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Let’s not talk about diets. Diets are punishment – like being sent to bed without dinner. Diets take some of the fun out of living. Many diets or supplements are harmful to your health or even dangerous, if you have certain risk factors. Forget any past diet failures and push aside any guilt or shame you harbor about your weight. It’s time to look forward; not back. You have the whole future in front of you to get better every day. It's time to eat healthy.
This is not a short term fix. Isn’t your health more important than your weight? Let’s be sensible and talk about eating healthy for life.
Don’t get me wrong – diets do help many people lose weight – for a time. Almost any restrictive diet can give one a jump start on weight loss; and many people are so encouraged by the rapid weight loss that they are motivated to stay on the diet.
Studies have shown that the only diets that work are the ones you stick to. That why the majority of people who successfully lose weight on a restrictive diet run into trouble when they move to the maintenance phase. So again I say, you need a plan to eat healthy for life.
As with most things in life, there’s no ONE solution that suit’s everyone. When choosing to eat healthy, a plan for the rest of your life, you want to find one that YOU can live with.
If your choice of plan starts with an initial (less than nutritious) restrictive phase, consider what supplements you ought to take during that phase. Also be sure that the maintenance part of the program meets generally accepted nutritional guidelines or that you can make it do so with minor adjustments or supplementation. You definitely need to think long term when choosing to eat healthy.
What We’ve Known All Along
With all the diet programs, books, ads and fads these days, it’s easy to lose sight of some really basic facts of some very convincing long term health studies that can guide us to healthier eating.
1.Calories In vs. Calories Expended
The human body is a marvelous machine. It can be pushed to great lengths, like pre-exam all-nighters, or to perform amazing feats, like running marathons or scaling mountains. But it is a machine. It needs to be cared for and properly maintained.
The more it is abused or pushed to the max, the greater the chance that parts will break down prematurely or beyond nature’s ability to repair them. Like any machine, it needs fuel to operate. Give it improper or insufficient fuel and it won’t run as well, if at all. Give it too much fuel and that will gum up the works. Now here’s where the analogy breaks down.
With a man made machine, excess fuel simply overflows and makes a big mess. Unfortunately, the human machine has the amazing capacity to create unlimited new storage tanks for excess fuel – even to the point of death. Further, once that excess fuel is stored, it is difficult to dislodge – but not impossible. That’s the Calories In part of the equation.
The fuel you take in is burned by every single movement you make: breathing smiling, kissing, walking, dancing, chewing and even digesting your food. The more you move, the more fuel (calories) you burn.
The part of your body that has the ability to move other parts is muscle. Ergo the more muscles you have and the more you use them, the more calories you burn. In fact, every ounce of muscle you add increases your basal metabolism – the rate at which your body burns fuel.
One pound of fat contains 3500 calories. If you cut 250 calories from your daily diet and burn another 250 calories with exercise, you can lose one pound in a week!
The most efficient way to eat healthy operates on both sides of the equation. Monitor your fuel intake of course; but just as importantly, get moving to burn that fuel. And better yet, build new muscle to boost your metabolism – the rate at which YOUR body burns fuel. This way you’ll burn more calories every hour of every day for the rest of your life.
2. Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Populations
Global epidemiological studies have identified some unusually healthy populations and linked their health to diets that differ in significant ways from the typical Western diet.
Japan, which has some of the world's lowest rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes has a diet which is very rich in carbohydrates. The Japanese enjoy rice, vegetables, beans, and fruits at most meals.
They have a diet that is very low in saturated fat and red meats, but high in fish which contain protective omega-3 fatty acids.
Other recent and very interesting studies lead to more healthful eating tips. The Mediterranean food pyramid is based on research showing low rates of heart and other chronic disease in certain countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea compared to the West.
Research has isolated key dietary habits that are believed to account for the difference. (Monounsaturated) olive oil is the preferred fat and fat consumption (at 40% of total calories) exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommended max of 30%.
Whole grains and pastas form the base of the pyramid, so this is not a low carb eating style.
The choice of proteins in order of preference is cheese and yogurt, fish, poultry, eggs and (last and least) red meat. Further, proteins are grouped at the top of the pyramid so they account for only about 15% of daily caloric intake.
It’s also important to note that the Mediterranean lifestyle incorporates more natural physical activity – as distinct from the Western variety of mandatory exercise. You know, the “I just gotta get to the gym today” or “I have to miss my weekly tennis game Saturday. Now what can I do?!” variety.
If you’re interested in following any low carb plan, limit the time you follow the restrictive phase and take the information above into account when you plan your maintenance program.
3. Health Risks of Long Term Restrictive Diets
In choosing to eat healthy for life, be sure to consider well-founded dietary advice such as recommended by the American Cancer Society for optimal cancer prevention:
Eat five or more (optimally nine) servings of fruits and vegetables daily; include fruits and vegetables at every meal and for snacks. Aside from the fact that many fruits and vegetables are good diet food because they have low calorie density (high water and fiber content), these foods are loaded with phytochemicals which work to prevent illness, cancer, and other diseases.
Choose whole grains in preference to processed grains and sugars. Choose bran, whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, and whole grain cereals as well as beans and legumes.
Limit consumption of red meats, especially processed meats and those high in fat.
Current estimates are that nearly 33-50% of cancers can be prevented through an eat healthy diet. The recommendations above come from hundreds of research studies which show a link between cancer prevention and a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Hundreds of studies also support the link between a high fat diet, high intake of red meats and increased incidence of cancer
4. Magic Pills
Don’t be taken in by some of the full page ads you see with before and after pictures that promise weight loss just by taking some magic pill. In some of them you can even tell that the same head has been pasted onto the fatter body or the faces look dissimilar enough that you think, “That’s NOT the same person”.
If you’ve read this far you know about the calories in, calories out equation. Sorry, but it’s simple math and simple physics. A pill alone will never do it.
However, that doesn’t mean that there are no little magic pills that can help you lose weight in the context of a healthy eating and exercise plan. There is a lot of exciting research showing that certain supplements can boost and sustain your metabolic rate as you age, increase muscle tone and even help the body develop more muscle, such as Green Tea Extraxt or DHEA.
Weight loss often results when people switch their focus from dieting in order to get thin to choosing foods for health. This is especially true if they also pay heed to the other side of the calories in, calories out equation and get moving.
Common sense strategies, yes, but these are the only ones proven to work long-term. Now, are you ready to Eat Healthy for Life?
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not purport to offer medical advice.
Jean Bowler may be contacted at http://www.ageless-beauty.com . Click here to view more of their articles. Ms Bowler has been an educator all her life. In addition to being a school teacher, she has also taught ballet and aerobics and has been a personal trainer.