Fad diets: Intermittent fasting, KETO and more

Fad diets-A hamburger with cheese and pickles
More episodes in the Sounds Like Health Podcast

A family medicine physician at the Texas A&M College of Medicine discusses fad diets and the health benefits--and risks--for each.

Episode Transcript

Mary Leigh Meyer:       From allergies to zinc deficiencies, hangry to hay fever, we provide easy-to-absorb information to improve your health. It’s Sounds Like Health on Texas A&M Health Talk.

Howdy, everybody. My name is Mary Leigh Meyer.

Sam Craft:                    And I’m your cohost, Sam Craft.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       We are here today with one of our family medicine physicians, Dr. Jason McKnight. Welcome to the show.

Jason McKnight:           Thanks for having me.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       We are going to talk about dieting. Fad diets, where everyone’s doing one, it seems like.

Sam Craft:                    It’s the culture, I think, of today’s world.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. Quick, immediate results.

Sam Craft:                    Yeah.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. Which one should we talk about first? What do you think of this trend? Is this the right way to do it?

Jason McKnight:           Well, so I think you say it right when you say that it’s kind of the quick, easy fix. In today’s society, that’s what everybody wants.

Sam Craft:                    Want immediate results, they have no patience.

Jason McKnight:           Kind of like you want a pill for everything.

Sam Craft:                    It’s like social media. It’s like, it has to be instant gratification.

Jason McKnight:           Absolutely.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Especially if it’s dieting. I’d rather be miserable for just two weeks and not miserable long-term. Like if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it and I’m going to be done with it.

Jason McKnight:           That’s actually one of the issues with the fad diets is that it’s like, “Oh, I can be miserable for a couple of weeks,” versus our argument would be make some changes that are actually sustainable that you can sustain over the long-term.

Sam Craft:                    So not just dieting, it’s a life change.

Jason McKnight:           Yep. Absolutely.

Sam Craft:                    I always think dieting is taken as in, “Oh this is going to be a great thing,” and maybe it is until you stop dieting and then you go right back to where you were.

Jason McKnight:           Yep. And from personal experience, I can tell you, you know it’s hard to do it for a while but once you adopt it and it’s something that’s sustainable and that you can continue on, then it’s not that hard to keep going on that.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. There is this one, it’s intermittent fasting, and that one I’ve heard is somewhat of a lifestyle change because it’s something you can do day-to-day because it restricts when you eat. What do you think of that one?

Jason McKnight:           So, what’s kind of hilarious about intermittent fasting is there’s different derivatives of it. I think the most common one is a 16 hour fast and then eating for eight hours. Well, what time do you normally eat dinner at night?

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I’m weird. I eat at like 4:30.

Jason McKnight:           All right. Well what time do you eat breakfast the next morning?

Mary Leigh Meyer:       9:00, 10:00.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. So, you’re on a 15 to 16 hour fast even without doing intermittent fasting. And so, a lot of people do that, right? If they eat dinner at even 6:00 or 7:00 and then they eat breakfast the next morning at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, they’re doing anywhere from a 12 to 14 hour fast, and that’s just normal human behavior.

Sam Craft:                    Never thought about it like that.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And so, they put a label on it though, “Oh there’s this cool thing, intermittent fasting.” The problem that we see with a lot of people that push it to that 16 hours is that you’re so hungry at hour 16:01 that you then just kind of binge and you’ve got to cut the calories out too. So, when you spend that eight hours that you can actually eat eating 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 calories because you’re just so hungry, well you’re actually in worse shape than if you had gone eight hours with fasting.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. I did it for a little bit and it helped me not eat late at night and just sit in front of the TV and take my ice cream out.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. I think for people that have late night snacking or midnight snacking, then it can be helpful. But like I said, for the majority of people that eat dinner at a regular time and breakfast at a regular time, you tend to go 12 to 14 hours fasting no matter what.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       That’s so true. What are some other ones that people do?

Sam Craft:                    Fasting, that seems to be the current trend, so to speak.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah, well and fasting is a scary word.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And it is kind of scary, but it’s really, it’s just a period with no nutrients. We talked about a few weeks ago about what is fasting for lab work, and I mean, it’s a similar thing. But yeah, people will also tend to kind of combine intermittent fasting with some of the other fad diets for kind of more results in their mind, so we see that a lot.

