Pharmacist Michael covers several ways to lose weight. What should you eat? What foods should be avoided? Are there supplements that can help?
What is the healthiest diet?
How can I achieve sustainable weight loss?
Is it possible to prevent, reverse or control type 2 diabetes with diet?
Those who have been following my blog know that I believe in the following key strategies to live a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle:
- Eat whole foods
- Drink plenty of water
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Control stress and anxiety
- Spend as much time as possible with your happiness elements
This post will focus on the best diet to achieve weight loss and keep your body as healthy as possible. Our family tried the Whole30 diet in October. It was challenging for us all, but some major lessons were learned from the experience. First, it is amazing how good you feel when crappy foods are eliminated from your diet. Your thoughts are clear, your energy level improves, and you feel better in general. Secondly, your skin improves, you look healthier, and sugar cravings disappear. Although this diet is hard to continue indefinitely based on its restrictions, I do recommend trying it to get an idea of how the food you eat effects your life.
Let’s look at two different diets that may help you.
Dean Ornish’s Spectrum Diet
Dr. Dean Ornish has created a program which is similar to what I believe will lead to a healthier you. His program claims to be able to reverse heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, and lead to weight loss. Dr. Ornish believes that foods are neither good nor bad, but some are healthier than others. He believes eating more of the healthy foods such as
- Whole grains
- Nonfat dairy
- Fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids
- Soy products
- Egg whites
can have anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-heart disease effects. Like me, Dr. Ornish emphasizes whole foods. Processed foods should be limited. He believes eating mostly plants in their natural form will lead to better health.
Ornish’s diet does not restrict calories unless weight loss is a goal. He believes in small frequent meals throughout the day which maintain energy levels and controls hunger.
This diet limits the following “bad” carbs
- Concentrated sweeteners
- White flour
- White rice
- Refined carbohydrates
Added sugars such as agave, honey, white or brown sugar, maple syrup and refined carbohydrates are limited to 2 servings per day.
Alcohol can be consumed in limited quantities, but is not encouraged and is limited to one serving per day or
- 5 ounces liquor
- 4 ounces wine
- 12 ounces beer
The Ornish diet recommends 4 grams of good fats daily. These include
- Fish oil
- Flax seed oil
- Plankton based omega-3 fatty acids
Limit calories from fats to 10% or less. This diet achieves this by not adding fats, oils, avocados, coconut, or olives to the mostly plant-based diet. The fat will come naturally from grains, vegetables, soy, fruit, legumes, and beans.
Cholesterol is limited to 10 mg or less per day. Non-fat dairy products are optional but should be limited to 2 servings per day. Alternatives such as soy milk are preferred as they are rich in healthy nutrients and are cholesterol-free.
Since nuts contain large amounts of fat, serving sizes are limited. Three servings of the following types of nuts are recommended. These specific types contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols which convey cardiovascular benefits.
- 5 tsp pumpkin seeds
- 6 peanuts
- 3 pecan halves
- 1 whole walnut
- 5 almonds
- 9 pistachios
- 2 cashews
- 5 tsp flax seeds, ground
- 2 tsp chia seeds or sunflower seeds
Low fat packaged foods are not encouraged, but optional. Remember, whole foods are preferred.
Protein, obtained mostly from plants, is encouraged by the Ornish diet. Examples include.
- Egg Whites
- Non-fat yogurt
- Non-fat cheese
Flavoring foods with herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus fruits is preferred over salt. If you are a coffee drinker, limit coffee to one cup per day, or two cups decaf or black or green tea. Supplements may be taken as well. Dr. Ornish recommends a low-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement with vitamin B-12, fish oil, and calcium supplements if directed by a physician.
All information regarding the Ornish diet was obtained directly from his website at:
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating in countries that surround the Mediterranean. The basic guidelines are as follows.
