Ditch the Diets

Ditch the diets

Over 45 million Americans will go on a diet this year, but calorie restricted diets are not the best way to sustain a healthy weight. Although low calorie diets help people to lose weight in the short term, 97 percent of people regain the weight lost within three years. Yo-yo dieting is linked to heart disease, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, inflammation, and long-term weight gain. If low calorie diets are not the answer, what is?

The $66 billion weight-loss industry promotes the idea that it is best to be thin, no matter what you have to do to get there. In reality, if you want to lose weight, it is best to aim for a slow and steady weight loss of one to two pounds per week. Everyone wants a quick fix, but gradual weight loss that promotes healthy diet and exercise is the most sustainable.

Although crash diets that result in rapid weight loss are tempting to try, they can put your health at risk. Because they are restrictive, it is difficult to meet nutrient needs for essential vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. Furthermore, when you don’t consume enough energy, your body goes into survival mode and starts breaking down muscle to release glucose for energy. Your body slows down your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy. When people start to eat more, however, their metabolism remains low, making it even harder to maintain weight loss. In fact, studies have shown that when people on a crash diet with a rapid weight loss over a relatively short period of time started to gain back some weight, their metabolism remained low and they burned about 500 fewer calories per day then before they started losing weight in the first place. Calorie restriction also produces stress hormones, which can increase the amount of abdominal fat.

The best diet for you is likely not the best diet for everyone. Although weight loss is not easy for anyone, the key to successful weight loss is highly personalized. It’s important to take into account behavior, budget, and personal preferences; there is not one plan that works for everyone. People who are successful maintaining weight loss, however, modify their diets and increase physical activity. The vast majority of people who successfully keep weight off eat breakfast every day, weigh themselves once a week, watch fewer than 10 hours of television per week and exercise about an hour per day. Other strategies that tend to work include: paying attention to portion sizes, writing down food intake in a journal, and eating more frequent, small meals throughout the day. Furthermore, people with long-term weight loss also tend to be motivated by something other than weight, such as good health, the desire to live a longer life, or to be able to spend time with loved ones.

Fortunately, most people do not need to be at an ideal weight in order to reap health benefits. Research has shown that with just a 10% weight loss, people will experience noticeable changes in blood pressure and blood sugar control, which is linked with risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It is also important to develop a healthy relationship with food. Dieting teaches us to rely on strict rules rather than hunger to control eating, which can lead to anxiety around eating, emotional eating and binge eating. Mindful eating, on the other hand, encourages a healthy connection with food and focuses on paying attention to signals of hunger and fullness without judgement. This strategy promotes internal self-regulation about what and how much to eat rather than relying on calorie counting or lists of “good” and “bad” food. People who practice mindful eating eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. They are more likely to maintain a healthy weight over time, and spend less time thinking about food. Mindful eating is a powerful tool to maintain a healthy weight without deprivation.

Dieting is rarely effective in the long run, but establishing healthy lifestyle habits does improve health. A Registered Dietitian can help you to make positive nutrition and behavior changes to promote lifelong wellbeing.

Nutrition Strategies for GERD

Many people experience indigestion from time to time, but when it occurs frequently, it could be an indication of gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD. This condition affects about 20 percent of Americans of all ages. Many pregnant women as well as people who are overweight suffer from GERD.

GERD is a digestive disorder in which stomach acids, food and fluids flow back into the esophagus from the stomach. You may notice a burning feeling in the chest and throat or a bitter taste in your mouth. The burning, pressure or pain may last as long as 2 hours and is often worse after eating. Other signs that you may have GERD include: bad breath, coughing, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and erosion of your teeth. GERD can become problematic and may cause health problems such as inflammation of the esophagus, esophageal bleeding or ulcers, and esophageal cancer. It may also lead to respiratory problems, such as asthma, fluid in the lungs, chest congestion, wheezing and pneumonia.

A physician can sometimes diagnose GERD based on your symptoms and medical history. Other times, an upper GI series (X-ray examination of the digestive organs) or an endoscopy (procedure during which a flexible tube passes through the GI tract to take pictures) may be ordered. An instrument called a pH probe can be used to measure the flow of acid from the stomach.

If you have been diagnosed with GERD, nutrition and lifestyle changes may help. Some strategies to alleviate symptoms include: quitting smoking, losing weight, wearing loose-fitting clothing, staying upright after meals and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated six to eight inches. It is also helpful to limit the use of chewing gum, hard candies, and straws because they can contribute to swallowing air, which often leads to belching and reflux.

Fatty foods may contribute GERD symptoms because fat takes longer to digest than protein and carbohydrates. It is helpful to choose lean meats, poultry, fish, tofu and beans as protein sources. Cut back on dietary fat by limiting the amount of butter and oil in your meals, choose baked foods instead of fried, select low-fat dairy, and limit desserts. Certain foods may worsen GERD symptoms, so try to avoid peppermint, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, citrus, acidic foods and spicy foods.

The timing of your meals can also make a difference in how you feel. Avoid large meals and opt for smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat slowly, taking about 30 minutes for a meal while chewing foods well. Avoid eating within 2 to 3 hours before bedtime to allow time for your meal to be digested.

Although GERD can be uncomfortable, you may be able to find relief with nutrition and lifestyle changes. Stay in contact with your doctor and Registered Dietitian for guidance on the best prevention and treatment strategies.

Nutrition for Men

Men and women differ in many ways, including their nutritional requirements. Many problems related to nutrition are common in both men and women, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Men, however, do have unique nutrition considerations in order to maintain optimal health.

Men generally need to consume more calories than women due to having a greater amount of lean body mass. Men tend to have more lean body mass than women because testosterone increases muscle mass. Higher levels of testosterone also make men more susceptible to gaining weight around the abdomen as they age. Fat around the waist is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. If a man’s waist measurement is greater than 40 inches around, take a look at lifestyle behaviors, including diet, exercise and sleep. In order to promote a healthy weight, get at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week. This will help to boost metabolism, build and strengthen muscle, maintain bone health, increase energy levels, and lift mood.

Both men and women need good sources of protein in their diets, however, men’s protein requirements tend to be greater due to a larger amount of muscle mass. Red meat is high in protein, but excessive intake of saturated fat from red meat is linked to heart disease and colorectal cancer in men. Rather than eating foods high in saturated fats, such as meat, cheese, and fried foods, opt for foods high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats including: olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocadoes. To get adequate protein intake, focus on more plant-based protein sources, such as beans, lentils, tempeh and tofu. Plant-based proteins are high in fiber, which is associated with a decreased risk of developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Calcium is important for both men and women. Osteoporosis is oftentimes thought of as a woman’s disease, however, one in four men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in his lifetime. As men age, they need to be sure to get adequate dietary vitamin D and calcium to maintain strong and healthy bones. Men should aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods daily, including: milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified cereals, non-dairy milks, dark green leafy vegetables, and canned fish with soft bones.

A healthy diet for men includes:
• At least 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day for vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
• Whole grains for adequate fiber intake. At least half of all grains should be whole grains, including whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice, oats or barley. Fiber-rich foods help to manage hunger and fend of certain cancers, such as prostate and colon. Younger men need at least 38 grams of fiber per day, and men older than 50 need at least 30 grams of fiber per day.
• Lean sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, lentils, and fish. Aim for at least two to three servings of fish per week to provide heart -healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
• Stay hydrated with water. Beverages can pack on the calories, so limit high-calorie drinks including: soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks.

Good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices play a big role in keeping men healthy. You can decrease your risk of developing chronic disease by making smart food choices.