Hitting a Nerve

Why is a healthy diet so hard to maintain?


U.S. News & World Report recently released its annual ratings of the best diets based on medical and nutritional data. It was the Mediterranean diet for the sixth year in a row.

Does this surprise anyone?

Although first publicized in 1975, the diet really didn’t gain attention until the 1990s. But, since then, the evidence in its favor has steadily grown.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Granted, while it was codified into a diet then, the benefits of fruits and vegetables weren’t exactly a secret beforehand. I’m pretty sure all of us remember being told to eat our vegetables (often repeatedly) while growing up.

So it’s not like we, both medical and nonmedical people, should be surprised at the results.

Is it really going to change anyone’s dietary habits?

Of course it will! It’s the beginning of the new year, and this time people are actually going to stick with their resolutions! For the first time they understand that ... who am I kidding?

For some people (hopefully myself included) there will be success at eating better and taking care of themselves. For most it will be Groundhog Day, both literally and figuratively, when February comes around.

It makes me wonder why this is. We all know what’s good for us. The evidence to support the Mediterranean diet is solid. The foods on it are widely available, often at lower cost than the usual American protein-heavy and processed foods habits. They’re flexible, and, generally taste good.

Yet, for all the evidence behind it, most won’t stick with it. Too many years of habits. Too many stressful days at work that lower our willpower to stick with it. Too many convenient reasons to count.

The question really isn’t “what’s the best diet?” That’s been answered. Realistically I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

The real question is “how do I stick with it?”

And another 5, 10, or 20 years of annually trying to figure out what the best diet is won’t change that.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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