Foods to eat daily:
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats
To be consumed twice a week:
Moderate portions of:
- Dairy products
- Poultry (occasional)
Foods to consume infrequently:
- Red meats
There are many websites devoted to a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. One of my favorites is http://www.oldwayspt.org
This pyramid is found on that site. This gives a visual explanation of what I have written above.
Why the Mediterranean Diet?
Studies have shown that this diet achieves better results than other diets in many areas:
- A 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to low fat diets.1
- Lower blood sugars in type 3 diabetics compared to other diets.2
- More effective for sustainable weight loss.4
- Lower rates of cancer, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and overall dementia.6
- More favorable cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammation levels compared to low fat diets.
It is important to realize that what you actually eat depends on your situation and what you are trying to achieve. The above Mediterranean diet pyramid shows what to eat in general.
Since most are likely reading this because they want to lose weight, here are some pointers. Remember, if you are at your goal weight, just eat according to the pyramid above.
Try to stop eating and drinking sweet foods and beverages.
This includes those with artificial sweeteners. Even fruit juices should be avoided. These items are high in empty calories and can spike insulin levels. If you refrain from eating sweets, your cravings for them will decrease. I noticed when on the Whole30 diet that fruits will also start to taste much sweeter and become more enjoyable to consume.
Avoid grains, even whole grains.
If you want to lose weight, or are having trouble controlling blood sugar, avoiding all grains is important. Grains contain high levels of carbohydrates. Grains fit into three broad categories.
Highly-refined grains –
Any foods made with white, wheat or enriched flour. Some examples include bagels, focaccia bread, pizza, pancakes, pastries, donuts, cookies, chips, pretzels etc. White rice, tortillas, most granola bars, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals also fit into this category. Highly refined grains should ALWAYS be avoided.
Moderately-processed whole grains –
These foods are not as processed as the highly refined carbs but contain rapidly-metabolized starches which spike blood sugar levels much like their highly-refined counterparts. Examples in this category include whole grain versions of pastas, crackers, breads, couscous, brown rice cakes, puffed grain cereals, muesli, and granola. People at goal weight without diabetes, high triglycerides, or insulin resistance can eat moderately-processed whole grains in limited quantities.
Intact whole grains –
These are grain products that have not been processed. Examples include whole unpearled barley, wheat and rye berries, oat groats, brown rice and millet. These are the healthiest grains available but, again, should only be eaten by those who are at goal weight, don’t suffer from diabetes, insulin resistance, or high triglyceridemia.
Eat nine servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily but eat the vegetables first.
Most frozen vegetables are almost as good as the fresh variety. Be sure to eat more vegetables than fruit and eat vegetables with every meal, even breakfast. Eat the vegetables whole instead of juicing them. Steer away from starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Keep serving sizes of yams, carrots and sweet potatoes small.
All fruit is not created equal.
The best fruits to eat are apples, pears, berries and citrus fruits. Dried fruits should be avoided as they contain concentrated sugars. The only exception is dried prunes which have a lower glycemic load. Higher sugar fruits such as bananas, pineapple, grapes and mangoes should be consumed in moderation.
Eat beans and legumes regularly.
These are best prepared from the dry versions. Be careful when using canned beans. Many contain added sugars and fat. Beans and legumes add vegetable protein to the diet and have less of an impact on weight gain and blood sugar than whole grains.
Try to eat good fat, protein and fiber with each meal and snack.
This has a couple of benefits. First, blood sugar will rise more slowly and increase satisfaction. Secondly, combining these leads to a longer digestion time which curbs hunger.
Don’t skip meals.
I know intermittent fasting is currently popular and I like to practice it myself. Eating a good breakfast and small, frequent meals has been shown to help with weight loss.
Eat unsweetened cultured dairy products.
Some studies have shown that eating dairy reduces diabetes and obesity risk. It is also better to choose whole or 2% milk products instead of the low-fat or non-fat variety. Eating aged cheeses is preferable to drinking milk. Kefir and yogurt can be a great source of microorganisms (probiotics), calcium and protein. It is always best to consume plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself. I like to use blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for this purpose.