One point to make, though, weight loss is basically like a bank account, so your calories out have to be greater than your calories in and you’ll lose weight. So, the kind of scientific consensus is a pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. So, if you, over a week or over a couple of days or over a month, your deficit is 3,500 calories out more than what you took in, you’re going to lose a pound. So, we get these people, though, that they think there’s a magic fix for everything and that, “Oh, if I take the supplement or I take this thing that I saw on this infomercial, it’s going to help me lose weight.” It’s just simple math. Calories out have got to be greater than calories in.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       But I feel like it’s a lot harder to count calories than some people think because they may be cutting down on certain things, but not realize the calories in their olive oil that they use. There are hidden ones everywhere.

Sam Craft:                    Also, when you talk about calories in and out, you have to remember that if you do not take in a certain amount of calories, your food, your body will start storing that fat. It’ll start hanging on to it. So, I mean, you can’t just starve yourself or, “I’m going to eat 500 calories a day.” Well in theory that’s great, but then your body’s going to be like, “Nope, starvation mode. I’m not letting go of anything.”

Jason McKnight:           Yep. So, your body really needs about 800 calories a day to kind of meet all of its minimum processes, and that, of course, it depends on what your body weight is and your age and your gender. But yeah, absolutely, when you start calorie restricting a massive amount, your body will slow its metabolic rate to kind of help offset that. And so being super calorie restricted and putting yourself into kind of starvation is not necessarily the best idea either.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And people who want to lose weight might be working out at the same time. When you’re cutting your calories so much and you’re working out at the same time, how do you know how much more you need to eat? Or are you working out so you lose it faster? Like what’s the relationship between those two?

Jason McKnight:           So, going back to the calories in, calories out, definitely, if you take in less calories and you’re exercising, so you’re burning more, then that tends to lead to a little more rapid results. Now, some of that’s offset because if you’re building muscle through your exercise, that’s going to kind of offset a little bit of your weight loss. But yeah, it’s kind of for more fast results and then basically more efficient results.

Sam Craft:                    I saw somewhere that the Rock eats like 5,000 calories for breakfast, I mean, every day. But then he spends four or five hours working out every… Those numbers blow my mind, to do that.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Do you remember—who’s the Olympic swimmer? Michael Phelps. He ate a ridiculous amount.

Sam Craft:                    Like 3,000 to 6,000 calories every day for breakfast.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Water has more, you burn more calories, because it’s more resistance and it’s like whole body.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah.

Sam Craft:                    Its mind boggling the calories you can take in and how fit they were.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. These like Olympic athletes or professional athletes are definitely going to have a lot higher caloric intake. But that’s because of what they subject their bodies to and kind of the amount of activity that they go through in a day.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And what about like the role of sugar or carbs? We’re talking about calories. Are there other things in your diet that you need to watch out for?

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, so calories in your diet mostly come from kind of three major sources and a lot of times people call those the macros, or the macronutrients. That’s carbohydrates, fats and protein. Carbohydrates and protein have about the same amount of calories per gram, whereas fat has more and so it’s kind of a more dense nutrient source, but that’s where you’re getting the majority of your calories from is from those three sources. So, you see a lot of these fad diets, they tend to say, “Oh, well, restrict this macro nutrient,” right? It’s either going to be a very low-fat diet or maybe a very low-carb diet. And the thought is, well, if you exclude that then you’re taking in less calories. The problem is, if you’re eating more of another, you still have the ability to take in a lot of calories.

Sam Craft:                    I can remember doing the no carb diet growing up and recently too, and my body just doesn’t function on no carbs. I get angry, like I don’t know what it is. It just does not work for me. Have you seen that with some of these other ones?

Jason McKnight:           Yeah.

Sam Craft:                    Typically, with certain things?

Jason McKnight:           We see it with that and with the others. The issue is that your body actually requires all three of those nutrient classes and your body’s actually very good at if you exclude one of those classes and your body says, “Well I need carbs,” your body can convert fat and protein into carbs. So even though you may be excluding those nutrient classes, your body’s converting whatever you take in into whatever it needs. But definitely excluding one major class tends to be problematic because you’re excluding a whole group of food that you may really enjoy.

