What Diet is Best for Me?

Submitted by Dr. Sommer Knittig on May 24, 2021

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An overview from a physician who specializes in non-surgical weight loss.

Well, that depends. Diets are as varied as those who have tried them. While proponents of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate approach like “Keto” or Atkins® swear by that approach, those in favor of a low-fat, higher carbohydrate diet like Ornish®, or a whole foods plant-based diet are equally as passionate. But the diet that’s right for you may well be based on your DNA.
 
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Diets are not one-size fits all.

Each of us has our own, unique genetic make-up. While there are basic dieting principles that everyone should follow, if one is struggling to lose weight, an individualized clinical assessment can often guide you to the option best tailored for your needs. This can include an evaluation of your personal history, medical problems, medications and metabolic profile by a physician who specializes in non-surgical weight loss.
 

When it comes to weight loss, genetics matter.

The previously held belief that “a calorie is a calorie” is false. There’s no guarantee you’ll lose weight following the same diet that helped your friend.  
 
The old way to look at weight loss was through a-calorie-in-calorie-out lens. A study published in the February 2009 New England Journal of Medicine—the POUNDS LOST trial, compared two higher fat, lower carbohydrate diets to two lower fat, higher carbohydrate diets. The initial trial concluded that the macronutrient composition of a particular diet did not matter. In other words, it doesn’t matter what proportion of carbohydrates, protein and fat a diet has, all that matters is that calories are reduced and the diet is followed.
 
However, in 2016 the participants in the POUNDS LOST trial were looked at genetically, and a different conclusion was reached. If you look at averages, as was done in the initial POUNDS LOST trial, you miss the point. Participants following each of the diets lost the same amount of weight as a group, but, when researchers looked at the participants as individuals, they discovered some participants lost a lot of weight, while some lost no weight at all, or even gained a few pounds. Significantly more weight was lost on a low-carbohydrate diet if you had one genotype and significantly more weight was lost on a high-carbohydrate diet if you had another genotype.
 

Start your diet with these steps.

While allergies, medical diagnoses and certain conditions will limit the ability of some to follow these guidelines, the following tips are applicable to most people looking to start their weight loss journey.
  • Carbohydrates should be in the form of vegetables and fruit, not flour or sugar-based foods.
  • Eat lots of different vegetables. 
  • Every day eat dark, green leaves and something from the cruciferous family of vegetables. These include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, radishes, etc.
  • Let fruit be the dessert portion of your meal.
  • Whether you eat animal products or are vegetarian or vegan, be sure to eat some protein with each meal.
  • Don’t be afraid of healthy fats like those found in olive oil or avocados.
  • Avoid liquid sugars, like soda and sweet tea, and any other beverage with added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Make water your primary drink of choice.

Seek help on your journey.

If you’re struggling to improve your health, consult your physician about weight loss options.
 
Dr. Sommer Knittig is a board-certified obesity and internal medicine physician who practices with Chesapeake Regional Weight Management. She works with patients who have complex comorbidities and are seeking help with weight loss to live a healthier lifestyle.