If 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.