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Healthy Nutrition: Separating Fact From Fiction
wizard.gif (2076 bytes) Let's face it, when it comes to weight loss, we all want the quick fix, the little pill, the secret potion.   We want to lose the fat NOW, and are willing to believe anyone, anytime, if only they promise to tell us the secret formula. We've all fallen prey to unsubstantiated claims of "Diet Magic."   As bathing suit season approaches, scores of intelligent men and women throw away all common sense and rush to buy the latest miracle pill, drink or diet book.
Fiction: There is a "quick" fix for losing weight and keeping it off.
Fact: Unfortunately, there is NO secret to losing bodyfat.  There is no magic pill, no special diet, which will miraculously allow us to lose weight.  (If there were - Would there be any overfat people in America?) 
Facts: 1. Extra bodyfat can distort our physical body and increase our risk of disease & death.
2. Currently, over 60% of Americans are classified as obese.
3. Obesity is on the rise in the U.S.
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Why do we want so much to believe that there is a magical answer?  I believe
it's because it is much easier to follow someone else's "rules of dieting" (as silly
as they may be), than it is to face ourselves in the mirror and make sound
nutritional choices. 
Fact: Losing weight is one of the hardest things we will ever do.
The consumption of food is so tied into pleasure, socialization and instinct, that it is extremely difficult for us to change our eating habits. We resist because it is difficult.
And yet, losing unhealthy body fat is exactly what we must do.  (See, "Defining the Relationship Between Good Health, Fitness and Leanness," to determine whether the amount of bodyfat you carry falls within the healthy or unhealthy range.)
Fact: We can modify unhealthy eating habits by raising our nutritional awareness and knowledge - and - practicing what we've learned.   Adding regular vigorous exercise to our daily regimen will increase our potential to gain long-term results and stay with our new program.
Fact: These changes are much easier spoken about than done.  

 


 

As fitness professionals, we are frequently asked, "Where and How" to begin this difficult process.  Below are some sensible suggestions for helping you begin the journey.   No myths. No gimmicks. 
1. Seek advice from a professional.
2. Avoid diets that eliminate certain foods or entire food groups.
3. Have patience!
4. Keep a food log.
5. Add regular, vigorous exercise to your lifestyle.
6. Balance your nutrition with the 60-20-20 formula.
7. Know your BMR and feed your body the calories it requires.
8. Eat every meal.
9. Accept yourself as you are.
 

 

#1 Seek advice from a professional.
(Your mother's hairdresser doesn't count!)  A professional is defined as a nutritionist or registered dietitian.  Even a fitness professional, such as a personal trainer, is not qualified to give in depth nutritional advice, only basic nutrition guidelines. Educate yourself by researching information on sound nutritional principles.
#2 Avoid diets that eliminate certain foods or entire food groups.
If you have successfully completed #1, this is a mute point.  Avoid any fad diet that requires eating only certain foods or combinations of foods.  These diets never work for long.  We are meant to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation and, thus, should never label certain foods as "bad".  Eliminating foods or entire food groups from your diet inevitably leads to deprivation and subsequent bingeing.
#3 Have patience!
The safest way to lose weight is to take your time. Nutritionists recommend 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week.  To lose 2 pounds/week, you must decrease your caloric intake by 7000 calories per week.  That's a reduction of 1000 calories per day.  Think about it! That's a tall order for some.  Any diet that claims higher weight loss is dangerous, unrealistic and short lived.  The weight will always come back once you stop the "diet".
#4
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Keep a food log.
Nutritionists recommend a food log as a way to track types and amounts of food eaten, as well as eating frequency.  They also suggest keeping track of emotions or "feelings" at the time of eating.  This will help you determine whether you are eating for reasons other than hunger.   A food log can help you "visualize" your eating patterns so you can adjust these patterns if necessary.   When you keep your log, be completely truthful about what you've eaten!   Do not look at the food log as punishment.  You are not "bad" or "good" because of what you have eaten.  The only way to fully discover your nutritional pitfalls is to be truthful with yourself.  The ultimate goal is to learn to seek satisfaction in healthier, low fat foods, matching what your body actually needs, with what YOU crave. 
#5 Add regular, vigorous exercise to your lifestyle.
It is impossible to be successful at long-term weight loss without exercise.   Some people can lose weight by adding exercise - without changing their diets - but this only works if their diets are well balanced and safe.  On the other hand, trying to lose weight without exercising, is futile.  Not only is exercise essential for good health and fitness, but, it raises your resting metabolism. A higher resting metabolism burns more calories and reduces the likelihood that calories will be stored as fat.
#6 Balance your nutrition with the 60-20-20 formula.
Most nutritionists recommend a daily calorie balance of 60% carbohydrates, 20% fat, and 20% proteins.  Each meal should also follow the 60-20-20 formula as well.   In addition to seeking this balance, look at total daily calories and fat grams.  
Make sure you get enough protein at each meal. Experts recommend .5-.7 grams of protein per day per pound of body weight, with .9 grams per pound being the uppermost limit of useable protein. Most women do not get enough protein, and consequently, cannot add much needed muscle.  This muscle helps raise metabolism and creates that lean, strong appearance they seek.  
#7 Know your BMR and feed your body the calories it requires.
Never eat fewer calories than your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) requires.  Your BMR is the amount of calories your body needs when it is at rest.  You can calculate your BMR by multiplying your current weight by 11.  Women often eat much less than their BMR.  This slows down their metabolism and sabotages their attempts to lose weight.
#8 Eat every meal.
Eat throughout the day, without skipping meals.  Skipping meals will make you hungrier later. Your largest meals should be taken earlier in the day. This gives you the opportunity to use those calories via your exercise and daily activities.  Breakfast is extremely important, especially if you exercise in the a.m.  Theoretically, dinners should not be very large meals, since shortly after, you will retire to bed.  
Take a multivitamin if you feel you are not getting enough fruits and vegetables.  Drink plenty of water, eat high fiber, multi-grain foods, and avoid high fat, high sugar or high salt foods. Eat everything in moderation while enjoying occasional "treats".
#9
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Accept yourself as you are.
Finally, learn to accept yourself as you are.  Women are meant to be "rounder" and fatter than men.  Men, by genetics, have larger muscles and are leaner than women.  You are beautiful and good.  Once you accept your beauty, no matter how atypical it may be, you will move forward towards giving yourself the gift of good health.
Kathleen Ekdahl is an AFAA and ACE Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer with over 10 years experience in fitness and a background in Clinical Research and Cardiovascular Medicine. Kathy is a consultant and presenter for the fitness industry and fitness professionals.

 

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Last Updated: October 19, 2002