And so, you sit there and say, “Man, I really wish I could have a piece of cake.” But when you’re so restricted and saying, “No, I’m not going to do that,” at some point willpower’s going to fail and you’re going to enjoy that piece of cake.

Sam Craft:                    I haven’t had bread or pasta since April 1st, so yeah, it’s been a long battle.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       That’s a horrible.

Sam Craft:                    I haven’t had fried food since before April 1st either. It’s been a long road.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And that’s definitely, those are healthy changes, but the thing that I always like to tell patients is, you’ve got to treat yourself every once in a while. Right? If you restrict that forever, that’s always in the back of your mind and that’s always kind of a roadblock to get over. Whereas if you say, “Hey, I did really well for this week. I’m going to go enjoy some Mexican food for dinner,” as long as you don’t overdo it you’re still going to be in good shape.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I feel like one of my biggest problems is if I give myself that little concession, “Oh I’ll eat what I want tonight-”

Sam Craft:                    It turns into a snowball.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And then it’s like in three days I’ll be like, “Oh I’ll eat what I want tonight,” and then the next day and my timeframes just get shorter and shorter.

Sam Craft:                    It just evolves into something else.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Like a self-control issue.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And definitely a big part of dieting is self-control and then like we discussed earlier, lifestyle changes you can’t say, “Well I’m going to diet for two days and then not for a day.” You’ve got to make the commitment to make it more of a long-term thing, but say, “Hey, I’m going to reward myself every once in a while and enjoy something so that way I know why this is worth it.”

Sam Craft:                    Well, how hurtful is a cheat day? You know, we were talking about cheat days and diets, how hurtful is a cheat day realistically?

Jason McKnight:           In the grand scheme of things, if you’re dieting for months and months, a cheat day every once in a while is not going to cause any problems. Now if you, and I say this because we had a patient a few weeks ago that told us this, he ate an entire cake in a sitting.

Sam Craft:                    Oh my god.

Jason McKnight:           Right? Now, if you’re going to have a cheat day and you’re going to do that—

Sam Craft:                    That’s not a cheat day.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I’m just impressed.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, exactly.

Sam Craft:                    That’s a diabetes coma waiting to happen.

Jason McKnight:           You can’t be mad about that, that’s impressive. But if you’re doing something like that, obviously that’s going to be hurtful. But enjoying yourself, having a little bit of dessert or something like that.

Sam Craft:                    Like an eat-out meal or something like that.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, is absolutely not going to cause a problem in the long term. So, my recommendation for diets, and this is kind of what I did a few years ago, was cut back on your portions, right? American portion sizes are huge. If you ever traveled outside of the country, you see that. Eat more vegetables. They tend to be more filling. Those are, for the most part, very low calorie. Cut out sweet beverages as much as you can. Enjoying a soda every once in a while is always fine but people who drink two, three, four, five, six a day, that’s a lot of hidden liquid calories.

Sam Craft:                    Was it, one soda is the equivalent of walking a mile to walk off those calories, is that—

Jason McKnight:           That’s about right.

Sam Craft:                    I heard that somewhere.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Don’t the diet sodas not have any calories?

Jason McKnight:           That’s sugar, if they don’t have any calories, yeah.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       They don’t have sugar.

Sam Craft:                    The carbonation can expand your stomach though. So, you want to eat more because your stomach is bigger.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And the other thing is, too, is it’s just liquid and so whether it’s got calories or not, if your kind of like, “Ah, I kind of want something in my stomach right now,” and you drink liquid, it doesn’t fill up any space so you’re going to drink that and five minutes later you’re still going to be hungry.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       That’s what they call empty calories. That and alcohol I’ve heard are empty calories.

Jason McKnight:           Yep. And most soft drinks and most alcohol, actually, like beer especially, is anywhere from 90 to 200 calories for a 12-ounce can. And so—

Sam Craft:                    Like drinking a soda.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And so, if you’re drinking three of those a day, that’s another 500, 600 calories. And that’s just if you drink three.

