Beyond Brushstrokes

Why do people diet?

To lose weight and to recover a good figure. To feel healthy and look fit. To make a sacrifice.

During the Lenten season, many devout people abstain or fast on Fridays. They give up favorite things such as meat dishes, nibbles, desserts, chocolates, soda beverages, beer and wine, smoking and dancing.

It depends on the individual. Self-denial is a big sacrifice especially for the carnivore.

The Pope has remarked that doing good deeds instead of abstaining is a positive way of observing Lent. That is practical advice that most people can resonate with. Among these deeds are being patient with and kind to others, visiting the sick and the lonely, taking care of an elderly relative.

Abstaining from indulging in frivolous activities, naughty gossip and cursing are other ways to show good behavior.

Diets come and go. In the 80s and 90s, the “Adkins diet” and “Fit for Life” were popular. Dr. Adkins wrote a best-selling book to promote the all-protein, no carbs diet. A few years later, he collapsed on a sidewalk and eventually passed. He was not healthy because of his own diet. The Fit for Life diet still applies. Eat fruits in the morning before taking any carbs. The enzymes help digestion. No fruits after meals.

There are new trendy diets that have effective slimming effects. The Cohen diet with special dieticians who take your blood sample and match it with a particular menu. They monitor calorie intake and strictly recommend 500 calories a day. This is totally unhealthy. This diet has backfired on those who starved themselves. The extreme starvation made them shed so much weight in the beginning. It seemed to be the answer to an overweight person’s weight problem. No exercise was needed. There were hardly any calories to burn. It was expensive to enroll in the program but the dieters declared that it was worth it.

After the period of abstinence, some dieters craved for food so much they binged and the pounds were packed back on. With a vengeance. Now some of them weigh more and are as rotund as before. They could not maintain the diet for too long and keep the weight off.

Now there is a new “Keto diet” that allows the dieter to eat a lot of fat but no carbs. The effects are impressive. However, a new report quoted a doctor who recently warned that the Keto diet is unhealthy and not safe due to the excessive amount of poly and mono saturated fats that the dieter is allowed to consume daily. That includes butter, ice cream and meat fats. No carbs are allowed so there is no glucose to store. However, this diet taxes the liver, heart and other organs. To eat 75% fat is dangerous for the body for a prolonged period (more than 20 days). For a quick fix diet, it probably works to help a person shed 20 pounds. Beyond that, it is hazardous and could be life-threatening.

One needs to eat a balanced diet. Lifestyle changes are necessary.

It is better to eat less food in order to lose weight slowly — over a few years.

A diet with lots of dark green leafy and orange veggies for fiber and antioxidants, fruits, nuts, some protein such as steamed or grilled fish, roast or baked chicken (not fried) and small portions of meat, brown rice and 8 to 10 glasses of water, and moderate exercise are good. Brisk walking, working out in a gym lifting light dumbbells weights, crunches, Pilates, yoga, Zumba, ballet or housecleaning burn calories. They do wonders on one’s figure and wellbeing — for the long term.

On a diet, one may want to cheat a bit, occasionally. That is understandable.

People have secret pleasures that they look forward to. The 40-day period of deprivation ends with Easter. It’s time to relax the stringent rules. The foodies can resume the gourmet trip or binge on tempting delicacies.

Each individual has a personal survival mechanism to cope with feelings of anxiety. Some of the random comfort food dishes taste so good that they are bad — in term of calories, cholesterol, sugar and fat.

Crispy French fries or onion rings, chicken a la Kiev oozing in butter, fried chicken, smoked barbecue ribs, steak marbled with fat (wagyu), crispy pork belly and rind (chicharon),chips, ice cream and cake, halo halo, chocolates, M&M’s, candy, jelly beans, alfajores, pastries, brownies, chips, sans rival, chocolate chip cookies, polvoron, cheese ensaimada, pizza, greasy burgers, mayonnaise, cheese, foie gras, hot chocolate with churros, potato skins with cream and bacon, sunset cocktails and alcoholic drinks. The list is endless.

The healthy foods are boring but there are some possible substitutes. Cereal (without sugar), granola bars, carrot and radish sticks, celery stalks, tuna canapes, crispy grilled vegetables and tofu, grilled or steamed fish (tuna or bangus) belly, salads, oatmeal cookies (bite size), yogurt (low fat or unsweetened), sherbet/sorbet, green or herbal tea, coffee and fruits.

Fads don’t last.

Discipline is the key to successful wellness program. Everything should be done in moderation. It is not enough to look good on the surface. A positive, open attitude would help one achieve a healthy lifestyle.

A Blessed, happy Easter to All!


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.