Trying to choose the "right" diet can make you feel like a kid in a candy store who's limited to only one treat. Should you count calories, knowing that means if you starve all day you can reward yourself with low-calorie ice cream at night? Or should you limit carbohydrates, bringing on the bacon? In an exclusive interview on April 10, celebrity weight loss guru, Dr. Joel Fuhrman explained why he says the real answer to weight loss is simple: Stop dieting.
A board-certified family physician and nutritional researcher, Dr. Fuhrman specializes in using food as medicine. And his message to those who follow the Standard American Diet (SAD): Don't underestimate the power of food to reverse disease and help you achieve your ideal weight successfully and permanently.
For those who have been off and on diets most of their lives, Dr. Fuhrman told us that he recognizes daring to stop the cycle can be challenging. He's crafted what he considers a "boot camp" to halt dieting and jump-start weight loss in his new book "The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life."
By following his guidelines, Dr. Fuhrman told us, consumers can "end the confusion by saying no to dieting altogether. If people commit to never going on a diet again, they don't have to concern themselves with the latest and greatest fad diet of the year. Instead, eat lots of healthy, natural, anti-cancer foods. Forget fat. Forget carbohydrates. Don't worry about carbohydrate-to-protein ratios. We should strive to improve our diets, not go on a diet."
Dr. Fuhrman recognizes that dieting has become part of the great American hobby list. But the bottom line, he declares: They don't work. So what should you eat?
"Eat a large amount of vegetables each day and fill in with an assortment of other foods that have protective health benefits such as tomatoes, berries, beans, seeds, and mushrooms. Eat more fruits, beans, squash, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds," he advised us.
On the list of foods to minimize in your meals: "Less bread, potato, and rice, especially white rice," he said. And while you don't have to eliminate meat altogether, Dr. Fuhrman recommends cutting "meat and other animal products out to small levels, so they do not promote growth-promoting and cancer promoting hormones."
In addition to the carbohydrates versus calories debate, weight loss experts don't all agree that food addiction is real. Dr. Fuhrman told us that he believes it's very real. And for those who suffer, it can impact every aspect of their lives.
"Food addiction is epidemic in our society. Food addiction destroys careers, marriages and even our children's future. It is real; hidden but tragic," he reflected.
In terms of how many people impacted by food addiction, Dr. Fuhrman estimates that "that more than 60 percent of the population suffers from food addiction. People who are overweight struggle with sweets, fried foods, chips, and fatty meats in exactly the same way smokers and drug addicts struggle with cigarettes and cocaine."
Moreover, says Dr. Fuhrman, it is the SAD diet "of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt" that exacerbates the problem. He considers these foods "physically addictive, which makes it impossible for most people to maintain an optimal weight."
One of the problems for many people: They no longer recognize true hunger, says Dr. Fuhrman. He drew attention for crafting the term "toxic hunger" several years ago, crafting a book that both provided a different way of dieting and explained to dieters how to recognize true hunger in "Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss."
And one problem with recognizing true hunger, Dr. Fuhrman explained to us, is that "concentrated calories like sugar and oil, for instance, produce within food addicts a surge of dopamine levels similar to levels found in people who abuse illegal drugs. The brain is literally wired to ensure that we repeat behaviors that make us feel good by associating them with the sweet release of dopamine and specific brain patterning. The brain records a pleasurable action as a beneficial pattern that needs to be remembered and repeated automatically."
As a result, overeaters becomes tolerant to addictive substances such as sugar and salt, according to Dr. Fuhrman. He cites a recent study showing that "drug addiction and compulsive eating desensitize brain reward circuits, meaning in order to feel the pleasure of drugs or eating, we need more and more."
When dieters eat less initially as they "detox" from those addictive foods, they feel "physical and emotional discomfort, or withdrawal, or more specifically what I call 'toxic hunger.' Toxic hunger results in feelings of fatigue, anxiety, headaches, stomach cramping and agitation if food is not consumed frequently. It forces us to eat to prevent withdrawal and detoxification that takes place most effectively when digestion ceases," he noted.
What can you do if you're one of the 60 percent addicted to those foods? Dr. Fuhrman advises changing your focus when it comes to your diet choices.
"The only way to conquer food addiction is to focus on nutritional quality. The only way to comfortably eat less is to help the body desire less food, which requires us to get rid of toxic hunger. Micronutrient adequacy is needed to prevent the buildup of toxins in cells, a primary cause of toxic hunger. In order to gravitate comfortably toward a more favorable weight, our diet has to be healthier and more micronutrient complete," he explained.
And make this your mantra: "The more you eat green, the more you get lean."
Dr. Fuhrman uses the term "nutritarian diet" to refer to his plan. It's high in micronutrient-rich produce, which he encourages you to eat. The result: You will reduce those toxic hunger cravings and "cycle through the detox phase so quickly that you'll be feeling fine in just a few days. Toxic hunger will fade away and you won't be driven to eat all the time," he promises.
To help consumers choose foods suited to his nutritarian diet, he's created scoring values for foods. It's part of his guide to his food plan: "Nutritarian Handbook & ANDI Food Scoring Guide." And he sums up the keys to weight loss and health in three steps:
- Nutrition: Make every calorie count as you strive for lifelong health. Strive to eat more foods that are rich in nutrients and low in calories. Make salad the main dish at at least one meal a day. Remember my health equation Health=Nutrients/Calories.
- Eat more anti-cancer foods, because they inhibit fat storage on the body. I say, eat G-BOMBS for your immune system special forces-Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. Super foods for a long healthy life and a favorable weight that is forever.
- Exercise- exercise regularly. Make it a part of your daily routine.