functional medicine diet“I’ve tried so many diets, how do I know which is right for me?”

“I lost weight and put it back on again.”

“I’m still tired, and tired of dieting.”

“I don’t enjoy my food.”

Have you caught yourself saying anything like this recently?

Life is so complex these days – we are information over-loaded. There is so much focus on diet and being healthy and thin, while we are tantalized with delicious foods and restaurants. The common problem is a lack of reliable information for a long-term, sustainable solution.

Common problems with serial dieters include:

  1. Starting and stopping diets

  2. Losing lots of weight quickly, only to put it right back on

  3. Dissatisfaction with food

  4. Complicated, difficult to follow guidelines

  5. Misinformation, and outright false claims by people who don’t know the facts

  6. Motivating ourselves to break our cravings and bad habits

It is hard to know who to trust, what diet to follow, what weight goals to shoot for and how to balance it all. I have personally tried them all – macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean, South Beach, alkaline, paleo, Atkins, raw diet, calorie counting, etc.

I have also done the research, tried out different approaches with patients, and trusted my gut (literally and figuratively). I have found a balance for both health and weight (and mental calm and clarity) and here is my conclusion:

Food is our medicine.

Each and every one of us is a unique eco-system. We are not all programmed the same way, but we are all programmed to fail on processed, GMO (genetically modified), chemical food diets. We may fail the SAD (Standard American Diet) in different ways, but eventually we all fail.

I don’t like the word “diet” because it conjours up images of the Western World’s obsession with being thin, which is misplaced, unhealthy, and often dangerous.  Each and every one of us has a different genetic and constitutional make-up and you really need to tune in to your body and listen to your gut in order to figure out what the right weight is for you. We must listen to our intuition with food intake, just as with anything in life. You can make a choice: live to eat, or eat to live.

A smart person once told me, food can do 3 things:

1. Nourish and energize the cells in your body.

2. Fill you up.

3. Add toxins and stress to your body, draining your energy reserves.

That being said, G-d definitely wants us to enjoy our food, or He wouldn’t have made it so beautiful and tasty, right? So, I have a very natural approach, but like everything I do, I like to back it up with science. It also feels right to connect with a more natural way of life and with our heritage.

I eat (and I believe we should all eat) a fresh, whole-foods based, low glycemic index, sugar free, gluten-free, organic, processed-food free, mainly dairy-free, alkaline food diet with the addition of healthy fats and fermented, raw food. That sounds like a mouth-full, and it is! – a delicious mouth-full! I am going to back up my claims with the science step by step.  Food should be your medicine.

Ultimately, my goal is to provide a weekly menu so that you access good health through a thought-out, medicinal food plan.

Here goes:

Fresh, organic, non-processed, whole foods are GOOD for you: Studies show that our bodies have not caught up with technology. We process things better in their natural state.

Technology is so fancy, creating colored boxes with delicious looking concoctions and fancy marketing which claims its health benefits, but our bodies do not do well with things in colored boxes and fancy concoctions.

There is overwhelming evidence that sugar is bad for you.  There is also overwhelming evidence that hydrogenated fats and trans-fatty acids are bad for you.  People process toxic loads differently, some better than others, but to say, “well, its all genetics anyway” is flat out wrong.

Did you know that you can change your genes?  Yes it is true.  Your specific genetic variations set the stage for health or disease and may make you more prone to heart problems, depression, diabetes, dementia, and a host of other chronic diseases, but our lifestyle affects how our genes function.

To successfully break the cycle of yo-yo dieting, you must first get rid of cravings and bad habits.  I find that the best way to do that is by starting out with a sugar detox program.  An incredible program that I investigated and have seen incredible results with is the 21-day sugar detox program.

Gluten free diet:

A gluten free diet is critical to good health: For a comprehensive, evidence-based article highlighting the evidence for gluten free living check out this link: Gluten Free Diet

Why other diets are not sustainable and often dangerous:

1. Calorie Counting:

Calorie counting is annoying and not sustainable and it does not address the QUALITY of our food, or looking at food as medicine.  If you are programmed to calorie count and that helps you lose weight, by all means calorie count!  You can post my recipes into this Calorie Counter to get a comprehensive count.  However, I do not think this step is necessary for most people.

2. Vegetarian diet is not healthy.

It is, in fact, dangerous, as it eventually will lead to severe vitamin B12 deficiency and almost always leads to iron deficiency and methionine deficiency (an amino acid necessary for DNA replication).  Most vegetarians enjoy good health until their 40’s and then start to show evidence for disease due to chronic vitamin and mineral deficiency.Vegan is even more challenging than vegetarian.

3. Mediterranean diet:

I am all for raw extra virgin olive oil and nuts, and even dark chocolate, but we must avoid gluten and dairy, which are pro-inflammatory, mucous enhancing, bacterial overgrowth promoting foods. The Mediterranean diet also allows for potatoes and grains, which are high on the glycemic index and offer other problems discussed previously.

4. Atkins, Weston Price, and Paleo :

These diets share a wonderful commonality – they all avoid grains.  I really appreciate all these diets, and then some.  My only concern is I am weary of too much meat, and would encourage everyone to figure out what works for them. It is true, some people require more protein than others, however,  protein intake does have a ceiling – max is 35 – 40% of daily calories, otherwise you risk amines breakdown into nitrogenous bi-products. (In order for amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) to be oxidized for energy, the amine group (NH2) must be removed.  Too much of this, and you build up nitrogenous bi-products.)

5. South Beach Diet

This diet is well packaged and people find it easy to follow, however it has many things wrong with it.  First of all, it allows for ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS, which are known carcinogens and do not promote health in any way shape or form.  (you can drink soda on South Beach!) Second of all, it allows for canola oil which is high is omega 6, a pro-inflammatory fat, and it allows for tofu, and lunch meat – all which are processed and inflammatory.  Phase 2 of South Beach allows for whole wheat, and you know what the evidence says about wheat.

Most studies show that diets as the ones above fail long term.  My experience is that they fail because they focus on the wrong things – eliminating food and weight loss.  Weight loss is important, however it will occur naturally when you focus on the innate health and beauty of whole foods and eat the way your body is designed to eat.

Again, to summarize: eat organic, non-processed, non-GMO foods with quality fats and proteins.  Pay attention to acidity of foods, and keep your diet balanced.  Another tip: you can not heal with low pH (acidic state).  Best way to promote alkaline diet is by checking the Ph of your first morning void. Click here for high quality Ph strips. Contact me, or stay tuned for more details on Ph levels.

For questions, more explanation, please contact me!  I love hearing from you.

Hila Handler, MD