Are We Possibly Moving Toward Saner, More Sensible Diets? Let’s Hope So, America

Oprah announced that she lost 26 pounds eating bread every day on Weight Watchers, and sign-ups soared.

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly touted her success on The F-Factor Diet, a program created by registered dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot that embraces high-fiber foods including bread, and the book sells out.

The only registered dietitian on ABC’s “My Diet is Better Than Yours” won the weight-loss reality show with her balanced eating plan – beating other experts who recommended juice cleanses, a Paleo-like diet and intermittent fasting. Dawn Jackson Blatner won the competition because her contestant Jasmin Queen lost the highest percentage of body weight during the 14-week challenge. Her “Superfood Swap” plan, which focuses on enjoying favorite foods made with healthier ingredients, beat out the more extreme diets.

DawnPicMonkey Collage

photo credit:  Chad Rubel  from the #MyDietisBetterThanYours reality show watch party 

What’s going on? Could America be getting fed up with crazy, deprivation diets? Could we be entering a new era of saner, more sensible approaches? Let’s hope so. It’s about time.

That’s the topic of my latest post for U.S. News’ Eat + Run blog.

I especially liked the approach of Blatner’s Superfood Swap, which is also the name of her upcoming book. It’s about enjoying food. She wants you to embrace your cravings and continue to eat your favorite foods – just learn new ways to add a superfood twist. So instead of banishing the classic comfort food mac and cheese, make it just a little bit better with whole-grain noodles and swap in pureed cauliflower for some of the cheese.

“When you eat what you actually want, you can stick with it forever,” Blatner told me. “Embracing cravings instead of fighting them helps you avoid the on-again, off-again diet roller coaster.”  To get lasting results, Blatner says, don’t eat like someone else. “Most diet books try to make mini-mes and clone the author’s personal philosophy and beliefs,” she says. “This approach is about tuning in to what you want.”

 dawn4photo credit: Chad Rubel from the #MyDietisBetterThanYours reality show watch party

Finding nutritious ways to fit in the foods you love is truly the only way to lose weight, get healthy and actually enjoy eating for a lifetime.

Here’s more advice from Blatner:

Be someone new. To reach your goals, you can’t be your old self trying to engage in new behaviors. You have to become someone new.That means ditching everything you know about how you did things before and being willing to experiment with a new definition of yourself, according to Blatner.

Develop visual wisdom. Decide what you want to eat and then get ratios right on your plate: half vegetables, one-fourth whole grains and one-fourth protein for around 400 calories total. Her plan isn’t about strict calorie counting, but teaching you how to visually achieve a better balance. The general guide: 2 cups vegetables, 1/2 cup cooked grain, 1/2 cup protein, and 1 to 2 tablespoons oil or dressing or 2 to 3 tablespoons nuts, seeds or guacamole.

Focus on your food. Every time you eat, you need three things: a table, a plate and a chair. That means no eating while standing with the refrigerator door open, driving in the car or lounging on the couch. When you eat from a plate while seated at a table, you naturally eat less and enjoy it more.

Keep a food photo log. Rather than writing down everything you eat or using an app, take pictures of your food. “It’s more fun to take pictures, and it really helps you see what you’re doing,” according to Blatner’s Superfood Swap starter kit. “At the end of each week, take a look at all of the pictures. If you are losing weight and feeling great, these pictures represent what to keep doing. If you aren’t losing weight and don’t feel on track, look at the pictures and do something different next week. Gotta do different to get different.”

Embrace snacks. Build in a couple snacks throughout the day, but go for function over fun. Blatner says snacks should fill you up and serve as a bridge from one delicious meal to the next. The best combination is produce plus protein to keep you full. Ideas: green apple and almonds, clementines and pistachios, and celery and almond butter.

Go for quality. Focus on quality ingredients and fewer highly processed foods, or what Blatner calls CRAP, which is an acronym for chemicals you can’t pronounce; refined sugar and flour; artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners; and preservatives. She emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense foods – vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, fresh fruit, lean meats and sustainable fish, natural cheese, 2 percent yogurt and milk, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado.

Consume what you want, except sweets, treats and alcohol. Eat and drink these things only in social, fun situations. Never at home, and never alone. That way you have to put in some effort and test how much you really want these items. For instance, Blatner suggests going out for a small cup of ice cream instead of keeping cartons in your freezer, or sipping a glass of wine at a bar instead of drinking wine alone at home.

Schedule your activity. Find workouts you enjoy, and plot them out each day on a monthly calendar. Blatner says that while about 80 percent of weight loss happens in the kitchen, the right exercise program is an important way to keep weight off and will help you feel youthful, strong and confident.

Together is better.  Just like Blatner teamed up with her contestant on the ABC reality show, having someone support you can be a powerful motivator. It can help with consistency and make the journey more fun. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong,” Blatner says. So true.

I was fortunate to attend a watch party for the ABC-TV finale of “My Diet Is Better Than Yours,” that Dawn hosted in Chicago for family and friends.  I didn’t know she actually won until the show actually aired, but I certainly had my suspicions that she would come out on top. I was sitting in the audience next to Chad Rubel, who has done a great job chronicling the show on his site Balance of Food.  His photos are featured above — including the one I love the most of Dawn live-chatting with her winning partner Jasmin.

Below is the video I captured in the theater after Dawn and Jasmin were announced as the winning team.  It was a tremendous champagne celebration.  A huge victory for Dawn, and a huge win for sane, sensible nutrition advice.

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