Food Programming versus Dieting

I am often surprised at how little people understand about how the three food groups—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats—function in synergy to maintain physical health. You cannot avoid consuming any one of these kinds of nutrients and expect to be slim, metabolically efficient, and balanced. Yet we live in a culture where popular diet books have made fats and/or carbohydrates the foods to avoid. Some diet gurus advocate an almost total avoidance of carbohydrates and a large intake of protein. Others give you the idea that all fats are bad—the eating-fats-equals-getting-fat myth. And some downplay the importance of choosing unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and soy butter, over saturated fats, such as dairy butter and cheese, telling you that it is actually healthy to eat foods with lots of butter and cream sauces. Of course, these foods taste good, but is a constant diet of foods cooked in butter, covered with melted cheese, and swimming in cream sauce good for you?

The bottom line is that over the short term you can probably lose weight on almost any diet out there, no matter how strange or how calori-cally restrictive. But you should ask the following questions when considering a new food program:

• Will this program work in the long run? In other words, will you be able to keep the fat off once you've managed to take it off?

• Is this program so calorically restrictive that you will have to live with hunger 24/7 (and be tempted to go off your diet or binge)?

• Will this program help you lose body fat while rebuilding lean muscle mass?

• Will this food program make you healthier—that is, lower your cholesterol and triglycerides?

• Will this program help you feel energized or make you exhausted and cranky?

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