I have faced my fair share of diet challenges in life like most of you. One of them is the picture above: Dr. Sue is an amazing cake maker and she also makes some pretty amazing chocolate-coated strawberries!
This week, we are talking about how to apply the Minimum Effective Dose (M.E.D.) to our diets. M.E.D. is the concept of applying just enough of something to effect a positive change.
M.E.D. is really a way to get right to making changes in our lives without overthinking or planning things. Think of it as looking for the biggest bang for your buck.
What is the least I can do for the largest outcome?
Two of the biggest culprits in the Standard American Diet are grain (including wheat and corn) and sugar.
Grain... Tastes Good But...
(and hips and thighs and belly!)
There is no doubt you can go to the bookstore right now and find one magazine that promotes a diet high in complex carbohydrates (whole grain) and, right next to it, one that promotes eating grain-free (keto, paleo, etc.). I have actually written pretty extensively on this before on our blog under Paleo - Carbohydrates: What Kind and How Much?. But, for our purposes today, here are some facts about grain (wheat, corn, etc.):
- Grains raise blood sugars
- Grains have a high calorie count
- Certain proteins in grain can cause inflammatory/auto immune reactions
These three issues can result in: diabetes and diabetes-related health issues, obesity, and obesity-related health issues, inflammatory diseases and symptoms (pain, stomach and gut issues, worsening fibromyalgia and arthritis, possibly lead to brain degeneration and worsening neurological issues). Some people have greater reactions than others, in terms of active disease states, but the scale doesn't lie in terms of weight gain.
Reduce or eliminate grain in your diet
\= lose weight and get healthier.
M.E.D. for that right away? Every time you go to have a grain product, reduce it by half and replace it with a) nothing, b) vegetable, c) fruit. Start making your sandwich open faced, instead of with two slices of bread. Only eat one roll instead of two at dinner. Cook an egg and eat it with 1/2 your regular amount of oatmeal. Have an apple instead of a granola bar. You get the idea. In a few weeks, cut everything in half again. You'll get used to it!
I Do Love Me Some Sugar!
The second thing I am going to suggest as a dietary M.E.D. is straight-up sugar. There are a lot of forms of sugar, but the two largest culprits in the U.S. are high-fructose corn syrup (found in pop, candy bars, ice cream, cookies, really, anything that is sweet and packaged) and table sugar (the sugar we bake with).
Sugar has two of the same issues that grains do, namely:
- Raises your blood sugar (leads to diabetes and related disorders)
- Has a high calorie count (leads to obesity)
In addition, while you might be able to make the case for grains having some B-vitamins (often added in) and fiber (you can get more than enough, if you eat a healthy amount of vegetables), but sugar really has no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever. I didn't say it doesn't taste good, just that it has no redeeming nutritional value! Any more sugar is like the surgeon general ads that warn you against smoking. Who doesn't know that?
So, if nobody is arguing that we can benefit from reducing sugar, how can you do that? Following the "Half Approach," outlined above in the grain section is a good start. Another simple hack would be to have a big glass of water before you're going to partake in a sugary snack. Often times, the water will make you feel fuller and you are less likely to eat as much or at least as fast.
Finally, if you are going to eat sugar in your snack, see if you can combine it with protein or fat. This can do two things: it can slow the rate it is digested and reduce spikes in blood sugar, and the protein and fat may be more effective at making you feel full sooner, as opposed to just consuming the sugary snack alone.
Don't Forget the 85/15 Rule!
I graduated from chiropractic college over 30 years ago (yeah, I was pretty young!). I don't remember a lot about the ceremony, but I do remember one thing the commencement speaker said. It was something to the effect "that we had just spent a lot of time, energy, and money learning how to get sick people healthy, but not to forget to have an ice cream cone once and awhile along the way. You never now when you might step out on the street and get hit by a car, and it would be terrible if you had never had ice cream!"
Now, I really don't want anything bad to happen to you, but I have found life a little more enjoyable when I work hard on diet and exercise 85% of the time, and take it easier 15% of the time. I think this rule can apply to food as well!
Next week, we will look at some M.E.D. recommendations on exercise.
Yours in Health,