The Value of Diets versus Lifestyles for Long-Term Health

A healthy body starts with healthy eating.

A health headline in today’s news captured my attention. It stated, “Intermittent fasting sheds more weight, but Mediterranean still healthier overall, study claims.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study of diets and concluded that IF (intermittent fasting) has the most significant weight loss, but the Mediterranean diet is healthier. The other diet analyzed was the paleo ‘caveman’ eating plan.

The study allowed each of the 250 participants to choose their diet. 54% chose the IF, 27% chose the Mediterranean, and 18% chose the paleo. The objective of the study was to test ‘real-world’ conditions and determine which diet had the best health improvements. No dietitian support was given during the test period.

A side note to the study was reported by the University of Otago in Canada. Their reviewers said that results supported their concept that there wasn’t a single “right” approach to diet. People gravitate to the foods they like to eat. When the diet provides enjoyable meals, and they can lose weight, then that is the diet people with stick with for the long haul.

The Mediterranean diet consists of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, olive oil, fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy. Red meat is allowed once a week maximum.

A 5:2 IF diet allows the individual to eat normally five days a week and to diet for two days. Total calories during the two days should hover around 500 calories.

The paleo ‘caveman’ (also known as the ‘stone age’ and ‘hunter-gatherer’ diet) restricted participants to foods that people hunted or gathered – fish, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

My Assessment:

I believe in nutritionally balanced eating with restricted caloric intake. In my two books on longevity and my public speaking, I relate the incredible account of Dr. Terri Wahls. She is a physician who developed an aggressive case of multiple sclerosis late in life. None of the medical treatments worked. She researched autoimmune diseases and wrote a book called The Wahls Protocol.

She put herself on her own protocol, and within three months, she was able to walk using a walker. A month later, she was able to walk using a cane. By year’s end, she was able to bicycle eighteen miles. All of this after spending four years in a wheelchair.

My wife had breast cancer surgery, radiation therapy, and radiation therapy five years ago. Fatigue was the one side effect that did not respond to any treatment. She would take one or two two-hour naps daily. The radiologist told us her fatigue would probably get worse once she started radiation treatments.

My wife started the Wahls Protocol program (diet only) on Day 1 of Radiation. By Day 3, she stopped taking naps, and the fatigue of months of chemo disappeared. On the last day of radiation therapy, we left Houston and drove one thousand miles to Jacksonville, Florida, to pick up my mother’s estate items. I rented a U-Haul, and she followed behind me, by herself, driving 500 miles each day. This was 48 hours after her last radiation session.

The Wahls Protocol has four pillars – diet, exercise, toxin removal, and stress relief. We had been choosing foods and personal care products for several years that had little or no known toxins. We did not elect to do the exercise or stress reduction at the beginning of her radiation program. We chose one-step-at-a-time-approach. Let’s conquer the eating part first and then move on.

Two years later, while still following the Wahls Protocol, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain. We walked 500 miles in 30 days. We had practice hours daily in preparation for that trek. We completed it without any problems.

Why does the Wahls Protocol work? It provides over 30 essential nutrients the body needs daily. It also provides an alkaline environment for the body. Nutritional balance, restricted total calories, and an alkaline pH are critical for exceptional, long-lasting health. I have no problems with the three diets mentioned in this study. However, the word ‘diet’ implies a temporary diversion from your ‘lifestyle.’

Why not choose a lifestyle that you can remain on every day for the rest of your life? Yes, I understand that some people want to lose weight quickly and embark on a temporary program of reduced calories and increased exercise to get results. A year later, they will return to their usual eating habits and regain that weight.

If your goal is to become healthy, choose a healthy lifestyle – exercise, eating, nutrition, stress relief, etc. – that you can live with for the rest of your life and stick to it. If your goal is to lose weight, choose something you can stick with till you lose the weight you want. Then, chose a healthy lifestyle to continue. Our choices today determine our future health and healthcare expenses.


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