Now that I have your attention, let's talk diet!
But first, let's talk about what "diet" means. To many people, diet means a way to lose weight. In reality, "diet" simply means the kind of food a person habitually eats. The latter is the definition I wish we'd all focus more on, and then we might not have to focus on the former. In fact, the focus on losing weight is actually making a lot of people even heavier (See below for a few links to studies on this). The ongoing cycle of weight loss and regain can also leave individuals prone to increased risk of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, metabolic syndrome or gallbladder disease. But of course, being overweight or obese also increases the risk for many of these same issues. So what's a health-conscious person to do?
1. Focus on overall health (see my previous post titled What is Good Health). A narrow focus on weight or BMI can be counter-productive to our overall health. Look at the bigger picture and take into account your habitual diet, exercise, sleep, stress, cardiovascular health, recent lab values, etc. If you're taking good care of all the aspects of your health and getting regular medical check-ups, your weight isn't as important. Really.
2. Find a way of eating that meets your goals AND your lifestyle. An overly restrictive diet plan that requires tons of meal prep, the purchase of hard to find or prepare foods, or isolates you from your friends and family is not one that you're likely to sustain for a lifetime. Think about what you can imagine eating for YEARS AND DECADES, not days or months. Also, consider your goals. Are you training for a marathon or just trying to find more energy to chase your kids around all day? Do you want to lose weight or are you trying to develop better blood sugar control? Each of these will require a different way of eating.
3. What way of eating actually makes you feel good? Everyone is different. Some people are "grazers" and prefer to eat 5-6 small meals per day, while others find that something like intermittent fasting works well for them (e.g. 16 hours of no food, an 8 hour eating "window" daily). Some people function really well on a very low carbohydrate diet, while others can't make it through the day without a regular influx of carbs. The point is, there is NO ONE SINGLE WAY OF EATING THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE. (Did I sound like I was shouting? Yes, kind of). This is incredibly important. There is so much hype and so much crazy "diet evangelism" (e.g. the "I lost some weight, I published a book and my diet is the best.") in this world. It can get confusing and hard to decipher all the conflicting information. But you don't need to worry about everyone else. Pay attention to how *you* feel. YOU DO YOU!
4. What does your doctor or healthcare team recommend for you and your specific body, health status, age and lifestyle? Notice I said *your* doctor. Not your mom, your aunt, your co-worker, your friend's cousin's daughter's best friend, Dr. Oz... If you have diabetes or insulin resistance, you should follow a specific plan that makes sense, is based in science and will meet your needs. Or, if you have GI issues or food allergies, work with your dietitian on identifying trigger issues and develop a plan to avoid those. Heart disease? Look towards a lower fat plan and talk with your team about what works best in this case. Don't go it alone and don't self-diagnose. Your health is yours alone, and it's precious.
So what is the best diet in the world? The one that works for YOU.
p.s. If you want a list of good dietary plans that are well-balanced and sustainable, check out this review from US News and World Reports, http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall.
Eat what you enjoy.
And enjoy what you eat.