I am not a fan of fad diets.
I am the ultimate party pooper when it comes to Keto, Paleo, cleanses, juicing, or any other diet that promises quick results. As a matter of fact, my friends have stopped bringing the topic up as they know I will do a quick eye roll even though I try to hide my reaction. Considering what I do for a living, that is pretty tough for me.
“But Jill, I lost weight on (insert fad diet here).”
I don’t doubt you lost weight on whatever diet you were on, but my question will always remain, “Did you keep the weight off?” Most people who lose weight on fad diets do NOT keep it off. They may reach their goal weight, but within a few weeks or months regain some, if not all, of what they lost.
What do you need to do?
Commit to finding a healthy diet, that has foods from each food group that you enjoy eating and has room for treats here and there. Plan to exercise regularly. Here are more helpful ideas about starting your healthy kidney stone prevention journey.
It is very easy to think you are not eating as much as you are. Taking a few minutes each day to write down what you are eating will help keep you on track. People who are successful at losing weight are those who keep food journals, use fitness trackers (myfitnesspal is a popular one), and join support groups. Daily weigh-ins are key to keeping accountable as well.
Another way to stay accountable is to hire a coach to help. Studies show that having someone to check in with during a weight loss program will enhance your results.
Make your health a top priority.
Prioritize your health (without it, you have nothing else). Make a commitment. Everyone wants an easy answer. But it doesn’t exist. You must make the decision to eat well and work out more days than not. It is not easy to build new habits but over time the new habits will become routine.
Think about your health, not your weight.
Stop thinking about your weight. Start thinking about your health. Stop looking at the numbers on the scale as good or bad. Start asking yourself, “Is this a healthy weight for me?” When we focus on our health, making dietary changes is less charged with negative emotion. We are either at a healthy weight or unhealthy weight. We are either choosing healthy foods or unhealthy foods. We are eating healthy portion sizes or unhealthy portions sizes. Stop beating yourself up. Instead, set a goal of becoming a healthier you.
Design a program that works for your lifestyle and is appropriate for any medical conditions you have.
You all have different medical conditions, allergies, and foods you like or don’t like. I could never do Paleo because I do not enjoy meat enough to abide by the rules of the diet. I cannot do Keto because of my colon resection and my malabsorption issues. But many of you will try one of these diets because a friend went on it and lost a lot of weight. First ask yourself, “Will this diet work for me long term?” And if you do have any medical issues, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss program.
Carbs are typically severely limited or taken away on many of the highly touted diets. Many patients I work with think I am taking away carbs as well, especially those with kidney stones who require a low oxalate diet, whole grain, high fiber, low sodium and/or low added sugar. Carbs can easily be kept in your diet, and you can still maintain your lower oxalate diet. Read this article to know how to use the oxalate list correctly.
“Portion Not Perfection”
My patients are very familiar with the above statement. I must say “portion not perfection” about 100 times a day. They often ask, “Is this ok, Jill” or “Can I eat this Jill?” Most of the time (unless it is something very high in oxalate– like spinach or almonds) I say, “portion, not perfection.”
Portion control is hard to attain but is critical both for weight loss and for stone prevention. It is when we overeat that we get into trouble.
Overeating Healthy Food.
Just because a food is healthy does not mean you can eat any quantity you want of that food. Again, many of you come to me because you changed your diet by adding in healthy foods and then formed a stone. You made a stone because you were misguided in thinking that you can eat as much of those healthy foods as you want.
Overeating, even healthy foods, can lead to problems (as some of you unfortunately found out). In general, our diet should always consist of moderate portions of the foods we choose to eat, healthy or not. I can’t say this enough, most Americans are simply eating too much. In the age of “super size me” and restaurants serving large portions, we now have unrealistic expectations of how much food we should be served.
“Treat not Cheat”
Remember to enjoy your favorite treat here and there. A big part of staying committed to any diet is occasionally enjoying some of your favorite unhealthy foods. Remember when you do have a treat, do not beat yourself up afterwards. Just tell yourself that you are treating yourself to whatever it is, a cookie, some ice cream, a few pretzels. Have the food and enjoy it. Make the next food choice a healthy one. Stop the shame game. Enjoy all your food choices but aim to make the most of them healthy ones.
Deprivation always leads to temptation.
Many diets will take away whole food groups or at the very least severely limit them. When we take away or limit a food group, we tend to overeat the other food groups we are “allowed” to eat. For example, when you take away carbs on Paleo and only eat veggies or meat you increase stone risk. I often hear that a patient ate a handful of almonds several times a day or two spinach smoothies per day for months. For kidney stone formers this excess oxalate will increase their stone risk.
If you go on the Keto diet and cut out all dairy, you are increasing your stone risk. Lots of high oxalate veggies and NO calcium to help get rid of all that extra oxalate will produce the kidney stone perfect storm. Here is an article for those of you that were changing your diet to a healthier one and made a stone as the result of that change.
One final word about deprivation: I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me I can never have ______, it makes me only crave ______ more.
Know Who You Are.
There are three types of people I talk to. One type is the person who can actually have a little bit of something and put the fork down, another type of person is one that cannot have a little bit as it just leads to overeating. The third type of person is a hybrid. I can actually have a pint of ice cream in the freezer and stick my spoon in it and just have that spoonful (I know you hate me right now, but hold on….). But– if I had a box of Cheez-Its in my cupboard there is no way I could NOT eat the whole box in a sitting. So know who you are. I will not allow a box of Cheez-Its in my house. But Ben and Jerry are welcome any ‘ole time.
Variety is the spice of life.
My job is to educate patients about how to add a variety of foods to their diet. Many patients come to me after losing too much weight because they are afraid to eat since their stone attack. They don’t understand the oxalate portion of their new diet and they severely limit their food intake. You really can eat so many different foods including fruits, veggies, whole complex carbs, dairy or nondairy milk that provide your calcium source, lean meats and occasional red meat. Drink many different beverages, but water should be the primary one.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can have a well-balanced diet. You just need to learn how to incorporate foods that will get you calcium and protein without overeating foods high in oxalate. I had a vegan patient who had very high oxalate values but after working together she got her level down in the normal range and got the right amount of protein and calcium as well.
What do we suggest?
Dr. Coe and I educate people on The Kidney Stone Diet. Now you may say, “Well Jill, aren’t you just promoting another diet that won’t work long term? The Kidney Stone Diet will not only prevent stones but is good for those with bone disease, hypertension, and diabetes. We have put together what the FDA says about sodium, sugar, calcium, and protein along with studies from the stone world about fluids and oxalate and called it The Kidney Stone Diet. This diet will help lessen your risk for stone disease, help you lose weight, and is good for your overall health. But mainly, you will be able to stay on it for the long run, because you eat a variety of food in normal portion sizes. Foods you like and enjoy. Not ones I tell you to like and enjoy. Foods you pick!
How Do You learn HOW to do it?
Dr. Coe and I have put together The Kidney Stone Prevention Course. I take all the elements of the diet and break down each one so that you can easily understand what is to do to lessen your stone risk.
The course consists of 5 taped videos. I will teach you how to drink more fluids, increase your calcium, lower sodium and oxalate intake, get the most out of visits with your physician and how to read and understand your 24-hour urine collection results.
The best part of the course is that it includes 5 weeks of getting all your questions answered by an expert in the field (me) in a supportive group setting. Five days a week (1 or 2 of the calls are night time calls) you can phone in and ask questions or just listen and learn from other stone formers. Come to as many calls as you like. Learn how to make the changes. Get the motivation and support you need to minimize the risk of forming new stones.
I have helped educate thousands of stone formers. Read what others have to say about the course.