Simple Steps for Better Health and Weight Loss

According to data taken back in 2006, the dieting and weight loss industry was raking in nearly 35 billion dollars a year. Today that number is most likely much higher and with  rates of overweight, obese, and diabetic people rapidly increasing, we can see that many people are unhealthy and spending mountains of money trying to do something about it. Many people will buy weight loss pills or shakes, buy food from weight loss programs thats packaged and highly processed, or resort to starvation diets all in an attempt to drop a few dress or pant sizes.  Many of these people  are looking for instant fixes and painless solutions to weight loss and better health when the only true way to improve your health and lose weight permanently is to make sound lifestyle changes and start with  basic principles. Below are some of those basic principles, take a look to see how many of them you are currently doing and see how easy it is to choose one or two principles and start with improving those, before you know it you will be making huge steps in improving your health and reaching your goals.

Make sure to do these things

  • Enjoy the foods you eat, eat slowly and chew your food to help in digestion.
  • Read labels. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients it’s a safe bet your body probably can’t digest, process, and utilize the ingredients very well.
  • Use cooking methods that help to maintain nutrient levels. This means avoiding frying and microwaving.
  • Eat only whole, natural foods made with as little processing as possible.
  • Avoid foods with a long shelf life  because these foods usually contain more preservatives (one of the few exceptions to this rule is coconut oil, which is a fabulous food and great for cooking).
  • Emphasize organic/local/sustainable foods whenever possible or appropriate (see The “What” and “Why” of Organic Foods post for more information)
  • Eat fats, proteins, and carbohydrates at every meal according to your metabolic type
  • Consume half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water every single day. Someone weighing 160 lbs needs about 80 ounces of water a day. This is a general rule of thumb and some may need  less than this, but I rarely find people who drink too much water!)

Avoid the following foods

*Hydrogenated oils (partially or fully hydrogenated)

*Trans Fats

*Foods high in sugar or made with white flour

*Artificial sweeteners (including equal, sweet and low, splenda). These may also be listed under their chemical  names (aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose)

*High Fructose Corn Syrup

*Monosodium Glutamate or MSG (also listed under various names including; hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured protein, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, glutamate, glutamic acid, and others)

*Fake health foods like Soy! Unless it is a fermented form of soy like Miso or Tempeh, soy is not healthy for you and can cause health issues (check our post “How Healthy is Soy? for more information).

 

Start today with these principles and stop making excuses for your health problems or that extra weight you want to lose. Much like learning to play an instrument or learning a new language, if you can start with basic principles and master them, it makes success that much more attainable.

Eating out again? Researchers’ findings on how to keep dieters on track.

One of the most challenging things for dieters to deal with is maintaining your eating routine while away from home. In 1970, 26 percent of all food spending was on food away from home, but by 2005, that number had climbed to 41 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Since many of us are constantly on the run, eating in restaurants can make it very hard to keep your nutritional programs on track.  Here are some interesting findings from a research study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

 

By Linda Thrasybule | LiveScience.com – Wed, Jan 11, 2012

Eating at restaurants frequently, which can mean consuming large portions of high-calorie foods, could boost your risk of becoming obese. But there may be a way to eat out and still lose weight, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at 35 middle-aged women and found that after six weeks of following a weight gain prevention program, they lost more weight than women who didn’t follow the program.

In the program, researchers suggested that when dining out, the women should ask that half of their meal be boxed up “to go” before they start eating, and should look up calorie information on restaurants’ websites, along with other advice.

“Being able to control and manage what you eat is useful,” said lead author Gayle Timmerman, a nurse who studies eating patterns and weight in women at the University of Texas. “But you need some knowledge and skills in order to do that.”

The study is published today (Jan. 10) in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

More Americans eat out

Over the past several decades, the percentage of our total spending on food that goes to eating out has risen. In 1970, 26 percent of all food spending was on food away from home, but by 2005, that number had climbed to 41 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Restaurants are a high-risk food environment,” Timmerman said. “If you don’t have a strategy, it’s easy to gain weight and eat more without intending to.”

In fact, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that lower-calorie foods purchased in restaurants may contain more calories than listed.

The study included 35 healthy women between the ages of 40 to 59 years who ate out frequently. Nineteen of the women were given instructions about how to prevent weight gain, while 16 were not.

