The Secret to Diet Longevity - Meat and Vegetable Week
ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Garcia

Diet after diet, even with the most successful of programs, many people often digress to where they once began, making a healthy, sustainable diet a rare commodity. That doesn’t stop people from trying, of course. According to Livestrong.com, up to 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men are on a diet at any given time, and up to 90 percent of teenagers diet regularly. Despite the high numbers, the majority are failures. Whether it’s a grapefruit, cabbage soup, or meats and cheeses diet, nearly all dieters (95 percent) regain the weight they lost within one to five years.

Photo courtesy of USDA

So, what’s the trick to maintaining success in the long run? If there were one simple way of going about it, it’s likely everyone would be winning. For years, doctors, scientists, and weight loss gurus having been on the hunt for a miracle solution that seemingly doesn’t exist. One research piece done by Phil Graves at the University of Colorado did, however, determine three underlying principles of weight loss that could lead to sustainable success, the first being not to consider it a diet in the first place.

“There is, or rather should be, no such thing as a ‘diet’ in the sense of a temporary alteration in eating habits, in order to get back to some prior desirable weight or size,” Graves suggests. “Any temporary eating change will lead only to temporary changes in weight. A diet in the best sense of that term is essentially a life-style choice to be followed indefinitely.”

Graves also suggests that no diet fits all, and the gist of any sensible strategy is calorie restriction, which not only helps with weight-loss but also reduces diseases and extends life.

His game plan breaks down as follows:

– Curtail the “whites” (bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice)
– Curtail the desserts
– Increase fruits
– Substitute tea for empty-calorie sodas
– Curtail saturated fats
– Increase fish consumption
– Eat more tree nuts
– Increase vegetables

All are general changes that can lead to long-term solutions.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe with all these fancy, celebrity-endorsed diet tropes that are based upon extremely specified structures and costly prices aren’t good opportunities for change. Companies like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig not only take into account Graves’ general ideas, but find flexibility and map out a day-by-day schedule so dieters aren’t pressed to make decisions on their own. Weight Watchers’ latest high-profile client is Jessica Simpson, who revealed her 40-pound post-baby weight loss on Katie Couric’s new show this past September 10, where she said that her strategy is simply sticking to healthy eating rather than drastic changes when it comes to losing weight.

The entertainer, who’s reportedly earning $3-4 million in the deal, said on her new commercial for the group, “There is a lot of pressure to lose weight but I’m not a supermodel. I’m just Jessica trying to eat real food in the real world and I really just wanna be healthy for my daughter. So I knew Weight Watchers was the only way to go. It’s working. I’m on my way and it feels amazing. Really I just wanna be a better version of myself.”

Photo by Joel Telling.

Similarly, Jenny Craig approaches dieting as an overall lifestyle amendment, a “three-level food-mind-body plan” all laid out for you in “prepackaged meals,” according to WebMD. Stars who’ve aligned with Jenny Craig include Valerie Bertinelli, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Jason Alexander, and Carrie Fisher.

Beyond Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, there are bookstores filled with dieting books, there are health coaches and there are fitness sites; but aren’t these sophisticated plans just intricate versions of Graves’ theory? Isn’t it all just moderation and attention to detail?

According to Brian M. Delaney and Lisa Walford, the authors of The Longevity Diet, yes, it is.

Emphasizing healthy, nutrient-rich foods and the reduction of empty calories, the book notes, “It is now clear that a reduction in the calorie content of a diet that is otherwise healthy and nutrient-rich will dramatically improve your health and maintain youthfulness far longer than any pill or potion.”

Tried or true, withstanding of time, cut back slowly and don’t do anything drastic; keeping it simple seems to be the best diet trick of all.

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