As the foundation of a healthy diet, eat four to six small balanced meals daily

Dear Colin: I’ve struggled with obesity my whole life. Being a single 38-year-old dad with osteoarthritis of both knees and Type 2 diabetes, it’s hard to make time to exercise and eat right despite my doctor telling me I have to do it. A friend encouraged me to try a diet that’s based on my blood type because she’s seen good results from it the past couple of months. My doctor discourages it. What do you think?

— Dale, Portland

Your interest in improving your health is admirable. Adopting sound eating habits is a great first step to fighting obesity, Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis as well.

Try to cultivate a relatively simple set of daily habits you can sustain for the rest of your life. In other words, don’t count calories, weigh food or follow a fad diet. These are temporary actions that are too arduous to maintain long term.

The “blood type diet” you’re referring to is a fad diet, so I don’t recommend it and neither does Ruth Carey, a nationally recognized dietitian with 30 years of experience.

“Eating healthy takes time and practice to find out what works for you. Having been a single mom, I know it’s hard to make time for yourself, but it’s a priceless gift for your kids,” Carey said. “Fad diets don’t work long term and often restrict foods accepted as healthy, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains or fat, for unscientific reasons. Sticking to healthy daily habits based on scientific principles is the key.”

If it sounds too good or too weird to be true, it probably is. Here’s a checklist to screen for fad diets and gimmicks:

Supporting research: Fad diets tend to rely on sketchy interpretations of metabolic processes or testimonials instead of rigorous clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals.

Rapid results (“lose 10 pounds in 10 days”): To lose a pound of fat, you need a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. Most men need 2,200 calories/day (women 1,200) to maintain basic processes, so losing more than two pounds of fat weekly (7,000-calorie deficit for men) is unlikely, even with exercise. Losing more than this is mostly water, which isn’t a good idea.

Severe restriction: Fad diets classically restrict food groups (such as carbohydrates) and/or allow unlimited quantities of food (such as grapefruit). Eating from a very limited repertoire isn’t sustainable long term for most people and can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

“Magical” food combinations: There is no evidence that a combination of food eaten at a specified time burns fat, or eating certain foods will cause immediate intestinal harm.

Under-emphasis of exercise: The research is clear: For long-term, sustainable health (not just avoiding obesity), exercise must be part of your lifestyle equation.

As the foundation of a healthy diet, eat four to six small (300-400 calories) balanced meals daily, each consisting of lean protein (such as chicken/turkey breast, fish, egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese) and “good” carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans) while keeping saturated fats and refined sugars low. Add a small handful of nuts and drink water to help curb appetite, burn fat and avoid dehydration.

Having Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis enhances the urgency of adopting a healthy lifestyle, because standard medical treatment for these conditions should include exercise, including strengthening and stretching, and dietary modification.

Colin Hoobler is a licensed physical therapist, hosts a live health segment on KGW Channel 8 and has written two books on exercise as treatment for disease and injury

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