Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 Oct

The Burrito Diet, the Beverly Hills Diet, and the Only Diet on Earth That Actually Works

nutrisystemIf it’s not a region – Sonoma, Hamptons, Mediterranean, South Beach, and the original locale diet, the Beverly Hills Diet – it’s a noun: Subway, Cabbage Soup, Cookie, and now the Chipotle Burrito Diet. That’s right. The latest diet is not just a single food, it’s got an adjectival spice to go with it. A man apparently lost 40 pounds in 3 months eating a single burrito daily. In terms of health, this has trouble all over it: too many calories in a serving, monotony and the consequences for metabolism, and far too many carbohydrates.

The truth is that any diet will “work”. You can live on cookies or ice cream or Snickers if you please, and if you are taking in fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight, you will lose weight. It really is that simple. While different macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate, fat – play different roles in the body and varying the ratio of intake can have certain positive or negative health effects, at the end of the day, it’s the calories that count for weight loss.

But the only diet on earth that actually works is the one you can live with for the rest of your life. Maintaining a healthy weight is not a race; it is a lifetime commitment. That’s the trouble with “diets”. Whether you do Atkins or Pritikin, peanut butter or ice cream, veal or veganism, you can and probably will lose weight if you are cutting back your caloric intake. (Of course, the health value of these diets varies significantly.) I’m not necessarily opposed to a “jump start” if you are severely overweight and need to lose excess pounds. But recognize that the only true way to keep trim is to maintain a lifestyle that supports it. It sounds ridiculous, almost stupid, and yet this tortoise approach eludes so many of us.

There are several body types. Some of us are simply prone to thicker musculature or a bit more body fat (which is why the BMI is so limited in its utility). I promise, if you follow a healthy lifestyle, your body will eventually get to – and maintain – the exact weight it is supposed to maintain. Eating light meals based upon fresh vegetables and a bit of lean protein and healthy fats, managing stress, and exercising at least 3 times a week (but preferably 4 to 6), is the only way your body can permanently do what it naturally wants to do. And that is to be strong, fit, and appropriately lean according to your particular physique. We don’t really need diets because the body is perfectly capable of maintaining itself healthily if the lifestyle supports it. Slow and steady wins the race.

Further reading:

What I eat to stay lean

My carb recommendations

My carb pyramid

Why the Atkins Diet works

Miss Rogue Photo on Flickr (CC)

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. That’s good and helps. The diet thing and the body type – it’s not one size fits all.

    Ross wrote on October 29th, 2007
  2. Too many carbs indeed! Those Chipotle burritos are horrendous. I tried one once and only once because I had received a free coupon in the mail. A giant flour tortilla half-filled with bland white rice and whatever seasoned meat and veggies you want to add. White rice has some usefulness on a Korean or Sichuan (aka Szechuan) table as a means of mopping up chili-fired dishes, but otherwise, why bother? No flavor and almost no nutritional value.

    Sonagi wrote on October 29th, 2007
  3. Amen! I have abandoned the word “diet” because of the connotations. When I’m approached and asked about my weight loss (which is often), it normally includes the question “are you dieting.” My reply is “no, I’ve changed my eating habits.”

    Dave C. wrote on October 29th, 2007
  4. Sonagi: I’ve been purchasing and cooking large volumes of white rice for 32 years–my wife is Thai. But for those same 32 years she has been combining rice with some of the things that I am just now beginning to appreciate–lots of greens and other vegetables. She also eats a lot of another substance which has gained Mark’s praise–Thai chilis!! It’s worked well for her–she’s very fit.

    Dave C. wrote on October 29th, 2007
  5. I view my change and commitment to Primal Nutrition and Evolutionary Fitness, as a change of Lifestyle. My office partner looked at me a little strange, until, he too, adopted the Lifestyle.

    Primal Nutrition/Evolutionary Fitness for the balance of my hopefully extended life. At least I will not die from being inactive and overweight!

