Doc weighs in: Why diets fail

Doc weighs in: Why diets fail

This year, Congress heard from Dr. Mehmet Oz about questionable weight loss products he promoted on his show as “magic pills”. John Oliver called it “Shameless Pandering“. Dr. Oz admitted that there is no magic pill. The FDA and FTC will probably continue to allow the deceptive marketing of these products. The case reminds me of a Hippocrates quote – “There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.”

Speaking of Hippocrates, his suggestion was actually that we should first use dietary changes to approach health concerns, and these words, in this day and age of high-tech medical interventions, could not be more useful – “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” and furthermore regarding medical treatment, he admonished us to encourage our patients to exercise – “Walking is man’s best medicine.”

Ninety three percent of our diet consists of meat, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, and processed foods. The 7 percent of vegetables that we do eat, consist mainly of ketchup and fries.

If we try to “moderate” our diet, we will remain fat because our instincts will naturally gravitate toward rich foods. If on the other hand, we entirely transform our diet to be all fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, and legumes, which are all calorically light, take time to digest, and very filling, we will lose about 1-2 lbs per week until we reach our ideal weight.

When you hear messages about “low carb” or “low fat” diets leading to weight loss, they may work for a short time but they won’t be healthy. This is because “low carb” diets are also high in fat and protein, and low in fiber. “Low fat” diets are also low in fiber, but high in sugars and low nutrition, refined grains. On the other hand, whole food, plant based diets, would make almost all the intake consist of whole unprocessed grains, whole fruits and vegetables, and legumes, nuts and seeds, without added oils, minimal refined sugar, and processed foods.

Lastly, we are growing a generation of children who are destined for disease and misery. Among 4 year olds, nearly 1 in 5 is obese! We have to reevaluate healthy eating, and change the typical 4 food groups of a 4-year old from french fries, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and pizza to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

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  1. Katie Renz

    This is great advice!

  2. Debi Jordan

    If anyone wants a great magazine – check out Clean Eating. It’s philosophy is about eliminating processed foods. I think we grow up in homes that cook a certain way and that gets translated to the way we eat as adults. Also, with our hectic lifestyles we have gravitated to processed foods you heat up in the oven or microwave. I have learned a whole new way of eating while on the low fat high protein diet to lose the weight. I feel I can continue to eat this way the rest of my life.

  3. I totally agree but there is so much misinformation about healthy eating and lack of availability of healthy food in so many of our communitites that it will take multiple efforts across multiple planes to make changes in what most of the population eats. I see many children that think eating 1 fruit or vegetable a day is healthy!

  4. Ann Adlington

    I’ve been doing weight watchers since last November. I really am focused on healthy eating and excercising and feel so much better. I’ve lost 37 pounds so far. It feels slow at times but I think that is better in the long run. I make much better food choices and pay attention to eating enough fruits and veggies. Basic really is the best. Hippocrates had it right!

    • Dr. Ashwani Garg

      Simple Start by WW is a new program that mostly incorporates the plant-based eating style, and reduces the deprivation and points counting that goes with Weight Watchers. Great idea about eating more fruits and veggies!

  5. What exactly is a whole grain? If one is diabetic, can one eat whole grains without messing up their sugar levels?

    • Dr. Ashwani Garg

      Whole grains are the entire grain that has not been heavily processed. For example, shredded wheat cereal is whole grain, so are puffed wheat, popcorn (air popped and unbuttered of course), brown rice, Barley, Quinoa, Steel Cut Oats, Cracked or Bulgur Wheat, and countless others! This is opposed to the lower fiber, lower in protein, processed grains and flour that is unfortunately majority of the standard American Diet (SAD for short). Whole grains keep you full, full of nutrients, and digest slowly. These are the slow and good carbohydrates, and should not be equated with the bad, processed muffins/cookies/cakes/bread/sugar that are bad carbohydrates!

  6. YES Low fat High protein Low Carb NO fats Vegan Vegetarian OMG its so confusing How about Just Eat less ( 1/2 portions ? )

    • Dr. Ashwani Garg

      Actually, with a whole food, plant based diet, one can eat much more! Often double or more and in fact cut down calories and increase volume. This way a diet will stick and one will lose weight, as opposed to every other diet out there that forces you to be hungry, eat less, and be miserable. This is the principle of “volumetrics” and forces you to chew, eat slowly, digest slowly, be full, and lose weight. For example, 2 tbsp of oil has 200 calories, however 1 whole, entire bunch of broccoli also has 200 calories!

  7. In late 50 ‘s We had NO obese kids in our class. Played outside – ran- skipped- biked-swam – hopscotch – kick ball- – baseball -softball Roller skating -Ice skating Too much sitting on ones posterior these days TOO much ‘screen – phone time Fear kids will pay the price.

  8. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Scott – a whole grain is the entire grain that is not processed or milled much – for example, shredded Wheat is whole grain that has just been stretched a bit, steel cut oats, brown rice, cracked wheat, barley, millet, quinoa, etc. whole grain flour is the next best thing since at least it is not as processed as “enriched” or “refined” flour. Stick with whole unprocessed grain if someone has diabetes because these raise sugar slowly because of all the fiber and protein content. Steel cut oats are better than cheerios. Brown rice better than white rice and cracked wheat or bulgur wheat better than bread.

  9. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Dianerib – cut through all the hype and stick with high fiber, whole food plant based diet and dont worry about the quantity because the stomach will fill completely before overeating. Remember fruits veggies (raw and cooked) whole grains and legume (beans) and very small amount of nuts and seeds (like chia and flax). Cut out or minimize any processed grain, oil and fat, meat, dairy, egg, cheese and fish. Those foods have no fiber and are calorie dense and dont fill you up. Protein will be enough if you eat unprocessed foods.

  10. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Ann – WW is a good program and now they have the simple start program which maximizes the natural healthy foods and minimizes the junk. In this system many foods dont count against points.

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About the Author

Dr. Ashwani Garg
Dr. Ashwani Garg

Dr. Garg is a board-certified family physician in private practice in Hoffman Estates and has been on staff at Sherman Hospital since 2004. About 2 years ago, he began a plant-based diet and a program of regular exercise, and saw his own health dramatically improve without the need for medications. He continues to promote these lifestyle changes to his patients, including healthy plant-based diets and exercise to improve patient health, and reducing medication where possible. Dr. Garg has twin boys, and enjoys spending time with them.