Updated: Feb 13
Leave behind the dietary confusion and focus on the most important aspect: food choice.
Three General Approaches
You've heard of a million weight loss schemes and dietary schemes, and in my experience, they usually use one main approach. They either focus on your changing your eating structure, food choice, or food volume.
Food Choice: This is the food you choose to eat. Duh!
Eating Structure: When you eat, and how you structured that eating. For example, do you eat breakfast every day? Do you get most of your calories at night? Do you get most of your food during snacks, or just during meals? Do you restrict your eating times (from 10am to 6pm, perhaps)?
Food Volume: This represents the effort of portion size and portion restriction, and calorie counting in general
Example approaches using each of these: Food choice programs include the ketogenic diet, vegetarian diets, or strict whole-food, plant-based. Eating structure approaches include time restricted eating programs (Do not eat outside a 10 hour window every day, for example), or programs to do not allow snacking and mandate a certain number of meals, like you might find in a Food Addicts program. The food volume approach includes most dieting programs, as they foster a relentless focus on understanding and regulating portion sizes, calorie counts (which might coded as point systems), and then eating less to take in fewer calories.
The Best Approach
You will not get optimal benefits if you just focus on just one of these approaches. It seems lovely and wonderful to eat whatever you want, for example, and just restrict your eating to 10 hours a day. That seems almost easy and much more doable. But it doesn't work that well all on its own. Likewise, it seems lovely and wonderful to be able to eat anything you want - it's all on the menu - as long as you choose moderate portions and eat "sensibly", or stay under a calorie goal. How many times have you heard that? Again - most of you won't get your best long-term results this way.
And you may have heard that you can eat as much as you want, whenever you want, if you just restrict food choice to only plants, or only meat, or only grapefruit, or whatever else you may have heard. If you restrict your food choice enough, this may be true, but in the real world, I've met plenty of patients (myself included) who can find ways to overeat even with mostly healthy choices. So this, too, is not going to be your optimal approach.
In reality you have to incorporate all three of these approaches. There's no easy way out. I'm sorry. For most Americans, this demands a major overhaul and the contribution of any one of these approaches needs to be tailored to each individual depending on their starting habits and preferences.
A Foundation to Build On
However, just because all of these approaches should be tended to does not mean that they are all equally important. I strongly believe that the most important focus of these three categories is food choice. If you choose the right food, the eating structure and food volume fall into place far more easily. If you don't choose the right food, you'll have to be "on a diet" for the rest of your life. You'll always be eating less than you'd like, or not eating when you'd like. You know how that turns out. It's an approach that can work in the short run, but there's probably only a a few people out of a hundred who can eat whatever foods they want and just "eat less" for the rest of their lives. It's not impossible, but I think it's actually the harder approach in the long run.
So know that there's a few aspects of your diet that you may need to address, and it may well incorporate all three of these approaches. But above all, realize that the most important aspect, the foundation upon which the others should be built, is food choice.