Always read food labels.
Don’t fall for marketing slogans such as “healthy” or “low-fat.” Avoid packaged foods that contain added sugar, refined grains and bad fats. Remember, it is always best to eat whole foods whenever possible. If it doesn’t come with a label, it is probably much healthier for your body.
Often we make poor choices when in a hurry or when we haven’t purchased the correct ingredients for healthy meals. Stay away from fast food and limit trips to restaurants.
My readers are probably tired of hearing this but it is probably the most important key to health, happiness and weight loss. Be active, take the stairs, park further from your destination and walk. There are many ways to get exercise, you don’t necessarily have to live at the gym to accomplish this.
Get enough sleep.
This is another thing that comes up over and over in my posts. Lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Let's Compare the Two Diets
Now that we have explored these two diets, we can compare them. They are actually not that much different. They both rely on fruits and vegetables as the primary food source and both prefer you eat the “whole” versions of these. They both restrict refined sugars, processed foods, and unhealthy carbohydrates.
The Ornish diet allows 2 servings of “bad carbs” daily whereas the Mediterranean diet advocates consuming them as a treat or on special occasions.
Fat consumption in the Ornish diet is only 10% of the daily caloric intake whereas the Mediteranean diet allows for approximately 29% fat on a daily basis.
Every physician I have consulted regarding diets has recommended the Mediterranean diet over all others. The primary reason for this is the large quantity of clinical data available to support it for heart disease, diabetes treatment and prevention as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Dementia. The prevention of dementia is of upmost importance to me as I work on a hospital unit that cares for these patients. This disease is devastating for both the patient as well as the family and care-givers. Anything I can do to prevent this disease is worth the effort.
U.S. News and World Report ranked 35 diets and ranked the Mediteranean diet #1 and the Ornish diet #9.
This isn’t surprising considering the evidence available. The main complaint surrounding the Ornish diet was the finding that the fat limitation made the diet hard to adhere to. Nevertheless, this diet is very good for your heart and is also supported by quality evidence. I see no problem following this diet if you are able to stick to it. You will likely lose weight and feel great. It follows all of my “rules” which are explained at the beginning of this post.
I plan to stick with the Mediterranean diet for now. My main reason for this is the evidence supporting its effect on the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. I have no problem recommending the Ornish diet as well. I have researched it and find it to be a great alternative for weight loss. I recommend you take a look at both and make your decision based on what you can maintain. A diet only works if you are able to stay on it.
As always, if you have any questions or comments positive or negative, please let me know. I would also love to hear topics you are interested in reading about. The goal is to keep you informed about anything that supports a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle!
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How can I lose weight quickly?
Are there any tricks?
Nothing ever works for me!
This week I am going to give you some solid advice on losing weight. I went from 240lbs to around 180lbs and have kept it off for several years by using many of the tactics discussed in this post. These are not all my ideas. I have learned them from personal trainers and health coaches throughout my adult life.
We are coming into the holiday season which makes dieting very difficult. Someone is always bringing goodies to work, the kids will have way too much Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving will surely come with way too many calories.
The following ideas are certainly not the only options available to keep looking your best, but they are the ones that have worked for me. Everyone is different so if another plan is working for you, stick to it.
So how do we keep looking our best year-round?
Remember, looking good and feeling good go hand in hand!
I put exercise first because it is the most important. We all know the importance of keeping active but don’t always do it. Like many of you, I need to get back into the routine myself.
Getting up early and exercising, even for thirty minutes, makes a huge difference. If you can do this the first thing in the morning, it will jump-start your metabolism for the rest of the day. It will also make you feel better.
Don’t try to kill yourself. Especially when first starting, go slow!
I suggest checking in with your doctor if it has been a while since you have exercised. Be sure to stretch before and after, and drink plenty of water.
It is better to do light exercise than none at all. Try to pick something you enjoy. If you hate it, you probably won’t continue. If you can find a friend to join you, it can be much more enjoyable.
