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What is the best diet?

Hey everybody. My name is Dr. Ashley White. Call me Ashley. I’m quite happy with that. This is my first time going live for the Appetite Clinic and I’m really excited to be here.  Every Monday at 4:00 PM, I’m going to pop on live to multiple streams.

[00:00:34] I’ll be on Instagram and then I’ll pop on also to Facebook and LinkedIn, where I will take questions from whoever whomever about anything related to bodies diets, anything that you’d like clarified from an obesity medicine perspective, from the perspective of a person who has dieted in the past and felt kind of disappointed in the experience and who actually just maybe curious about what we do at the Appetite Clinic.

[00:01:04] I’m a family physician by training. I also work in the emergency room and in May I opened an appetite clinic here in Canada. The clinic is for anyone who feels like their appetite is causing them some eating distress, or putting pressure on their eating experiences in a way that is causing their quality of life to be impaired in any way.

[00:01:32] So a question I often get is, okay, so what’s the best diet: which is it – keto? Is it Atkins, which is kind of the same thing. Is it veganism? Is it paleo? Is it low fat? Is it pescetarianism, veganism? There are hundreds of them. Luckily I’ve tried them all. So I can tell you from experience (and evidence), none of them have actually been demonstrated to offer prolonged weight loss or body change more than any of the others. 

[00:02:05] And none of them have been proven in a long-term study at least over 12 months to offer people meaningful health benefits, meaningful weight loss, meaningful changes because ultimately what happens is people will become really, really focused and excited on the plan on whatever dietary map they’re given by these diets.

[00:02:28] And they execute. They’re super committed in the beginning. They buy all the books and they buy all the special food and they prep all her meals. And it’s very exciting. That goes on for something like six months and then people experienced a resurgence in cravings, particularly for fats and carbs, because the diet itself has affected their ability to self-regulate and over time.

[00:02:57] Near six to 12 months, the effort that it takes to sustain the diet just becomes really overwhelming and really difficult to maintain. As a result, people become less dedicated to following a strict plan, and honestly, they become very hungry. The body is very reluctant to tolerate hunger or restriction for any period of time.

[00:03:19] It’s not a state that the body or the brain likes very much. So we see that most people follow a nice U shape when it comes to weight after following a diet. So for many, many reasons, it’s important to abandon the idea of one diet superseding, another or being more beneficial. 

[00:03:47] There’s a lot of hype around any sort of new diet, especially because people experience benefit in the first six months. And then after that, it becomes more difficult to, to maintain and the commercial diet program. 

[00:04:10] What should I be eating? And the evidence is actually really, really simple. So the most easy way you can think about it is food that is unprocessed, and don’t get too strict about it, but food that is unprocessed. So food that’s not highly packaged or not filled with preservatives tends to be better for you.

[00:04:39] It doesn’t mean that it’s going to make you lose weight. It won’t. But overall, it will offer different kinds of benefits to your body and to your health. So that’s kind of step number one. And step number two is to eat foods that you find satisfying and foods that you enjoy. The long-term harm of diets is that a lot of people have no idea what food they actually like.

[00:05:02] They just eat food that they feel like they should like, and that is stressful. And ultimately it affects your ability to enjoy yourself and to experience the wonder that is getting to eat in the West in this century, which is has food from anywhere in the world. The highest quality food and food that can be made with any sort of spice.

[00:05:26] This is such a special time in human history for food. And because we have such a powerful culture of dieting, a lot of people don’t give themselves the opportunity to experience that. And, you know, I really welcome you to try because it’s part of the beauty of being alive.

[00:05:50] So the best diet is really just one that you can comfortably maintain throughout your life, your day to day experience without feeling like you’re being held back, without feeling like you’re constantly at odds with your appetite, constantly having to ignore hunger such that at some point you breakdown, which of course you will and eat with abandon, which is also a form of distress. And it often makes people super uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. And in fact, one of the reasons that dieting leads to weight gain is because of this cycle of dysregulation. When we’re kids, our bodies are super clear on what they want and how much they want.

