Fit For Life: Diets I’ve Known, Loved and Hated

Sunday, April 02, 2017


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I am always asked my opinion on different meal plans and supplements. Is this good? Should I take this? What do you think about this pill or powder? Or what do you think about this diet? Or this food? Well, let me start by saying a general answer that I give everyone. Do what WORKS best for you!

The “type” of meal plan isn’t the most important factor, it’s how well you are going to adhere to the program that makes the difference. If you go on a program loaded with foods that you don’t like to eat, chances of success are less likely. If you must restrict the foods you love the most, then you will be miserable and will suffer more. Also, you are lessening your chances for success. I have tried several types of eating plans and I will give you my opinion on three different ones that I have tried. I think experience is the best way to decide what you like or works best, so you need to try a few and see what happens, and how you feel.

A Vegan Diet. I just recently dove into a 2-week strict vegan diet. I did this because I saw the “Knives over Forks” documentary, and attended a seminar by Dr. Michael Greger. Both are huge advocates of a plant based nutrition plan, all backed by scientifically proven theories that plants heal. My opinion: I hated it. I am a big meat eater, and this was a huge challenge to me. I went out of town for a few days during this “challenge” and struggled even more. To be a healthy vegan, you need to do a lot of work preparing your meals, and combining the right nutrients to get a complete amino acid profile and get enough protein to heal an active body. I also have a big appetite, and found myself eating a bagel here and there, as well as eating more processed food to fill the void. Not good. To do it right and be healthy, you better do your homework, or you will end up looking like most vegans, soft, pasty, and lethargic. Can it be a cure for illness? Yes, but again, only if you do it correctly. Eating bread and processed foods containing sugar is not the way to go.

The Atkins Diet is also another popular plan used to lose weight. I also do not recommend this diet. It restricts your carb intake to as low as 20 grams a day, and encourages you to eat as much fat and protein as you want. Although you may lose a few pounds, I don’t see eating processed meat such as sausage and salami, and indulging in endless amounts of cheese and bacon - healthy. Although it claims to be “healthy” I have a tough time advocating for such a thing. I tried it years ago, and found myself mentally exhausted and not feeling well. Some swear by it, but from a health and fitness professional standpoint, I don’t think its sustainable.

The Paleo Diet. This was brought to popularity by the cross-fit community a few years back, and its premise is to eat like a caveman, and only live off the land, while eliminating processed, manmade foods. A well-known pioneer named Jack LaLanne established a quote years ago by saying, “If it’s man made…don’t eat it”. Another doctor named Barry Sears came out with the Zone Diet a few years later, and it hits on the same points. Eat quality food, and eliminate processed carbohydrates and dairy products. This plan dictates eating the proper amount of grass fed/free range meats, lots of vegetables, and carbs such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and limited amounts of fruit. It also recommends lots of quality fats such as avocado, nuts, and quality unprocessed oils. The only thing I can’t understand about the Paleo is that it eliminates legumes such as black beans, lentils etc. 

At my gym, we are starting our second annual Paleo challenge at Providence Fit Body Boot Camp, and judging by last year’s success, people are going to get amazing results. After going vegan for two weeks, I am dying to jump in with my clients for the next four weeks.

Except for eating legumes, and the occasional piece of cheese and Greek yogurt, I have been eating what people are now calling Paleo for the last 15 + years. I feel that the quality of your food is the number one factor that determines your health. The next important thing is the amount you eat. I first tell my clients to “clean it up” before you take out the scale and measuring cups. When these vegan researchers are giving meat a bad rap and telling us that we eat too much, they are correct on some levels. Too much meat and protein will tax your body, but if you eat the proper amount and eat high-quality food, I find it hard to go wrong. So, to sum it up, I would say to go for quality first. Stay away from industrial farmed meat products, and processed man made garbage, eat lots of organic vegetables, and watch your body transform, all while improving your overall health. 

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Matt Espeut, GoLocal's Health & Lifestyle Contributor has been a personal trainer and health & fitnesss consultant for over 25 years. He is the owner of Fitness Profiles, a one on one, and small group personal training company, as well as Providence Fit Body Boot Camp, located at 1284 North Main St., on the Providence/Pawtucket line. You can reach Matt at (401) 453-3200; on Facebook at "Matt Espeut", and on Twitter at @MattEspeut. "We’re all in this life together – let’s make it a healthy one!


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