You probably read something in the news everyday about diet or what you should or shouldn’t eat. I can understand how frustrating it is to read these headlines every week. One day they proclaim coffee is good for you, the next it isn’t.
Sorry – There’s No Quick Fix, Only Empty Promises
I know it’s not a popular message, but I’m sticking to it – you have to change your behaviors in order to lose weight and maintain it. This is true, no matter the age.
In the case of feeding children, it’s really essential to start them off right. Obesity in a child is not the same physiological picture as obesity in a 40 or 60 year old. Children that have weight issues at a young age are set up for a lifelong struggle to obtain a healthy weight. Set limits, and create a regular meal schedule for your child.
Losing weight is always difficult to do, which is why preventing, or controlling, weight gain is the best strategy. It’s known that many people experience weight gain as they age. This is normal physiology, but being overweight as a child makes lifelong weight maintenance an even bigger challenge. Even for those who hadn’t been overweight, a few pounds may creep on every year and add up. Metabolism slows down for most people in mid-life, so this is a time that eating well and exercising regularly is really important. Just avoiding weight gain is a win, even if you are struggling with losing those ten or fifteen pounds.
Correlation Does Not Mean Causation
Most headlines you read are reporting on a “correlation”. That is, a study that suggested that “X might be related to Y”. Nutrition is an evolving science. Ethical practitioners only make recommendations based on the data we have. There is a lot of good published nutrition research, but research studies about diet and disease is difficult to do. Unlike research on specific substances, such as a drug or one particular isolated nutrient, proving that a dietary plan directly impacts disease or health is a challenge (which is why so may studies use rats, and rat ≠ human). The supplement industry, for instance, banks on the preliminary correlations found in research to sell an unproven outcome. This doesn’t mean we should disregard every nutrition study that’s published, however, it’s important to understand how to interpret them.
Eating Less and Moving More
Some argue that you don’t have to actually eat less, you have to eat more of the right foods (while this is true, calories still count). Foods higher in fiber are important because they literally fill you up faster (plus have lots of gut-healthy properties). Including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your side dishes and meals, will add more bulk (volume) but not at a high calorie cost.
This is just one more reason the DASH Diet is beneficial – it encourages you to eat more fiber (fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grain side dishes). It also include healthy fats (olive oil, avocado), 2-3 servings of dairy daily (for potassium, calcium, vitamin D), and smaller portions of meat and refined carbohydrates. This high fiber diet helps with weight control by providing important nutrients and controlling hunger and satiety.
As you work on adding nutrition through food to your diet, you also must find ways to move your bodies more – every day. You may enjoy sedentary activities such as reading, sewing, or watching Netflix, and that’s fine. You just have to be aware of how much time is being spent sitting. Using a sport watch or smart watch may help you with this. You can set cues that remind you it’s time to stand up, or that you haven’t moved enough today. Often people overlook daily activity, but it’s as important as exercise. The movement in your routine day counts.
A regular exercise routine is important to both weight management and health. Find an activity you will enjoy doing every week – walking, a yoga class, an aerobics class, bicycling, kayaking, zumba, an exercise video – anything you can stick with. Find a friend to pair up with so you can keep accountable. Very few people who are managing their weight are doing it without regular physical activity.
Get moving – set new goals for eating well and moving more every day. Some days, you won’t meet goals, that’s normal! Just keep setting them every single day. Add more veggies to meals. Make snacks nutritious and “unpackaged”. Snack on fruit, raw veggies, yogurt or small amounts of nuts or cheese. Move more daily – do extra housework, take the stairs, walk instead of ride. And find a weekly exercise routine you can schedule 3-4 times a week, and sustain.