    Oxybeles wrote on October 29th, 2007
  6. I feel like it is important to note that the closer a person gets to his/her ideal body weight when dieting, the more macronutrients and calorie sources DO matter. Different foods have varying and integral roles in hormone production, absorption, and nutrient delivery. I can’t imagine a person reaching his/her ideal physique by only eating sugar cubes all day.

    Burrito man simply lost a lot of weight because he already had a lot of weight to lose and simply moved from a diet of a lot of junk food to a diet of a less junk food. I wouldn’t expect his abs to pop out anytime soon so long as hes living off tacos.

    Moe wrote on October 29th, 2007
  7. The first thing I thought after “A man apparently lost 40 pounds in 3 months eating a single burrito daily” was “Yeah, you can lose weight eating nothing but fries, but you’ll end up malnourished & sick.” Losing weight is important, but it’s been put on a higher pedestal than it deserves. The most important thing is consuming what is good for us, and if we do that the weight will be lost anyways.

    A few months ago I made a decision to not give a damn about my weight/size and focus all of my energy into taking in what’s healthy. (And thankfully stumbled on Art De Vany’s blog, and this blog by way of that one, with perfect timing.) I eat MORE food everyday now than I did before, all in an effort to get all those nutrients, and the extra weight is going slowly & surely. I noticed it only because my clothes fit better and people who haven’t seen me in awhile immediately make comments. It amazing what happens when you switch your lunch from a pack of ramen to a gigantic salad.

    Thanks so much for all of the great posts you guys put up, it really helps keep me inspired and focused. I think many of us overcomplicate it with too many numbers… counting calories, counting carbs, counting specific minutes of this kind of excercise or that, counting days on a diet and days until a “goal weight”, focusing on the number on the scale… It doesn’t have to be that hard, and it shouldn’t be. You all keep it simple and that makes it so much easier to stay with it. So sincerely, thanks. You have more of an impact on people’s lives than you know. :)

    Lemur wrote on October 29th, 2007
  8. Mark

    What do you think of the following article, which seems to suggest that exercise has very little to do with weight loss. It seems really counter intuitive – your thoughts?

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,,2198862,00.html

    Danny wrote on October 30th, 2007
  9. Thanks Mark, beautiful way of saying it. I think people tend to go for these diets because they promise easy results in a short amount of time. They never consider what will happen after you stop the diet.

    Gal

    60 in 3 - Fitness and Health wrote on October 30th, 2007
  10. Thanks for the great comments everyone.

    Lemur, that posting of yours made our day over here. Thanks so much.

    Danny, hmm…exercise absolutely can help with weight loss, although the trouble is with people thinking they will get quick results or a perfect body after just a few sessions or with minimal work (e.g. a 30 minute walk a few times a week). Exercise isn’t something I promote for its weight loss purposes, however – it’s the best natural health panacea we have, and is absolutely vital to the human body in terms of fighting aging, disease, depression and so forth. It is VITAL. Period.

    Gal, thanks for the compliment!

    Mark Sisson wrote on October 30th, 2007
  11. @Dave C:

    I lived in Korea and China for more than a decade, and Koreans and Chinese, like Thais, consume white rice at nearly every meal and stay thin. In fact, Koreans and Japanese have the lowest obesity rates among OECD countries – a mere 3% compared to 31% for the US. My point is not that eating white rice makes you fat but that white rice has literally had most of the nutrition stripped from it, and from my viewpoint, it is virtually flavorless although Asians disagree vigorously and each nationality asserts their rice is the best. One can buy enriched white rice, but added nutrients aren’t as readily absorbed as intact ones. I eat Lund’s brand organic brown rice, which comes in four varieties: short-grain, long-grain, jasmine, and basmati. I also buy aromatic brown rice, which fills the kitchen with a warm aroma as it cooks.

    Sonagi wrote on October 30th, 2007
  12. Sonagi: I agree…I’ve eaten a lot or rice in my life but it’s always been about what went ON the rice. It was red beans and Shrimp Creole growing up in New Orleans, and a lot of fried rice in 32 years of being married to a Thai. The rice itself has always been “filler.” My wife is still cooking some of the things I ate with rice, but I’ll put it on a bed of romaine lettuce instead.