[00:06:43] And over time, particularly in the culture that we live in, our culture introduces us to the to the idea of dieting and introduces us to the idea of restriction and that it becomes normalized. I remember my first diet was when I was really young and it was just “Of course, you’re going to diet”.

[00:07:00] That’s what people do. Like don’t even consider it. It’s just, it’s part of being the experience of being in North America at this time. And they were typically low fat back in the day. And so they were really tasteless and gross. So back to this question of “what’s the best diet?” The best diet is really just, meal to meal, evaluating what you want, evaluating what you’re hungry for, evaluating what you feel sad at, what you feel satisfies you.

[00:07:33] Bringing some present moment awareness into that experience. Sometimes that’s really hard and sometimes it’s less hard. Accepting that sometimes eating experiences are going to be hard and they’re going to be less controlled than we would like them to be. And they are less representative than we would like them to be of how we want to be.  When we eat in a way that’s really meal by meal, as opposed to, “I’m willing to commit to this matter of eating for the rest of my life” (Of course there are exceptions and if you eat kosher or vegan or something, and it’s sort of connected to a spiritual or ethos of being, that’s kind of a different story, that’s less about restriction and more about philosophy). But if you’re going to say “I’m going to be keto for the rest of my life” just know that that puts a great deal of inherent pressure on your appetite system. Immediately, there’s going to be a rebellion from within saying, “well, wait a minute, I’m never going to be able to eat cake again”.

[00:08:53] And even the thought of that is going to make you want to have some cake. And ultimately there is no single meal or eating experience that is going to sabotage your efforts. And it’s simply a matter of chew by chew, day by day, meal by meal. That’s kind of how we do a lot of things in our lives.

[00:09:13] We go to work day by day. We work on projects by day. We parent day by day. We do most things that way, but with eating, we’ve put such enormous pressure on the experience and on performing “good” eating in front of each other. There’s less room for play and curiosity than we would all benefit from.

[00:09:44] We are all welcome to create space for that curiosity and play in your life. And that’s what we do with Responsive Eating. That’s how my course works and it’s how my system works. And it’s a super simple way of asking yourself the most important questions, gently, with radical acceptance as you sort of move through a meal.

[00:10:08] Then when the meal is over, you have an opportunity to let it be over or to keep eating. There are actually no rules. There’s just simply what you’re experiencing at that moment. And if you can accept this very simple way of thinking about it, and if you can accept that, that’s really all there is to it.

[00:10:30] And there isn’t as much value in capturing the amount of carbohydrates or the amount of fat grams or the amount of total calories in your life. If you can accept that this is a bit more flexible in terms of your life and that there will be some growing pains. If you can accept that and work through that, it’s a very empowering way to eat and to approach food. It also really allows you to just like take this big chunk of your brain that you’ve been previously dedicating to dieting and just let it be dedicated to something else, which is wonderful, which is kind of the whole point.

[00:11:20] I don’t know how many hours have I spent dieting in my life. Like many hundreds per year probably. And that’s all time that could have been dedicated to literally anything else. I’ve learned so much but I would love, love if my daughter just never had to even consider that and she just got to approach each meal with a sense of wonder: “what would I like to have?” and “what do I need?” and “what feels right?” And that she isn’t swimming in the swamp of diet nonsense.  Diets are such good money. They make people a lot of money. So they’re probably going to stick around for a long time.

[00:12:11] A friend of mine asked me this week at work about the best diet and he had recently done keto, and he was like, “yeah, I like, sort of like it, it’s kind of scary and I don’t feel very well.”

[00:12:37] I think he was trying to be really into it when he clearly wasn’t and he was trying to just feel like he was part of a team. You’re part of a keto club [when you start that diet] and there’s all these resources and there’s all these websites and there’s all this weird food and it can feel like you’re like being indoctrinated or invited into the whole system. And I think he was kind of confused by it all. And so we just talked about that. It was kind of nice to see that he was experiencing a bit of friction about becoming like a “keto guy”.

[00:13:21] So every Monday at 4pm I’m going to come on and answer questions. You can feel free to send those questions to

See you next week!

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