Will The Baby Elephant Diet work for you?

Will The Baby Elephant Diet work for you?

October 26, 2015 | Author: Ravi Mantha, health guru and author of three books.

The single biggest health issue that affects the Indian diaspora is diabetes.  More than a quarter of Indian Americans have it, and another quarter have pre-diabetes!  Diabetes is insidious because it causes a dramatic increase in the chance of having heart disease, high blood pressure, and a whole host of debilitating illnesses that really lower your quality of life in the second half of life.

Health is one of those things that when you have it, you do not think of it at all, and when you don’t have it, it’s all you think about!

One of the more remarkable facts is that diabetes (Type 2, the most common form) is wholly preventable and even reversible.

Think of the current state of affairs when you are cruising comfortably into middle age (whenever that is, between 30 and 70!), you go to the doctor for a routine physical, and pat comes the diagnosis: Diabetes. The doctor will reassure you that this is perfectly normal and that you can take this magical pill called metformin that will “control it” for a while. They will also poke a finger in your abdomen and say, “you should consider losing some weight”, and after putting you on a quarterly checkup routine, they will send you on your way.  You go home with the magic pills, and resume your same terrible eating habits for another decade, until you have to get on daily insulin injections. And you are now officially a lifelong patient!

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most powerful medicine in the world is food.  That’s right, food is what you dose yourself with several times a day, and that too in large portions. So you can think of diabetes as a side effect of the food you consume. Should you not be paying attention to it?  Given the sad state of the Standard American Diet (SAD), it is a testimony to the human body’s resilience that we are able to abuse it for as long as we do, without paying a heavy price.

Now I am going to tell you something remarkable about diet. People ask me all the time, “What is the ideal diet?”

The answer is, “Any of them.”

That’s right. Studies show that virtually any diet, whether it is high-carb low-fat, or high-fat low-carb, or Blood Type diet, or Atkins, or Paleo diet, they all work if you pick one and follow it. How is this possible? The answer lies in the fact that human societies have lived on an extremely varied diet throughout our history.  The Inuit of Canada used to live on whale blubber which is 95% fat, and the Okinawans of Japan live on 90% carbohydrate diet of rice, vegetables and a little fish.  The bottom line is that the human physiology can tolerate a wide range of foods. Meat-eaters, vegetarians, omnivores, all get a shot at good health. The devil lies in the composition of what you put into your mouth.

Essentially, if you simply pay attention to what you are eating in the first place, that will itself improve your health.  This is why all of these diets work. Any form of attention to food will make you think twice about that carbonated sugar drink, or that second helping of dessert, and that’s really all it takes for most of us.

So what is The Baby Elephant Diet? It is about building your meals around fiber. It is a makeover of your traditional plate of food.  It is eating 2.0.

The Baby Elephant Diet breaks down each meal into two parts: A core or main portion, and some satellite or side portions.

The core portion is a meal consisting predominantly of fiber.  You should look for fiber at every meal. For breakfast the core can be bok choi or Chinese cabbage in broth, or a guava or papaya or any type of fibrous fruit, as your morning main meal. I do not recommend energy and sugar dense food like cereal and bananas even though they have fiber.

For lunch and dinner, the fiber should come from some kind of stir fry vegetables or salad or a complex carb like millets.  That’s it really!

The satellite portion of your meal depends entirely on your tastes, your dietary/ethical restrictions, and your fitness goals. To give you a flavor of the variety of options you have, let me illustrate two diametrically opposite examples for the satellite portions of your diet.

One example of an extreme diet is called the McDougal diet.  The good Dr. McDougal advocates no oils whatsoever, no meat or fish, no eggs, no butter, and a diet made up of complex carbs and starches like potato, rice, root vegetables. This diet will work fine, although you will need to supplement Vitamin B with daily pills, as Dr. McDougal says. While you will achieve weight loss, the problem with this diet is two-fold.  One is that you will not maintain a decent muscle mass with this diet, as you will be protein deficient. This will of course cause bone loss, and a loss of physical strength as you age which can create mobility problems.  The second problem is more to do with taste. Imagine a diet without all the things that actually taste good!  If that sounds like your cup of tea, please go right ahead.

The second diet is what I personally follow and advocate, let’s call it the Food Lovers Diet.  This is a diet that recommends the exact opposite of McDougal, as far as the satellite portion goes. I say eat little carbs, and focus mainly on good fat and protein like the Mediterranean diet does.  Butter is a staple, coconut oil is great to cook with, olive oil and nuts are eaten daily, and eggs and fish and meat are in abundance.  Washed down with a glass of red wine, the Food Lovers Diet is for people who love their food.  You never need vitamin supplements, and if you combine this diet with a minimal strength-training regimen, you will stay fit and strong and looking youthful well into old age. You do have to keep an eye on your kidney function, in case you are one of those people who can’t handle much protein.

Take your pick! Between the McDougal on one extreme and the Food Lovers Diet on the other, lie all sorts of other diets.

But one thing is a common thread across all effective diets, and that is what the Baby Elephant will tell you : Eat Mostly Fiber!