Why More Problems with Weight Now?
The obesity epidemic has occurred over the past two to three decades. Genetics have not changed, nor has individual responsibility waned that much over this relatively short period of time. Consider these changes during the past 30 years that are probably responsible:
- Fast food places everywhere
- More restaurants
- 24-hour service
- Vending machines
- Sedentary lifestyle due to:
- Endless numbers of TV shows via satellite service
- Games via computers, mobile gaming devices and smart phones
- Communities built for automobile travel, not walking (no sidewalks, malls instead of neighborhood stores, no crosswalks)
- Food marketing of high-calorie/-fat/-sugar/-sodium foods and beverages
- Food marketing to children, also of the above types of foods and beverages
- Fast-paced lifestyle leading to the desire for speed and convenience: eating out or preparing processed foods rather than cooking
- Increased stress from lifestyle leading to increased eating and illness
- Constant bombardment by cues to eat and drink (ads, ubiquitous eating places)
- Using food and drink for things other than nutrition – reward, celebrate, emotional comfort, court relationships, social in general
- Genes still adaptive to prevent starvation, although now food readily-available everywhere.
Weight Management Formula
The weight control formula remains calories in vs. calories out. Unfortunately, for some this balance must rely on fewer calories in and/or more calories out (expended), due to differing genetic/biological factors. This doesn’t mean things are hopeless, but that these people must work a bit harder at it. But even if you don’t get to an “ideal weight,” losing 5-10% of your weight can have a significant effect on your health status. This has been found to be particularly true for diabetes and heart disease.
Research shows that, over the course of a day or two, a person will eat about the same weight of food. Therefore, eating foods that have a lot of weight but are low in calories will help you lose pounds. Water and fiber provide weight to food that fills you up, but with few calories. So eat plenty of nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods that have large amounts of water and fiber such as fruits, vegetables, brothy soups, low-fat milk, cooked grains, etc. Since you eat plenty of food and are satiated (full), you are more prone to do this long-term.
Where are the calories?
- Fat = 9 calories per gram
- Alcohol = 7 calories per gram
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram
- Fiber = 2 calories per gram
- Water = 0 calories per gram
Where’s the Fiber?
- Fruits and vegetables (especially the skin)
- Whole grains (slice of bread should have at least 2 grams fiber per slice, and cereal at least 3 grams per svg)
- Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta
- Dried beans and peas
Water content of foods:
- Fruits and vegetables = 80-95%
- Soups = 80-95%
- Hot cereal = 85%
- Yogurt, low-fat, flavored = 75%
- Egg, boiled 75%
- Pasta, cooked = 65%
- Fish and seafood 60-85%
- Meats = 45-65%
- Bread = 35-40%
- Cheese = 35%
- Nuts = 2-5%
- Saltine crackers = 3%
- Potato chips = 2%
- Oil = 0%
Other strategies found to work that you might consider trying:
- Write down what you eat and drink, then enter it into a program to analyze it
- Weigh regularly and record it
- Check out restaurant menus before going to find those that offer healthy choices, and to calculate calories ahead of time (if they offer nutrition information online)
- Eat more frequently (e.g. 3 moderate meals and 2-3 healthy snacks) and don’t skip meals to maintain a high metabolism
- Eat slowly and savor your food; it takes your stomach about 20 minutes to tell your brain that you are full
- Eat high protein meals; protein provides satiety (feeling of fullness) longer
- Practice portion control (studies show people eat more when given bigger portions)
- Portions have gotten larger and larger in recent years
- Read labels carefully to determine the suggested serving size and how many calories it contains
- Get a feel for USDA recommended serving size by measuring out foods at home until you are familiar with them
- Get a “doggie bag” for about ½ of your meal when eating at a restaurant to avoid overeating (get it home and refrigerated within about 2 hours)
- Beware of what may be “false hunger” signals
- Thirst: try drinking water or other non-caloric beverage
- Craving or urge to eat a certain food
- Feeling emotional: angry, lonely, sad (also bored)
- Noticing it’s your normal mealtime
- Limit screen time (TV, games, computer surfing, etc.) and be more physically active
- Engage in active hobbies and/or constructive activities – gardening, washing the car, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, dancing, playing a musical instrument, golfing, tennis
- Walk with a friend, join a gym, play active games with your family
- Resistance training (pushups, sit-ups, stretch bands, weights, weight machines) will increase muscle tissue which burns more calories
Think of calories and nutrients in the same way you would think of your financial budget. Calories expended (metabolism, activity) are money you earn/save and can “spend,” and calories consumed are money you have spent. You should save enough (expended calories) to “pay your bills” (e.g. get the nutrients you need), while not spending (consuming) more than you earn. Spending more calories than you earn has consequences (gaining weight) just as spending more money than you have (going into debt). Staying physically active will allow for more calories to be consumed without weight gain. You can eat the proper amounts of nutritious foods to get the nutrients you need and still have some discretionary calories to “spend” on a treat. It’s kind of like finding a little extra discretionary cash in the budget to go to a movie!
And just as if you would confer with a CPA about your more complex financials, it’s smart to consult with a registered dietitian about your nutrition issues. Having your diet and eating habits analyzed professionally will get you off on the right foot. You’ll be confident you’re getting the right balance of nutrients for health, while taking in the appropriate number of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Maintaining Weight Loss – Keep It Going for Life
Lifestyle choices leading to weight management and health must remain at the forefront of our consciousness and be a lifetime journey to maintain success. Think about how much time and energy (never mind the money) we spend on dieting, weight-loss products and related activities. If as much time, effort, and thought were devoted to healthy lifestyle choices, we would be a lot more successful. It takes just a minimal amount of planning at first. But like anything else, once we’ve done it for a while it becomes incorporated into our life and habitual, and is not perceived as extra effort and sacrifice. Eating healthy and being physically active must be given the same priority status as other important things in our lives. Think about it; if we lose our health, the rest of the things become moot anyway!
Let’s ensure that our “Golden Years” become what we would like them to be – healthy, high-quality ones!