New Year's Diet Resolution:
No Deprivation Diets!
To ring in the New Year, many people have resolved to go on yet
another diet. Are you one of those people? Throughout the holidays
many people have consumed more rich, fatty, sugary foods than
they should have. Those extra holiday pounds added to the rest
of the weight you want to lose could make dieting seem like an
Which diet will you chose: Atkins, Fit for Life, The Zone, Weight
Watchers, Raw Foods, Juicing, Cabbage Soup?
Usually our declaration that we are going on a diet is accompanied
by an anguished moan. But weight loss doesn't have to be a chore.
We can make it much easier to lose weight and keep it off if we
shift our perceptions of dieting. The most important shift is
the realization that dieting doesn't have to be about deprivation.
You don't have to live on bland salads, only eating soups or prepackaged
diet plan meals, or go on controversial induction or crash diets
to lose weight. In fact, Oriental Medicine advises quite the opposite.
Even western nutritionists agree with the Oriental viewpoint.
Balance, Not Deprivation
We advise balance, not deprivation, as the best way to achieve
and maintain a healthy body. Dr. Dean Ornish, author of Eat More,
Weigh Less comments on risky high protein diets, "You can
lose weight from fen-phen, too, but that doesn't mean it's good
for you." Likewise, Katherine Tallmadge, nutritionist and
author of Diet Simple states "I've found the biggest cause
of overeating is under-eating.
Planning to Succeed
Most overeating is due to poor planning. It is amazing what a
well-stocked refrigerator full of delicious prepared foods does
for preventing that stop to the fast food joint. Most of your
cravings and uncontrolled overeating will be conquered when you
feed your body what it needs regularly during the day and have
the food at your fingertips when you need it. Studies show that
you are most likely to eat whatever is in your environment. If
you surround yourself with delicious, healthy, wholesome foods,
that's what you'll end up eating."
I can vouch for Katherine Tallmadge's wisdom... once a week I
prepare several meals to have at my fingertips. Every Sunday,
I teach a yoga class in the morning, go food shopping. I plan
the meals and grocery list ahead of time. I stop at the health
food store, the grocery store and maybe even the local Italian
market. Then I go home, put on loud music that makes me move,
sing and dance around the kitchen while I get cookin'. I cook
several meals in large batches to last the week which offer a
variety of foods and flavors. I set aside a few servings in the
refrigerator to eat over the next two-three days at home and in
the office; then I freeze other servings for later in the week.
Great New Healthy Recipes
Experimentation with new recipes from some of my favorite magazines
and Wine and Gourmet
keep my discriminating palate satisfied. Believe it or not those
magazines have many healthful recipes. I also get recipes from
Times, www.foodtv.com and my new favorite magazine Eating
Eating Well accepts no advertising, has wonderful recipes and
informative articles. It also rates the degree of difficulty of
the recipes as Easy, Moderate, and/or Labor Intensive and gives
you the caloric value, fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein,
fiber and sodium per serving.
The Raw Food Controversy
Oriental medicine teaches us to eat whole cooked foods and avoid
raw foods diets and juicing as meal replacment. Avoid overeating
dairy products, many of which we westerners consider healthy diet
foods, such as cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
The reason Oriental medicine does not advise eating raw foods
and juices and dairy products is because they are classified as
cold and damp. Chinese Medicine advises that, "The Spleen
hates cold, the Spleen hates dampness". Cold and damp foods
harm the Spleen qi. The Spleen is viewed as the vital organ for
the digestion and assimilation of food whose job is to transform
and transport food. It transforms the food into qi and transports
the qi to other organs so that they can properly perform their
functions in preserving physiological balance and harmony. When
organ systems do not receive enough qi, the disharmony caused
by that deprivation can lead to disease. We also want to avoid
fatty, greasy fried foods, and over consumption of alcohol, (anyone
out there with a beer belly?) white flour products and sugar,
which are classified as cold or damp foods.
Avoid the Binge Effect
Many of my patients skip breakfast and wait until late in the
day to eat lunch or even miss it, blaming a busy day at work.
Then when they finally eat, they gorge on whatever is fastest.
But what happens physiologically when we regularly deprive our
bodies of food and then finally binge? Our body goes into a state
of emergency and thinks that it has to store the calories we ate
for future use. So it stores these calories as fat, an efficient
fuel because it is hard to burn.
Massive Amounts of Sugar
And what if we eat a quick sugary pick me up like a candy bar
or Powerbar instead of a meal? The American Heart Association's
Committee on Nutrition recently informed healthcare professionals
that sugar consumption promotes obesity and raises triglycerides
(blood fats). Any extra calories are converted into body fat for
storage, and sugar is a fuel that delivers calories with great
efficiency. Extra fat on the body usually produces extra fat in
the blood along with added body weight (Eating Well, Fall 2002,
p20). But if we eat regularly and avoid massive amounts of sugar
consumption, our bodies won't need to store as much. The body
will use or burn most of the calories instead of storing them.
Sugar is hard to give up because we love and crave the sweets
present in many of the products we want to eat, even in some brands
Our sugar cravings date back two million years when we would
seek out sweet foods dense with energy, like ripe mangos hanging
from the tree, berries clustered on the vine and honey seeping
from the comb. Thousands of years later, that primitive impulse,
in a land of overabundant processed foods and sedentary lifestyles,
works against easy weight control and healthy energy balance.
(p19). Our sedentary lifestyle is one of the reasons that I advise
my patients to combine an exercise program with the dietary change.
There is just no evading exercise if you want to achieve and maintain
The USDA RDA for Sugar
The USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sugar is 40 grams,
but the average American over the age of two eats two times that
quantity. Sugar addiction is a real and important concern. If
you eat lots of sugar, it is best to reduce your intake rather
than go cold turkey. Sugar stimulates the brain to produce the
opioid chemicals which in turn stimulates elevated dopamine levels.
Elevated dopamine levels cause us to seek out more sweets. This
urge is the same chemical process that a morphine or heroin addict's
brain experiences. Fortunately for sugar addicts, it is not as
hard to quit. Although I have a theory that it is harder for people
who are in recovery from drugs or alcohol to quit sugar, but it
can be done. Try to reduce your intake by half for a few weeks,
then by half again for a week, then in half again until you reach
at least the USDA recommended allowance (or less).
When I decide to eat sweets, I go all out to satisfy my craving
by going to a local bakery, gourmet or specialty chocolate shop.
This way instead of buying a whole pie or cake, I can buy one
slice, or just two or three chocolate raspberry truffles instead
of a whole box of cheap chocolate from the drug store. The result
is that I lower the potential sugar and caloric intake and the
superior quality chocolate or baked delicacy more substantially
satisfies my craving than low quality grocery store or quickie-mart
junk food. So basically, I don't have to eat sweets as much or
Progress Not Perfection
As you embark on a new way of eating, be kind to yourself if
you slip into an old habit. Just acknowledge the awareness that
you slipped and explore why. Don't beat yourself up. Instead ask
yourself questions like: Was it because I had no food in the house
so I went to a fast food joint? How can I stock my refrigerator
to avoid fast food? Was I feeling emotionally vulnerable when
I ate that entire box of cookies? What else can I do to feel better
in the future?
Finally, I'd like to direct you my first article in the Pulse,
Our Food Relationships, which offers
many other important recommendations for dietary change.
Good luck, be well and remember that moderation and balance are
the keys to successful, healthful dieting.
Join the PulseMed mailing list
Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Center for Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs, NYC