Sam Craft:                    Wow. That’s crazy.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I think that’d be what—there was something, the TDEE or like the total—

Jason McKnight:           Total daily energy expenditures?

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah, that one. It’s like the amount you—there’s some formula on the internet so we know it’s true. That’s a joke. But there’s some formula where you put in your height, your body weight, your physical activity for the most part, and it spits out what it thinks your caloric intake should be.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, and there’s a lot of derivatives of that formula. They all have kind of various ranges. If it’s something you’re interested in and you really want to calculate what your exact one is, there’re actually labs, I think there’s a couple here in town and then there’s places you can go in other cities and they actually calculate it. They put you in this box and measure kind of how much oxygen you take in and how much carbon dioxide you produce, and it calculates what’s called a respiratory quotient, and they can use that to see exactly what your base metabolic rate is and kind of what you burn more efficiently.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Oh, that’d be interesting. Though I’d rather stay in my ignorant bliss and stay put. What are some tips? You mentioned portion control, what are some tips for people or some everyday things like that? I’ve heard you get a smaller plate.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. Getting a smaller plate can definitely make a difference. Also, just even if you have a normal sized plate, putting more fruits and vegetables on that plate than meat and potatoes, that definitely makes a difference. Regardless of your portion size, making sure that you’re drinking water or something like unsweet tea instead of our standard Texas sweet tea or soda. Those are some easy changes you can make and you’d be surprised that if you drink two or three sodas a day, if you just cut that out or even cut back to one, what a difference that can make. A lot of times you can see several pounds of weight loss over a few weeks just making that small change.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And you start to feel it, like energy-wise.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. I was never a huge believer in that like, “Oh cutting down your portions and cutting out carbs or cutting down on carbs, it makes you feel better.” But after doing it, I mean, it definitely makes you feel better. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, you feel like you have more energy and you don’t feel as foggy throughout the day.

Sam Craft:                    Not eating a bunch of saturated fat makes you feel a lot different I think too, from experience. For me it’s, I don’t feel as heavy, I don’t feel real bloated after a meal and stuff like that.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       What is saturated fat?

Jason McKnight:           So saturated fat, there’s kind of a few different kinds of fat that’s in our diet. There’s saturated, there’s monounsaturated, there’s polyunsaturated, and it’s really down to kind of more of a molecular level. But what they found in a lot of studies is saturated fats, which you normally get in fried foods or really fatty foods tend to be more unhealthy for you than the unsaturated fats.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Good to know. And everything has all those percentages listed, every food approved by the FDA theoretically has all of that listed on the side.

Jason McKnight:           Yep.

Sam Craft:                    Which has changed a lot. You talked about earlier about calorie counting and how hard it was, but nowadays, I mean, you can take apps on your phone and scan the back of it. You can scan a product and it’ll bring up all the nutritional value in these databases and you can plug all that in. So, I think now it’s actually easier to count calories than it ever has been before.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Even some restaurants, you know those where you pick one ingredient and you go down the line and pick more ingredients, it can kind of estimate that.

Sam Craft:                    Well all the fast food places are required by law now to have their calorie counts on the menus. I think all restaurants, pretty much.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. It’s if they have more than a certain number of locations, like if you have like a mom-and-pop store, they’re not required to. But yeah, like your big chains definitely, or like any of the major chains around here, they’re going to have to have that information.

Sam Craft:                    They’re trying to make a valid effort to help with the crisis.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       More transparency.

Sam Craft:                    The obesity crisis, is really what it is.

Jason McKnight:           And what you see with that too is, right, you go to some of these restaurants and order a salad and salad may be more calories in it than the hamburger.

Sam Craft:                    That’s crazy.

Jason McKnight:           Just between the dressing and what all they put in it. And so even though you think, “Oh, I’m going to have a salad, I’m going to eat healthier,” it may not actually be that way.

Sam Craft:                    Well now, that’s a good point. Are those good calories or bad calories, though? I mean, from my time in weight loss and that kind of stuff recently I’ve learned that some calories are good and some are bad, and it’s actually better for me to get some bad calories like peanut butter, for example, than opposed to something else.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. So, you know the salads and stuff, the biggest thing is they have more fiber and obviously if they’ve got other fruits and vegetables in them, those tend to be a little healthier calories for you than if it’s just a bunch of ranch dressing or croutons or something like that.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Nutrient-wise.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, nutrient-wise. So even though one calorie is one calorie, if it brings with it some other benefits like vitamins and minerals—

Sam Craft:                    Like avocados?

