“Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat,” once said Socrates way back when. Sure he was smart, and probably brilliant. But how does one really “eat to live?”
Summer is just around the corner. And this one is gonna be different. For the first time in quite some time, you really want to avoid being both pale as a ghost and overweight for your first foray into the sun’s warmth. So, you search online using the terms “I need a diet plan” and retrieve (at last count) 106 million hits. Good luck finding that magic plan.
The Heritage Diets
So where do you start? Well, cavemen were pretty fit, running from woolly mammoths without cars, so why not start here? According to anthropologists who have studied our distant Neanderthal cousins, theirs was a foraging diet and consisted of fruits, non-starchy vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts, and berries. They ate what they caught or found. No calorie counting and no measuring. Honestly, how different can our bodies really be from those of our ancestors 40,000 years ago? Welcome, the wildly popular Paleo diet, the choice of Homo Sapiens all over America.
One Paleo concept that makes great physiologic sense is the emphasis on protein. Protein is far more “thermal” than either fat or carbs so it is better at speeding up metabolism and inducing weight loss. It is also better at keeping you feeling “full” after eating than other food groups. So, if weight loss is a priority, and you don’t mind wearing a loin cloth, then going Paleo could be just right for you.
A close relative of the Paleo diet is the Mediterranean or Roman diet, already the cherished grub of a chunk of the world’s population. As another heritage diet favored by our ancestors, it also emphasizes the importance of tree nuts, fruits, vegetables and fish. However, this victual differs from Paleo in that it encourages generous amounts of olive oil and eating white meat instead of red meat. Oh, and don’t forget the regular consumption of wine. Go ahead and laugh, but the fact is that a very recent and well-performed trial comparing the Mediterranean to a simple-low fat diet resulted in a 30% reduction of heart attacks and strokes over 5-years. This, my friends, is the real deal in terms of a heart-healthy diet.
So Much Food, So Little Time
But how does a modern working stiff in America adhere to the principles of eating like our ancestors from 333 or even 33 generations ago? When was the last time you took a siesta during the workday? We need a path, a guiding principle, a way.
Some time back, I proposed precisely this to patients in the simplest terms I could imagine: pretend your body is a bank account and try to keep it empty, kind of like you do with your real bank account. Eat less (put less in), exercise more (take more out). And do this gradually, so you don’t go crazy counting calories.
But there are even better ways. One great example of this is the recent and very popular JumpStartMD program in the San Francisco Bay Area. This innovative approach combines real food strategies similar to the Paleo and Mediterranean diets, but also incorporates activity as well as behavioral changes to ensure that the job gets done. At JumpstartMD, being watched regularly by health care providers who monitor progress with wagging fingers doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, when you’re trying to concieve, men need a prenatal supplement, too. I created Essential Beginnings so men have high-quality supplement while getting their diets on track.
But it’s all good, as the goal is to change your eating habits, slowly, and for the long haul. You know about “sustainability” in terms of energy and the environment, but how about applying it to your most valuable resource on this good earth: your health!