Three diet-killers

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

June 2010

If there were a secret to successful weight loss the shelves of libraries and bookstores would be a lot less crowded. Thousands of diet books come and go, leaving readers wondering how to process confusing, complicated and often contradictory advice. Few authors even discuss three factors that shatter the best intentions: fatigue, cravings and boredom.

The average person needs a little time to adjust to a lower supply of energy, namely calories. Most weight loss programs urge daily exercise so the cut in calories is magnified, leaving the conscientious dieter bushed by bedtime. Eventually the body becomes more efficient at burning fat stores for energy but that adjustment period can be a real test of one's commitment.

Humans are the only animals that deliberately starve themselves and nature resists that effort with cravings. The unconscious urge for self-preservation is so strong that people in the throes of cravings can become a little unhinged. Midnight refrigerator raids and wolfing down whatever food is available drag a dieter into a pool of guilt but it's a perfectly normal response to strong feelings of hunger.

Some weight loss programs limit food choices so severely, even if only for a couple of weeks, that boredom is inevitable. Grapefruit, tuna or cabbage soup diets really don't consist only of those foods but these and other fad diets usually do limit choices. This is a major issue for those of us in Western countries although millions of people in the Third World put up with only a handful of choices for a lifetime. There's more to it, however. Our metabolism is designed for variety, having evolved in an environment in which humans could choose from hundreds of plants and equal numbers of animal foods. We are meant to eat many different types of food in order to have a variety of nutrients, especially antioxidants and trace minerals.

A meal plan that includes a couple of between-meal snacks that are high in protein and fiber (a single handful of nuts, for example) will alleviate the problems of low energy and cravings.

Avoid boredom by including fresh fruit in your diet plan and start by only buying a couple of apples, oranges, bananas, etc. at a time. A tall glass of water will alleviate hunger pangs and you can have plenty of variety by making ice cubes from fruit juice.

Losing fat doesn't have to be painful, guilt-ridden or boring.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.