One phrase uttered consistently with relation to healthy eating is that one must eat a ‘balanced’ diet. What does a balanced diet mean? If I eat 33% protein, 33% carbohydrate and 33% fat, is that balanced? What do the percentages relate to, weight, calories, what? It’s one of those things ‘they’ say and it seems like it’s some sort of universal truth but when you think critically about it, it means nothing unless you figure out what ‘balanced’ means.
Having said that, I’d like to blog a bit about a diet study that was released in August of 2010 (http://www.annals.org/content/153/3/147.abstract).
What this study set out to test is which diet provides the best outcome for weight loss and other factors. You can read the abstract yourself but one thing was left out of the conclusions that I find very interesting. The study concluded basically that either diet works and were effective. Here’s what they left out: the low-carb diet produced roughly the same results without mandatory calorie restriction. The low carb group was not asked to limit the amount they ate (at least as far as I can tell from the write up) only to limit the carbohydrate count. So from that there are two possible conclusions:
1. The low carb subjects voluntarily ate as many calories as the low-fat group and lost weight as a result of fewer calories
2. The low carb subjects ate more calories than the low fat group but lost the same amount of weight.
Either way, this is a revolutionary result for those of us who have tried the mainstream low-fat diet and suffered from hunger.
I don’t believe that anectodal evidence should convince anyone but my own personal experience is that the low carb lifestyle produces the best outcome for me. When I am hungry, I can trust that hunger. Most of the time, I am not hungry. I cannot say this when I am eating the typical mainstream diet for weight loss.
So…. what does this have to do with the phrase that drives me nuts. Well, it seems to me that telling people to eat a ‘balanced’ diet is a way to dismiss people without giving them the information and tools they need. For me, a balanced diet means very few carbohydrates. Probably 4-5% of the calories I consume come from carbohydrates. Probably another 20-30% come from fat and 65-76% therefore come from fat. To me, given the result to my health (weight loss of 23 pounds), this is balanced. I’m not saying that it would be balanced for anyone else but it’s about time we retire the ‘balanced’ diet phrase because it is meaningless.