calories and reducing body fat. One more criterion for me was that I had to absolutely enjoy the foods. Like most men, I was not interested in any eating plan that felt like a diet.
We succeeded in making selections of foods that provide more nutrition and fewer calories, and were very tasty and satisfying. The results so far have been very rewarding. We feel great, have more energy, and both have lost weight easily. Since we don’t feel deprived and enjoy the foods we select, this plan will be easy for us to maintain.
We did include a variety of sensible nutrition supplements, most of which can be purchased at health food stores or some groceries. My research has led me to the opinion that several supplements are very valuable in promoting optimal health and are essential for successful adaptation to calorie restriction.
Next week: a story about a patient with an itchy problem.
Dr. Mark Kestner