    Dave C. wrote on October 30th, 2007
  13. Hello, This is Mary

    I am 36 years old with 2 toddlers. My youngest just started day care last week- which still feels a little strange. I haven’t had this much time to myself in years. First thing I want to do is lose the extra pounds I put on during the last pregnancy. One of the girls next door has suggested I join her walking group two days a week. After my first pregnancy I lost around 35 pounds using the Herbalife products, but when I called the man that sold them to me three years ago he told me this week he doesn’t sell them anymore. He told me to look on the internet. It’s disappointing because he was really nice and he called me regularly to make sure I was using their products correctly. It was nice to have someone checking in with me every week to see how I was and it kept me motivated.

    I searched on the internet for someone that sells Herbalife in New Jersey. I found many websites but I don’t want
    just to buy the products, I want to find someone trustworthy that sells the products so I can also meet them and get started again.

    Could anybody here recommend someone in New Brunswick?
    .

    Thanks, Mary

    mary wrote on December 27th, 2007
  14. OK, I’m about tired of the “only calories count” bunkum. I’ve been severely overweight since I had my second child. The first thing I did to make a difference in my weight was switch to diet soda, if I was going to drink soda at all. That worked like a charm, but only for about five to ten pounds.

    Then I did Atkins, and I actually kept track of my calories on SparkPeople for a while. Would you believe I was getting anywhere between 2000 and 2900 calories a day? And still losing weight? I weigh about 230 right now, not much different than back then since I fell off the low-carb wagon (OK, more like jumped), but at the time I was steadily losing.

    The simple fact is that carbohydrates are the only macronutrient that you only use for fuel. They have no other purpose. If you are going to eat for weight loss, the last thing in the world you want to do is cut out the macronutrients which perform other functions. You need protein to sustain muscle mass, for instance, as well as the integrity of your internal organs. You also need fat for things like hormone synthesis and nervous system maintenance. If you cut those back on account of they have “calories,” you’re in for malnutrition in the long run, which is why your average chronic dieter looks so unhealthy.

    And then you have to consider that if a calorie of fat or a calorie of protein is being used for some other purpose besides fuel, that’s it–your body’s not going to burn it, ever. How much of our dietary fat goes to those hormones? How much of our protein goes to our muscles? Doesn’t that differ from person to person? We don’t eat our hormones OR our muscles, assuming we are healthy and have adequate food intake.

    But hey, I know calories are a huge blind spot for most nutrition writers. I just wish some of ‘em would get their eyes checked.

    Dana wrote on February 13th, 2008
  15. Oh, and by the way? Atkins isn’t just for weight loss. If you stick with it and go through the phases, the last one is a maintenance phase and you’re expected to keep eating that way. But in the end if you analyze the foods that are “allowed” for most folks who get that far, it’s not much different from what you advocate eating here: a minimum of grains and beans (none if you can’t handle the carbs), lots of veggies and low-sugar fruits, and adequate meat and fat. People say, “oh, it doesn’t work because you regain when you go off it”–well DUH. A good diet is a permanent dietary *change.*

    Dana wrote on February 13th, 2008
  16. A burrito a day is definitely an awful idea, however I do know a few people that go primal(or close) and eat at Chipotle almost every work day. While it may be high in salt, Chipotle is a great way to go when you are on a trip or the occasional workday outing.

    Chipotle will let you get sides of everything, it is very inexpensive to get a side of pico, guac, and two sides of meat(s).

    Another friend of mine, who still has legumes in his diet, will get a burrito bowl with no rice, only black beans, meat, pico, guac.

    Tyler wrote on June 25th, 2012
  17. I used Mexican food to help my wife gain weight when she was pregnant.
    Carnita burritos with avocado and sour cream. Guaranteed weight gainer food. And yes the doctor told my wife she needed to gain some fat. Don’t we all wish we were like that.

    Ron wrote on May 29th, 2013

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