Continuing this week's theme on [New Year's Resolutions for losing weight and getting fit], I will focus this post on diet.
(Note: I am neither a medical doctor nor registered dietician. I can share with you ideas that have worked for me (or people I know) that might help you achieve your goals. I strongly suggest you read books and consult with medical experts as necessary.)
The problem is that most people think of dieting as something you do temporarily. People decide to lose weight, go on a diet, reach their target goal weight, go back to their previous ways, and gain the weight back.
The word Diet comes from the Greek language and means "way of life". Every day that food enters your mouth, you are on a diet. People aren't on or off a diet, but rather switch from one diet to another. The trick is to find a healthy diet that you can live with the rest of your life, so your weight doesn't go up and down.
Most health experts agree that the [Western pattern diet], typical in the United States and other developed countries, is [certainly not healthy]. Washing down that bologna-and-cheese on white bread sandwich with a 44-ounce high-fructose soft drink hasn't served Americans well. This combination of processed meats, refined grains, dairy, and sugar-laden foods has shown to cause obesity and other health problems.
Physicians at Cornell University found that [men take better care of their cars than their bodies]. If you tell a guy that his car takes 12 gallons of high-octane gasoline, 5 quarts of 5W-30 oil, and a 50/50 mix of water and anti-freeze, he would totally understand what you mean.
But tell that same guy that his diet must consist of an appropriate ratio of complete proteins, monounsaturated fats, and carbs with a low glycemic index, and he will scratch his head. Aren't calories just calories?
Unlike a car, where the gasoline, oil and anti-freeze get poured into different openings into fixed metal containers, the human body takes in all of the things it needs in one opening, your mouth, and receives it into a stretchable container, your belly. While carbs are just converted to fuel, the proteins and fats have actual functions and bring building blocks that cannot be built from just carbs alone.
Carbs are found mostly in foods like fruits, grains and vegetables. Not all carbs are the same. Some break down quickly to glucose, the sugar molecule that represents fuel for the rest of your body. Others break down slowly. Consider a fireplace, you put a few pieces of newspaper or kindling, and the larger logs on top. The newspaper is easy to light, but burns quickly. The logs on the other hand burn slowly and give you hours of heat.
Eating the Western pattern diet is like filling your fireplace with newspaper, and having to re-light your fire over and over after all the newspaper burns out.
Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and other internal organs. These are built from amino acids, and your body can't make them, you have to have them in your diet. Even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, sit all day at a desk, then sit all evening in front of the television, your body needs to repair internal muscles and organs with proteins, so you need to eat proteins every day to replenish these amino acids.
Complete proteins, such as those in beef, eggs and fish, have all the amino acids represented. Plant-based proteins, like rice, beans, and wheat, are incomplete, lacking one or more of the amino acids you need.
Fats are needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, which are important for a variety of functions. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados. While many people feel the saturated fats in red meat and dairy are bad for your health, there are exceptions. Coconut milk is high in saturated fats, but good for you.
There is some dispute and controversy on exactly what is an ideal diet. This can be partly attributable to articles that report findings from observational studies, rather than from double-blind clinical studies. To understand the difference, I suggest you watch Tom Naughton present [Science for Smart People] in this amusing 46-minute video.
Over the past few years, I have tried out several different diets, to figure out which one is best for me. I'll save those details for my next post.
technorati tags: Tom Naughton