An early morning daily walk is a good start. Getting outside will also improve your mood. I once worked with a psychiatrist who prescribed outdoor morning walks for all of his depressed patients.
If you make exercise part of your daily routine, it will become a habit.
There are no shortcuts here! If you want to lose weight and keep it off, exercise is the best single weapon you have.
Drink a Lot of Water
There are numerous benefits to drinking a lot of water. Most of us do not drink enough. When my patients complain of constipation, the first thing I recommend is more water! This isn’t always what they want to hear, but it is beneficial.
Water is also the best expectorant. If you have mucus building up in your airways, water will help alleviate the problem.
Drinking water helps you feel full. If the water is cold, your body needs to expend calories to heat it. Cold water can also keep your core temperature lower during exercise, which prevents overheating.
Water helps flush toxins from your body. It also helps your skin look younger by decreasing wrinkles. Drinking water keeps the mouth clean and can help prevent tooth decay.
Water helps regulate body temperature by producing sweat. This is especially important in hot climates. It can also keep you from becoming dehydrated, which can cause headaches.
Drinking water daily should become one of your healthy habits.
Don’t Drink Alcohol!
I am going to continue to write about this subject. There is absolutely no legitimate reason to consume alcohol. When it comes to dieting, alcohol contains empty calories and impairs judgment. If you are a person who can have one glass of wine at dinner and stop, then skip to the next subject.
If you are like I used to be and love beer, especially the high alcohol-laden microbrews, then you should take a look at the number of calories you are consuming. They don’t call it a “beer belly” for nothing.
I know you will all do what you believe makes you happy.
If you want to look good, alcohol will not help you achieve that goal, especially if you are over forty. It will not make you more healthy, and will not solve any of your problems.
Take it from someone who hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in ten years. You will feel better without it!
Limit Salty And Sugary Snacks
This has always been my biggest hurdle. If you can stop snacking on junk food, you will lose weight much faster. Cake, candy, chips, ice cream, and pastries are all delicious, but they can be hard to stop eating once you start.
These foods are loaded with carbs and “bad” fat. We all know what the culprits are. Almost always, they are the things we enjoy the most. If you don’t have the willpower, keep them out of your house.
Stay Far Away From Fast Food
I know it is fast and convenient. You had a hard day and didn’t want to cook. It is so easy to go through the drive-through and pick something up for dinner.
The problem is a Big Mac has 540 calories, and 260 of those come from fat. Almost half of those calories are fat! If you add a large order of french fries, that’s another 500 calories of which 220 calories are from fat. So even if you drink water or a diet coke, you have just consumed 1040 total calories with 480 calories coming from fat.
I don’t mean to pick on McDonald’s, most “fast food” joints will overdose you with calories. Skip the drive-through. Go home and make a healthy salad!
What To Eat
I’m going to share my rules with you. Again, I don’t always follow them, but when I do, the weight always comes off. This is what I have learned:
Stay away from processed foods. This includes energy bars, boxed dinners, granola bars, and anything that is prepared in advance that has a long shelf life. These foods are full of salt, sugar, and preservatives.
If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!
If it won’t spoil, don’t eat it!
If there are seventy-two ingredients listed on the label, don’t eat it!
Pay close attention to food labels. You may think yogurt is healthy, but many flavored yogurts are full of sugar. It is much better to eat fresh fruit and plain yogurt. Try to find foods with high protein and low carbs.
Here are some snack suggestions:
- Peanut butter mixed with plain yogurt.
- Almonds with blueberries, raspberries or blackberries.
- Apple slices with peanut butter.
- Celery sticks with cream cheese.
- Cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Bell peppers dipped in guacamole.
- Cucumber slices with hummus.
Undereating Weight Loss
If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. If you plan on undereating, it is best to do this for a short period of time. Your body needs sufficient fuel to operate efficiently.