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. Avocado.

Sam Craft:                    Avocado is a “good fat.”

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And as long as you’re not eating 10 avocados a day, that’s helpful because it’s got some of those unsaturated fats and then some other nutrients that kind of help in other places.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. I hear peanut butter and bananas. That was my favorite snack.

Sam Craft:                    I hate bananas. Bananas are bad.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I hear those are pretty high.

Sam Craft:                    Don’t do the fried Elvis. That’s not a good sandwich for staying healthy.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       It never crossed my mind.

Sam Craft:                    You ever heard of a fried Elvis?

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Now I have. Not before this.

Sam Craft:                    You should look it up, it’ll blow your mind. You like peanut butter and bananas so I think it’d be right up your alley.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Good to know.

Jason McKnight:           I think one thing just to point out as we’ve kind of touched on it is, just eat a little bit everything, right? You need carbs, you need fat, you need protein, you need fiber, and then of course all of those nutrient categories and all the different foods that are out there have different vitamins and minerals in them, which your body requires. And so not excluding any one nutrient group but just kind of cutting down on what you eat and how much you eat means that you’re getting a pretty healthy diet with a little bit of everything that your body needs.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       One way to do that is by different colors. I’ve heard you want like a rainbow on your plate. The different veggies have different types of nutrients and vitamins for you.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, definitely.

Sam Craft:                    Is there an order to how you should eat? Meaning, I’ve been taught recently—

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Dessert first.

Sam Craft:                    I’ve been taught recently, you have protein, vegetables and a starch on your plate, protein, then your vegetables, then whatever’s left if you have room.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And I would say the benefit of that is that you’re filling yourself up more on the vegetables with the fiber and the protein instead of eating that entire serving of carbs first and then you eat the protein and then you’re like, “Ah, you know what, I’m full. I don’t want the vegetables.” And so, I think putting that order in where you’re eating your fruits and vegetables first and then your protein and your carbs last helps with that.

Sam Craft:                    What about eating slower? People, I think today’s society, and again, obviously, that was me at some point in time, I was real bad about eating real fast. And then 20 minutes later it’s like, I have Thanksgiving dinner. But knowing now if you slow down and eat you’re full within 10 to 20 minutes and you’ve eaten half of what you used to eat. It’s weird.

Jason McKnight:           Yep, that’s absolutely. And it takes a few minutes for your stomach to kind of send the signal to your brain that, “Hey, I’m full.” And so, eating slower, which is a problem for most of us. I mean, I a lot of times work through lunch.

Sam Craft:                    Oh yeah, just have to get through it.

Jason McKnight:           So, I’ll eat in five or 10 minutes. Yeah. But definitely when you can kind of sit at a table and eat, then you tend to fill up faster. Which is another recommendation, why they say have family meals, because you’re sitting around the table, you’re talking and not so much just sitting there stuffing your face.

Sam Craft:                    That’s true. I didn’t think about it that way.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I love having you here because I’m asking all of my questions that I’ve ever had in my life. What’s the role of water? Because I’ve heard people say if you eat something unhealthy, drink a lot of water and flush it out. I don’t think it works like that. Does it?

Jason McKnight:           Not quite how it works. Yeah. I think the big thing is that’s opposed to eating something unhealthy with a soda or sweet tea. Right? Because that’s just going to add on a bunch of calories to what you’re eating. Definitely drinking a lot of water, it kind of makes your entire body work more efficient. Your body requires water for all its metabolic processes. There’s water in all your organs. Your body’s 60 percent to 70 percent water. It helps with gut transit, with getting all the food through there. People who are dehydrated tend to be more constipated, and so just helps everything work better, which is why it’s important to drink plenty of water.

Sam Craft:                    What’s the general rule of thumb for water a day? Like 64 ounces or something like that?

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, that’s kind of the—

Sam Craft:                    Somewhere in there?

