Dieting: a review

I don't recommend dieting at all (except in cases of obesity, if there's too much food intake)!

The obsession with weight loss should not condition our diet, and is counterproductive. It often goes hand in hand with frustration, leading to a negative view of healthy eating and an even greater appetite for foods that are too sweet, too fatty, or too salty. The people concerned then become slaves to their food, and the notion of pleasure vanishes. Food becomes a suffering, an issue. I support the credo of eating better, rather than less, and if there is overweight, it will naturally lead to weight loss.

It's also worth noting that repeated weight loss causes the body to adapt, making future weight loss more difficult, while it becomes easier and easier to regain the lost weight. This is an adaptive mechanism of the human body to survive periods of starvation. As a result, our equilibrium weight is constantly a little higher as we lose and regain weight, and weight losses are often short-lived.

It's also important to remember that weight gain is not solely linked to the quantity of food ingested. Hormonal, inflammatory and insulin-related factors are also at work, as are imbalances in the intestinal microbiota.

Finally, I think it's important to emphasize that it's better to focus on what you don't eat enough of, rather than on what you may be eating too much of. When you establish good eating habits, you give your body everything it needs, in terms of quality and quantity, and you eliminate bad habits naturally and without frustration. If you switch to a natural and diversified diet, rich in micronutrients, the body will have everything it needs to function, with much less food than if it’s fed empty calories in terms of micronutrients. Eating well means losing weight, if there's excess weight. That's the key!

Let's take a look at what's out there in terms of diets and what I think of them:

Caloric restriction diet

This diet consists of eating less overall, often focusing even more on reducing fast sugars and fats. It's the frustration diet par excellence, and hard to stick to. It can also lead to nutrient deficiencies, particularly in magnesium. In the vast majority of cases, once you've returned to your usual diet, you'll regain the weight you've lost, or even more, as your metabolism has adapted and absorbs more nutrients than before from the same foods in the same quantities.

Food combining diets

In these diets, food categories are eaten separately or combined in certain ways in the same meal. The best-known combining diet is the Montignac method, in which high-GI foods are avoided, and protein-rich and fat-rich foods are combined. These diets work for weight loss because they encourage you to eat less, by rapidly saturating your appetite with the same foods. They are therefore like a calorie-restriction diet, with the same effects, i.e., nutrient deficiencies and weight regain when you return to a normal diet.

Low glycemic index (GI) diet

This diet converges fairly well with what I'm recommending, since it favors low-GI carbohydrate foods. This limits the storage of sugars in the form of fatty acids, as well as sugary intakes linked to reactive hypoglycemia caused by the consumption of high-GI carbohydrate foods. It is relatively easy to follow, because it allows you to continue eating sugars, even if you have to eliminate fast sugars (e.g., juice, sweets, cookies, pastries), and because it provides a good satiety/calorie ratio thanks to the consumption of fiber-rich foods.

Low-carb diets

The idea here is to reduce all carbohydrates, not just fast sugars, but also slow sugars (bread, pasta, rice, other cereals, tubers, legumes). These should be replaced by proteins, vegetables, fruit, and oilseeds. The best-known of these diets is the new Atkins diet. It can help you lose weight, but it's based on a weight choice rather than on your equilibrium weight and can therefore lead to deficiencies - as well as an excess of deleterious elements to replace carbohydrates. What's more, the studies subsidized by the Atkins Group to prove the effectiveness of this diet in terms of weight loss nevertheless note several negative effects, also found in high-protein diets, such as constipation, bad breath and headaches Other independent studies report kidney stones, high calcium excretion in urine and vitamin deficiencies.

Ketogenic or paleo diet

This is the strictest variant of the low-carb diets, since it involves almost total avoidance of carbohydrates (the proportion of carbohydrates in calorie intake falls from 55% to just 10-15%). Even fruits and vegetables with too much sugar must be discarded. The body then draws its energy from lipids, producing what are known as ketone bodies from ingested and stored fatty acids.

From my point of view, the ketogenic diet comes under the heading of hormesis, i.e., generating such stress for the organism that it is induced to mobilize and strengthen itself. Non-food examples of hormesis include young children putting non-sanitized objects in their mouths, which trains their immune system; the practice of immersing oneself in chilly water to boost resistance to bacterial infection; or creating microtrauma to the skin by microneedling to force collagen synthesis. In the case of ketosis, analyses indicate that, as the body burns fat, the mitochondria in cells regenerate and duplicate, providing health benefits in addition to weight loss.

However, this diet presents the same risks, only more intense, as low-carb diets. It should be carried out under medical supervision and should not last longer than necessary. Obviously, it is also very restrictive and therefore difficult to follow.

High-protein diets

These diets can be seen as milder variants of the ketogenic diet. They also force the body to use its fat reserves for energy production, while preserving muscle mass thanks to a high protein intake. But once again, they present the same risks as low-carb diets. They are also diets that should be carried out under medical supervision and not last longer than necessary.

Other diets and superfoods

Every so often, a new super-efficient diet comes out, based on a scientific revolution, the discovery of the phenomenal benefits of a plant or food, or a new, truly infallible method that, this time, will enable us to lose weight over the long-term and blah, blah, blah. It's been like this for decades and we're still not any thinner. The only way to be at our equilibrium weight is to eat a healthy, natural, and varied diet. And the only way to be under our equilibrium weight is to restrict our intake, knowing that we're then at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Nor are there any superfoods, in the sense that there are no foods that would enable us to avoid health issues or become more fit. When we want to increase our intake of a specific nutrient or of antioxidant or anti-inflammatory molecules, there are certain foods that have a high content of this nutrient or a high antioxidant or anti-inflammatory value. The advantage of taking them is to avoid taking food supplements. But that's all, there is no miracle food capable of delaying aging, preventing cancer, curing osteoarthritis and so on. So, beware of miraculous promises and solicitations for food supplements based on so-called superfoods. Especially as, when we take such molecules or foodstuffs, we tend to deviate from a healthy diet, mistakenly believing that we are compensating.

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