Undereating for too long can make you sick and negatively affect mood. I only recommend undereating for a brief period to help jump-start your weight loss and get you into a proper mindset.
Losing weight quickly at first can give you more energy to keep working toward your goal. It is a great feeling to step on a scale and see a lower number pop up!
I once went on a diet where I didn’t eat any meat, no alcohol, no dairy, and no sugar. I survived on mostly broccoli and rice for six weeks.
During this time, I went to the gym daily and worked out with a trainer. I lost weight so quickly that I had to change my workouts to three times a week.
I do not recommend eating only broccoli and rice. It is too hard to stick to, it is boring, and it makes you grumpy. If you plan to under eat for a short period, stick to a balanced diet but eat less.
There are plenty of apps for your phone that can help you track your calories. I use MyFitnessPal.
I want to emphasize that under-eating should only occur for a brief period. If you don’t eat enough calories, your body will go into starvation mode, and your metabolism will decrease. This is our body’s way of maintaining weight during starvation. When this happens, it will be harder to lose weight.
Intermittent fasting has become a popular weight-loss method. This is where you eat all of your daily calories during a short period. I was introduced to this by a pharmacist colleague. There are many different versions, but I will explain how I have used this method.
I usually skip breakfast anyway, so I skip lunch as well and then eat a large dinner. I did this for several weeks and was able to keep my weight steady without spending a lot of time exercising. I did buy some MCT oil and added it to my coffee in the morning.
MCT oil is a medium-chain triglyceride that is extracted from coconut oil. This oil is promoted to help with weight loss by making you feel full. It can be added to smoothies and coffee.
MCT oil is also used in those utilizing the ketogenic diet. This is because it is low in carbs and high in fat. Intermittent fasting works for some people, but I have better luck with just skipping breakfast. When I skip breakfast and lunch, I tend to eat more unhealthy foods in the evening.
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb diet. It is similar to the Atkins diet. The goal is to put your body into ketosis. This is a metabolic state which makes the body more efficient at utilizing fat for energy.
This diet works for several people I know personally. I tried it but was unable to limit my carbs to the levels needed to succeed. If you can live on fat and protein, this isn’t a bad solution.
Although it is probably more work, I prefer the next diet.
This is the diet recommended by my physician. The Mediterranean diet comes from the food consumed by those living in the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is more of a cultural way of life than a diet. It was discovered that this population had a lower death rate caused by coronary artery disease.
This diet consists of daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Red meat is limited to a few times a month, and beans, eggs, poultry, and fish are consumed weekly. Dairy products are also limited to a few times a week.
Olive oil is the predominant fat consumed in the Mediterranean Diet. If you want to give this diet a try, here are some pointers:
- Eat more seafood. Consuming fish such as salmon, trout, or tuna twice weekly is sufficient.
- Use healthy fats such as olive oil. Avocados are also a great healthy fat source.
- Use spices to improve the flavor of your food. Turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, etc. all have added benefits.
- Use whole grains for cereal, bread, and pasta.
- Make fruits and vegetables your primary food source. It is best if you can consume seven to ten servings daily.
- Consume raw or roasted cashews, almonds, and walnuts.
If you want an inexpensive cookbook to get you started, I recommend The Mediterranean Diet for Beginners: The Complete Guide.
I hope I have given you some useful information to help you shed some pounds and keep it off.
There are many ways to lose weight. Some are healthy, and some are not. It boils down to planning, portion control, and willpower.
Most of us know what foods are good for us and which foods to avoid. The problem is it becomes easy to fall into a lazy, comfortable routine.
If you plan your day to fit in some exercise and eat healthy food along with lots of water, it will pay huge dividends. I didn’t mention soda, but it is a weight loss killer.
I enjoy my Diet Coke, but the evidence shows it leads to weight gain. Water is always the best beverage to enjoy.
Eat right, exercise, feel good about yourself, and have fun! You only get to live your life once.
Please contact me with any questions or comments.
Live a Happy, Healthy, Healing Life!