Jason McKnight:           —the long-term accepted standard. It kind of depends on what you’re doing. If you’re working out a lot you should probably drink more. We definitely see people who drink instead of 64 ounces they’ll drink 96 or 128. As long as you’re drinking some, most people can always drink more. But we do have patients that have medical problems where they have to limit their amount of water and sometimes there’s also a psychiatric disorder called psychogenic polydipsia, and these patients like pathologically drink water and it’ll actually get to the point it puts them in the hospital.

Sam Craft:                    Wow.

Jason McKnight:           So, drinking too much water is just as bad as not drinking enough. So yeah, you just have to kind of balance it.

Sam Craft:                    Call that waterlogged at football practice.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       I try; I carry my water bottle around with me everywhere. Always try and keep it full.

Jason McKnight:           And a lot of people always complain about, “Well I don’t like the way water tastes.” Then there’s a few things. There’s some products in the grocery store that are flavored waters, have some electrolytes in them. Those can be good if you really don’t like the taste of water. There’s all the supplements that you can kind of add that don’t have any calories in them, but you have to be careful because some of them do have calories.

Sam Craft:                    I was going to say, a lot of those I found out by accident that they’ll sneak in some calories on you.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And so, then you go from a free drink that has nothing in it to something that may have quite a bit of calories in it.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Okay. So, let’s think more fad diets. What else is out there? What have you all heard of?

Sam Craft:                    Well the one that sticks out the most, that’s kind of being re-emerged is the all meat, all bacon, all that of stuff, you know.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Oh, the high protein?

Sam Craft:                    Yeah, the really high protein diet. I don’t want to mention any names, but we all know what it is. Talk a little bit about that and how it’s scary to think that you can go in and just eat meat and cheese and this and it’s healthy for you. And I know it is, to some extent it is, but what are you missing out on if you’re not doing some of the other foods?

Jason McKnight:           I think bringing up that brings the point that just because a diet will help you lose weight does not mean that it makes you healthier.

Sam Craft:                    Yes, good point.

Jason McKnight:           And so these diets, you know like the very high protein diet, it’s obviously got some health benefits for it. It can help you build muscle if you’re working out a lot. It is lower calorie than something that’s got a lot of fat in it, but you are excluding important carbs. You’re excluding fiber, which is good for gut health, and you’re excluding fats that have their role in your body. Some studies show that really high protein diets can actually increase your risk of colorectal cancer, especially if it’s a lot of red meat. So just because you can lose weight and build some muscle on that high protein diet doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for you in the long run.

Sam Craft:                    Yeah, there’s other health risks that could potentially be involved. Not for sure, but could be.

Jason McKnight:           Definitely.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       What is the whole food diet?

Jason McKnight:           I’m not extremely familiar with that one, but I know it’s a very popular one that’s out there right now and I think it’s more eating like a lot of whole grains, a lot of non-processed foods, which, same thing, that can be good for you. Eating a lot of processed food, actually, a lot of times it adds calories. Processing food sometimes takes out important nutrients that are in the food, so most physicians, and most health care providers and nutritionists, recommend a lot of kind of whole grains in your diet, so that can have benefits too.

But same as like we talked about, if it’s excluding too much of any one thing you may be missing out on important nutrients. And then of course it also goes back to if there’s a nutrient class it’s telling you to exclude that you happen to really enjoy, it’s just going to make it harder for you to kind of stay on that long term if you’re excluding something that you really like.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah, I know I struggle with that when I meal prep because I make one—I’m really boring—I make one lunch every day of the week and then I eat dinner like a grandmother at 4:00, 4:30 right when I get home. And I normally eat the same thing for dinner, and so bringing that variety into my diet is not as easy.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And that can be hard, right? Because it’s hard to find a lot of recipes that taste good to you that are also healthy. So, I think that is one part of any diet, is a lot of people kind of get stuck in that rut of eating the same thing over and over and over again, and of course you get bored with it and then finally say, “You know what? I know I’ve prepared this, I just don’t want it.”

Mary Leigh Meyer:       That’s true.

Jason McKnight:           Then you have nothing else in your house, so you say, “Well, I guess I’ll go to fast food restaurant.”