Women in the prevention group attended six weekly, two-hour sessions. Each session included discussions on managing weight, weekly goals, eating out strategies and mindful eating meditation, which involved exercises aimed at helping the women appreciate the sight, smell and texture of eating food.

As an incentive, those in the prevention group were given a $20 gift card during the first part of the study and a $30 gift card at the end of the study.

By the end of the study, researchers found women in the weight gain prevention group consumed less calories and fat than women who were not in the prevention program.

On average, women who participated in the prevention program lost close to four pounds, whereas women in the control group lost about half a pound.

Moreover, the number of times women ate out didn’t decrease over the course of the study, indicating that women were able to manage their weight while continuing their habits of dining out.

Judy Stern, a nutritionist from the University of California, Davis, said she wasn’t impressed with the study’s findings.

“If you’re overweight, and I gave you some incentive to lose weight, you would probably lose weight,” Stern said. “While I appreciate the efforts they went through in this study, I’m underwhelmed.”

She also noted that the study could have been strengthened by being longer. But she did find the study to be a step in the right direction. “It’s increasing our awareness of what we’re eating,” she said.

Tips for managing what you eat when dining out

Along with boxing up half of a meal before starting to eat, and researching calorie counts, here are the weight-loss tips the researchers gave study participants:

  • Budget your calories. If you know you’re going to be dining out, eat a lighter meal, but don’t skip a meal. You might overeat later.
  • Pay attention to what you’re eating and enjoy the experience. Try to chew slowly and savor it.
  • Avoid “unloved” calories. Do you really enjoy eating cold fries? Skip food you feel neutral about—but that doesn’t mean you can pass on your veggies.
  • Order salad dressings, sauces and gravy on the side. That way you control how much you put on your food.

 

 

The “Skinny” on Fats

Dietary fat is one of the most vilified and misunderstood components of the American diet. Some people fill their shopping carts with a plethora of non-fat products under the false idea that all fat is bad and that eating it will expand their waistlines. Extra calories from any source (fat, carbohydrates, or proteins) can be turned into body fat and for many, the excess consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar is the main culprit. Including healthy fats into the diet does have many benefits including 1) making you feel full longer by slowing the breakdown of your meal and 2) preventing cravings by providing longer lasting energy than high sugar foods.

Fat plays an important role when it comes to the flavor and consistency of foods. When you completely remove the fat, something else will be used in it’s place. Many “fat-free” and “calorie-free” foods are loaded with artificial colors, flavorings, emulsifiers and much more. So you may be asking, “What’s left to eat?”  Here are some basics on the various kinds of fat, the ones to avoid, and the ones you should include in your diet.

 

Avoid these…

Partially or Fully Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenation is a process that turns polyunsaturated oils (normally liquid at room temperature) into a fat that is solid at room temperature. These “trans fats” are very unhealthy and their consumption has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and obesity. Foods that contain hydrogenated oils include some chips, crackers, baked goods, many frozen foods and much more. Read your labels!

 

Include these…

Foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

According to some health experts, most Americans already consume plenty Omega 6 Fatty Acids (vegetable oils, baked goods) and we should increase our levels of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. The typical American consumes about a 10 to 1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and that ratio should be closer to 4 to 1 or even lower.

Foods that are high in Omega 3’s include…

  • Fish, fish oil
  • Flax oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Milk and meat from grass fed cows. Cows which are fed grass instead of grains are much healthier and their meat has a much higher percentage of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
  • Eggs from chickens allowed to range and eat insects (look for cage free and free range)

Avocados

Avocados are mostly monounsaturated fat and are a great source of fat-soluble vitamins E and K.

Nuts

Nuts are high in Omega 6 Fatty Acids which are ok in moderation. They provide a healthy source of monounsaturated fats and also contain protein for repairing or building muscle.

 

Olive Oil

Olive Oil is the safest vegetable oil to use and is great on salads, vegetables, or for cooking at moderate temperatures. Using extra virgin olive oil is a great way to get your antioxidants.

 

One key to eating fats is to avoid the man-made ones which have taken over many of the foods we eat today. Healthy fats, like some of the ones mentioned here, are essential for normal hormonal functioning, healthy skin and eyes, an enhanced immune system, proper mineral absorption, and much more. So eat your fat, just choose the right ones and don’t overdo it!