The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss
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About Dr. Michael Greger
Dr. Michael Greger is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Greger is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine. In 2017, Dr. Greger was honored with the ACLM Lifestyle Medicine Trailblazer Award and became a diplomat of the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine. 100% of all proceeds he has ever received from his books, DVDs, and speaking engagements always have and will always be donated to charity.
How Not to Diet utilizes Dr. Greger’s years of experience and thousands of studies to encourage you to move away from fad diets and towards evidence-based diet practices. Our diets are paramount to our overall health. Still, we often gravitate towards the end result instead of the process itself. This approach can have harmful effects. Many diets are incredibly unhealthy. When choosing something as life-or-death as what you put in your mouth, we need the most accurate evidence possible. Backed up by almost 5,000 references, How Not to Diet offers a diet that’s both sustainable and healthful.
StoryShot #1: The Problem
Obesity is a greater epidemic than it has ever been. Greger explains we are currently ten times fatter than we were 100 years ago. Additionally, this growth in obesity has not been linear. Instead, obesity in developed nations has grown exponentially in the last fifty years. Worryingly, this increase in obesity is showing no signs of slowing down. Some diets claim the issue is your willpower. Greger challenges this claim and instead explains our bodies simply react to the food we eat in the way it has been designed.
The human body evolved within environments where food was scarce. Due to this scarcity, we have evolved to store excess calories as fat to survive the winter months. Additionally, we tend to crave high-calorie foods more for this same reason. The reason for the obesity epidemic is that these high-calorie foods are now readily available. The 70s brought with it deep-freezing and ready meals. Plus, an introduction of treat foods as an everyday option. The issue with the increased processing characterized by the 80s is these food items lack fiber and nutritional value. Plus, they are filled with added sugars and oils. Greger calls these foods CRAP (calorie-rich and processed).
StoryShot #2: Ingredients for the Ideal Weight Loss Diet
Dr. Michael Greger presents a plant-based approach to weight loss that focuses on whole, minimally processed foods. According to Dr. Greger, the ideal weight loss diet should include:
- A variety of non-starchy vegetables: These should make up the majority of your plate, as they are low in calories and high in fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants.
- Fruits: Choose a variety of fruits, including those that are high in fiber and antioxidants, such as berries and apples.
- Whole grains: Choose whole grains over refined grains, as they are higher in fiber and nutrients.
- Legumes: Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are high in protein and fiber and can help you feel full and satisfied.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats and can be a good source of protein.
- Plant-based protein sources: These can include tofu, tempeh, and plant-based protein powders.
- Healthy fats: Choose healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and avocados.
Dr. Greger also recommends avoiding processed foods, added sugars, and refined grains, as well as limiting intake of animal products and highly processed plant-based foods. It’s important to remember that everyone’s nutritional needs are different, and it may be helpful to work with a healthcare professional to create a personalized weight loss plan that meets your specific needs and goals.
StoryShot #3: High in Fiber-Rich Foods
As explained, one of the greatest issues associated with CRAP foods is they lack fiber. Greger believes eating fiber-rich foods is integral to losing weight. Firstly, fiber is satiating while also containing few calories. Additionally, as fiber-rich foods often take longer to chew and eat, you will also get full faster. Essentially, fiber-rich foods allow you to get full quickly and for a more extended period without a significant number of calories. Greger offers an example of apples and apple juice to explain the importance of fiber. On average, one glass of apple juice will contain five apples. The former can be drunk in a matter of seconds and will not keep you full for very long. Comparatively, the latter will take you considerably longer to eat and will also keep you full for longer. The difference between these two is the presence of fiber.
Another benefit of fiber-rich foods is that they can trap the calories in food. Due to plant fibers having a tough outer layer, your colon will take longer to digest this food. Subsequently, your colon will not extract all the calories. Therefore, despite obtaining enough energy, you are less likely to store plant fiber as fat.
Finally, fiber-rich foods nourish our gut microbiome. Gut bacteria thrive on fiber and subsequently release short-chain fatty acids that reduce our appetite and boost our metabolism. For example, Greger explains that a 2017 study found that CRAP foods, like donuts, are far less appetizing after eating a fiber-rich meal. This effect lasts even up to 12 hours after a meal.
We must do much better on the fiber-front. Less than 5% of Americans meet the minimum daily fiber recommendations. Therefore, to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, introduce more root vegetables, and legumes to your weekly shop.
StoryShot #4: Low Glycemic Load
“To remove refined grains from your diet is to remove America’s number one source of calories. Switching to whole grains may help reduce body fat, but there’s an even better swap. See the Wall Off Your Calories section for taking your grain game up a notch and graduate from mere whole grains to intact whole grains, such as oat groats (also known as hull-less or hulled oats).”– Dr. Michael Greger
A common argument made by low carb diets is that you should aim for foods with a low glycemic load. This is one feature of diet fads that is correct, even though Dr. Greger does not advocate for low carb diets. Instead, Greger suggests you avoid foods that can cause blood sugar spikes, like white bread. White bread tastes sweet after you eat it because your body can digest this type of bread so quickly. Having high glycemic index foods in your diet will only lead to cravings. On the flip side, replacing with high glycemic index foods will provide you with a slow release of energy that prevents overeating.
Another benefit of introducing more high glycemic index foods is you will no longer struggle with weight loss plateaus. Individuals who cut all carbs out of their diet are at risk of lowering their metabolism. Subsequently, they initially lose some weight and then their weight loss plateaus. However, continuing to eat carbs, but ones with a high glycemic index, will allow you to continue losing weight. Hence, Greger recommends swapping white rice, bread, and cereals for whole grains, legumes, and oats.
StoryShot #5: Low in Added Sugar, Fat, and Meat
Fat has a greater calorie per gram rate than sugar. Greger agrees that added sugars should be eliminated from your diet; however, he also believes unhealthy fats are driving the obesity epidemic. Intuitively, fat is far easier for our bodies to convert into body fat than sugar. Plus, we are obtaining a far larger proportion of our calories from fat than we used to. Animal agriculture is partly to blame, as animals are bred to be far fatter than they used to be. Therefore, you need to cut out all dairy, oils, and meat. To support this point, Greger points towards a study by Dr. Dean Ornish. Ornish found that by living on a whole food plant-based diet participants lost an average of 24 pounds.
As well as cutting out animal products, which are the primary sources of fat, Greger also recommends cutting out added sugar. We now eat twelve times more sugar than we did 200 years ago. Crucially, sugar has zero nutritional value and simply offers excess calories. In fact, studies have shown that children given high-sugar cereals ate 7% more than children who had a low-sugar alternative. Therefore, eating excess sugar will only make you eat more. You might initially struggle to cut out animal products and sugar. However, your tastebuds will quickly adapt, and you will no longer notice the difference.
StoryShot #6: Low in Calorie Density
Your typical meal should be filled with foods that have a low-calorie density. Greger explains that one of the greatest benefits of adopting a whole food plant-based diet is you do not have to restrict your portions. You can eat unlimited quantities of food and still lose weight. Foods that have a low-calorie density generally have high water content. Examples of these foods are non-starchy vegetables and fruits. Generally, we eat the same amount of food each day, determined by stretch receptors in our stomach. Therefore, if we fill our diet with low-calorie density foods, we will easily lose weight. Plus, you can eat as many courgettes, apples, pears, and other nutritious foods as you like.
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