Sam Craft:                    Tacos!

Jason McKnight:           Yeah.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       French fries are my—

Sam Craft:                    Oh, they are the devil.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Let me not open this Tupperware container.

Sam Craft:                    Yeah. They are the devil.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. The diet I’ve been on, I’ve eaten about the same lunch most days for about a year and a half, but I still, I’ll introduce some variety every once in a while and then some days I’ll say, “You know what, I’m not going to eat this today.” And as long as I don’t go crazy I know that I’m still going to be in good shape.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Yeah. It’s still a formula. My mother’s lost a significant amount of weight recently. She always has her protein, then she’ll alternate veggies and then sometimes she’ll keep the protein or keep the veggies and alternate protein, like it’s a formula. She has her portion size down for her, so she’s kind of streamlined it.

Sam Craft:                    I live on snacks all day.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Snacks.

Sam Craft:                    Mm-hmm, lots of snacks.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah. And there’s actually good evidence to support that frequent snacking, as long as they’re healthy snacks, is actually better in the long run because it helps prevent you from being starving at dinner. You know? And so, there’s a, especially with diabetic patients, a lot of times we’ll recommend five or six small meals a day because you’re eating more frequently, therefore you’re never quite as hungry and as long as you keep it to healthy snacks instead of chips and soda, that’s actually going to help out. So sometimes, going back to the fasting, only eating two meals a day may be worse for you than eating six meals a day. It all depends on what you’re eating.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       This is all really good advice. But are there certain populations that should take extra precautions?

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, so I think you see a lot of these commercials for these fad diets and a lot of them will say, “Always talk to your physician or your primary provider before starting a major diet.” And that’s always kind of good advice. It never hurts to run them by your health care providers. If you have any chronic diseases, especially diabetes, chronic kidney disease, uncontrolled blood pressure, definitely your diet may need to be a little more complicated than just a little bit of everything in moderation.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And then what do you say to people that have just consistently failed at their diets? It’s always a joke, like, “Well, it’s Monday. Starting my diet again.” And going back to that need for the lifestyle change in conjunction with “diet,” is there hope for people that have just failed at diets over and over again?

Jason McKnight:           Absolutely. It’s just like any other medical condition, really. You need good support, whether it’s your friends, whether it’s family, whether it’s just the people you live with. You need somebody that can always kind of be applauding you for doing well and helping kind of—

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Boost your morale.

Jason McKnight:           Boost your morale, right.

Sam Craft:                    Or just go through the journey with you. I think it’s a lot easier to have somebody with you when you’re doing this because it is such a different life change. And I mean face it, food covers a wide variety of emotions that make you feel good or make you bad.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And especially if you’re trying not to eat ice cream in the freezer, it’s hard when there is ice cream in the freezer for somebody else.

Jason McKnight:           We see this a lot in the clinic. We’ll have somebody, we’ll say, “Hey, you need to be on a healthier diet,” and they say, “Well I tried but I also live with four other people who are not on this diet and so the food that I’m not supposed to eat is what’s in the fridge.” And so sometimes it can take kind of everybody being on the same page to help out or just a little more motivation. But the thing I would tell people is it’s never too late to change your diet habits. If you have an unhealthy diet, you need to lose weight or your health care provider’s telling you, “Hey, you need to institute some changes,” it’s never too late.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       That’s a good point to wrap up on. Is there anything else that you think we need to address?

Jason McKnight:           Not that I can think of. Like I said, just to kind of reiterate the point that I think the best diet is to not exclude entirely any nutrient class, but to have a little bit of everything because your body needs all of those things. And just cut down on portion sizes, drink more water or low calorie beverages, and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       Well, okay. Thank you for coming on the show. I know I was able to ask every question I’ve had, Sam’s nodding his head too.

Sam Craft:                    Yeah, no, I agree. I agree. I think it’s something everyone can relate to so it’s good to hear as much information about it as we can.

Jason McKnight:           Yeah, no, I enjoyed being here talking to you guys.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       All right. Well, thank you, Dr. McKnight.

Jason McKnight:           Absolutely.

Mary Leigh Meyer:       And thank you all for listening. This has been another episode of Sounds Like Health.