The Myth of “Eat Right and Exercise”

Reposted from my ‘Friday Boost’ sent to my patients:

I received an email the other day that included the well-worn phrase “eat right and exercise.” The writer was making an ironic comment on such advice. And it was a good point.

The phrase is nearly meaningless. Eat right? Exercise?

Mies van der Rohe is credited with the quote: “God is in the details.”

While he was talking about architecture, the phrase could not be more apt than for how behavior effects our health. The details make all the difference.

There is a bewildering list of things we are told constitute eating right; and to make it more frustrating, the list contains many absolute contradictions. I will clear this up.

The same confusion reigns in the area of exercise advice. HIIT, CrossFit, LSD (long, slow, distance) Fitbit/step counting, resistance training, ballistic training. On and on, the list is long. What to do and when? This too, I will clear up.

My to do list comes from over 20 years of hard data, developed through “The Performance and Prevention Clinic,” “Tempus Clinic” and now, “When You are Serious.”

Diet Steps

Step One

Cut out all sugar: glucose, fructose, sucrose: this includes fruit juices. Get this simple step down before moving to Step Two. It sounds easy but is not; sugar is in almost every single commercial food. Read the labels. Show no mercy; you are not doing the kids any favor by serving their favorite snack food full of sugar. If you are really Serious; you will also eliminate all starch; this includes grains in any form.

Step Two

Eat more vegetables. That’s it. More vegetables. And more vegetables. I’ve watched hundreds of people kind of nibble around the edges of this guideline for years before they get it dialed in. I call this ‘the broccoli phase’ because, on food diaries, broccoli is often the only vegetable that people routinely list as eaten.

Step Three

Eat a wide variety of healthy protein. People always get stuck here. Beef this, fish that, nuts here, not there. Almost anytime you think you know something about meat causing something bad or good, or fish is good for you or bad because it is contaminated with mercury, you are on the wrong track because you are imagining eating only that one protein all the time when you should be thinking of protein as coming in a veritable rainbow of possible types, textures, flavors and nutrient values. As nearly as possible, eat only organic, wild, or freely living animal protein, eat nuts and seeds as a part of your protein rotation. Include cheeses as part of your protein rainbow.  Great proteins are stealth, healthy fat-delivery systems.

Step Four

Meal timing. When you eat and how often you eat are powerful determinants of your success. We evolved eating and fasting in a nearly random way; we ate when there was plenty and we fasted when food was scarce. In theory intermittent, random fasting is healthy for us; we are ‘made for it.’ There is one problem: the gap between theory and practice is so vast that all my patients who have ever tried various fasting protocols did great for a few weeks, in some cases a few months. Yet at the end of a year they were actually worse off; the deep biological drive to compensate for fasting overcame everyone’s power to not overeat or even, in some cases, to undereat. Are you the exception? Don’t count on it. The most effective counter to fasting protocols and the drive to overeat is simple: make breakfast your largest meal, lunch smaller and dinner the smallest meal of the day. Eat a small snack between meals. Done. That simple. Eat for what you are going to do not for what you have done.

Summary

Big breakfast, smaller lunch, small dinner. Small, healthy snacks between meals. Always eat whole, real food. The plate should be mostly vegetables with a healthy protein.

N.B. Anything you try or anything you change, should be accompanied by blood tests and other metabolic tests to determine your individual response to each change. The fact is we are all different enough that such testing is the only(!) way to ensure success.

Oh, and read my book “Eat Real Food…or Else,” available on Amazon.

Next in this series I will outline the correct exercise steps.

Smile, Have Fun, God Speed,

Dr. Mike

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