I have patients come in to see me for many different reasons, but these are the most common problems I hear: “I can’t lose weight.” “I am gaining around my middle like never before.” “I really don’t eat enough to be so overweight.” “I am eating healthy and exercising, but I still can’t lose weight.”

I believe that making some small changes to the way you eat and how you eat can make a big difference in helping you achieve your weight loss goals. So, what is the ideal diet anyway? I say it is the one with which you can maintain your weight and not accumulate fat in the center of your body, without losing muscle mass and energy level.

I have personally tried lots of diets and have put my patients on lots of diets, and I have come to the conclusion that the best diet is one made of whole foods, preferably organically grown when possible. I am talking about buying fresh meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts that you either cook or eat raw. Whole foods do not come in a processed package. Ingredients should not be complicated or contain preservatives, and ideal foods do not contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. What this means is that you are shopping on the outside aisles of the grocery store, avoiding all processed foods.

Finally, eat only when you are actually hungry, instead of eating when you are bored or emotional, or maybe just thirsty. Remember that hunger is often a symptom of something else. You may need to take a walk or relax and stretch to clear your nervous mind. You may not need a full meal but just a small snack.

Okay, here’s the real truth. Ultimately, only managing your caloric intake can get you to the weight you have in mind. You can probably pick the diet of your choice from all the popular ones out there, but you must modify the amount you eat in order to enjoy weight loss. Of course, because I am a doctor that focuses on nutrition, I also encourage you to seek whole food sources in anything you eat.

So, no matter how you get around it, you have to eat less! I place most of my weight loss patients on an 800- to 1200-calorie diet. People often respond, “Starving yourself can’t be healthy!” This gives me a great opportunity to remind them that consuming empty calories is also unhealthy. I explain that calorie reduction does not necessarily mean eating dramatically less food; it simply means you choose foods with high nutritional value and lower caloric value. Many of my patients are shocked to realize that they are very satisfied and eating much more food than they imagined possible on a whole food diet, compared to the empty calories they were eating while always feeling hungry.

In the next article I will teach you how to eat more food while reducing overall calories, along with some other simple tips to get you moving forward on your journey to your ideal weight.

By Dr. Patti Felici