September 10, 2022

Diet Thoughts

Technically a diet is an eating lifestyle, but most people use the term to describe weight-loss efforts. But given that their eating lifestyle changes for the duration of time that they're on it, I suppose we must concede the point.

There appear to be two primary camps of dieting at the highest level of the taxonomy, namely those that involve counting and those that involve selection.

The counters base their daily eating upon some allowance of units, be those points, calories or some other pre-defined scale of allowances. They may generally eat anything as long as their daily total does not exceed their given threshold. Certain foods are declared to be good and these have lower costs in counting units, while other foods are declared bad or even a menace to society and are awarded much higher costs in the counting units.

The selectors trade away the administrative tedium of counting for the freedom to enjoy as much as they wish, as often as they wish as long as the food is pre-approved by their school of selection dieting. It appears, at first blush, that the selectors have more restrictions than the counters. They also have foods declared good and bad, but with a binary division. That food is either so good that you may eat any quantity or so bad that it should never even be brought into the house and with a huge gulf between the two ends of the selection and counting world views.

While the counters can eat anything, within the bounds of their counting unit budget, these things are not necessarily good for you, even if the point cost is acceptable to them. From the selector point of view the restrictions are not as capricious as it may seem. Selector diets are principle driven. Foods are selected by principles. Each selector diet will have a core that they share with others, supplemented by a number of exclusive perspectives that constitute their own secret sauce of promised success.

Most selector diets approve or disapprove whole classes of foods, which greatly simplifies the individual dieter's process of deciding what to eat. Further most selector diets encourage the consumption of foods that have traditionally been the staple diet (in the dictionary sense of the word) of the vast majority of most populations. These diets match advice given in earlier essays, to eat food that your great-grandparents would recognize.

I am a fan of the selector style of diets, while not being oblivious to their challenges or the several advantages of the counting diets. Counting diets allow you to eat anything if you are willing to accrue the counting cost and if it is within your counting budget. This is a very attractive aspect of counting diets, no avoiding whole classes of foods, just consume fewer of them. Unfortunately, the reduced energy intake can cause the body to switch to famine mode and reduce it's metabolic rate to compensate for the reduced food quantity. This is an area in which the selector diet is superior, because there is no enforced limit on quantity of food, only quality.

The main challenges of the selector diets are that some of the approved foods are more expensive and that eating out can be more complicated as few dining places offer options tailored to most selector diets. Over time one can learn how to choose from menus and with a few judicious substitutions or omissions, appropriate meals can be ordered. The expense issue is a little harder, but planning ahead and buying in bulk when good prices are available can help significantly.

These days there are a number of selector diets available. We've come a long way from the choice being Atkins or nothing. Dr. Atkin's diet was one of the stricter options when it first came out, but I did lose over 40 lbs using it. Sadly, I drifted off of it and they all came back. Thus Atkins for me, is not a long term option because I want to lose it and keep it off.

There are many selector diets and most of them are in the low carb / high fat arena. The big names start with Keto, then Bulletproof and Slow Carb. Slow Carb is a family of selector diets, with each more or less strict in their approved/disapproved food lists. I follow the one from Tim Ferriss, as laid out in his Four Hour Body book. It's a stricter variant, but it works well when followed carefully.

Tags: Health Living Well