ONE of the most common mistakes people make when they attempt to lose weight is radically changing what or how they eat. This usually involves severely limiting the quantity and amount of their food choices. When you do this, you deprive yourself not only of foods that you enjoy but also frequently the nutrients that are essential for your health. And while you may be able to do this for a while, eventually something’s got to give. You’ll feel deprived physically, or emotionally, or both. And one way or another, this spells the end to your diet.
I strongly believe that the method of eating that allows you to lose weight in the first place must, more or less, continue for the rest of your life. That is, you must be successful in maintaining that weight for the rest of your life, otherwise any weight lost will eventually return. This is why it’s so important to have balance, variety and moderation in the way you eat.
In order to do this, you will have to think differently about food. No matter who you are, there are choices that you make right now that are good ones and there are choices that need to change. It may take a month to make all the necessary adjustments or it may take a year. It should be accomplished on your timetable. That is how change becomes permanent. Human beings are meant to eat a variety of foods.
Severely limiting your food choices is not only boring, it’s unhealthy. Your nutritional needs are complex and your body needs a constant and varied supply of calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and electrolytes. Often people who have made exercise a part of their life will quite naturally start choosing healthier foods in more reasonable portions while limiting foods that are not helping their efforts. But simply relying on both your intuition and your good intentions doesn’t guarantee that all of your nutritional needs will be met or that you’ll be as consistent as you need to be in order for your weight loss results to continue. In order to help you reach and maintain your goals of health and weight loss, there are four things you need to do each day.
First, limit your consumption of fat, especially saturated fat and bad carbohydrates. Research studies implicated fat – saturated fat in particular, in the incidence of obesity, heart disease and many forms of cancer. Fat was the enemy and it had to be eliminated from your diet completely. But the truth is that you need some fat. Fat aids in your digestion, transports cholesterol, creates hormones, increases your immunity to disease and helps you realize when you’re full. But like most things, too much of it causes problems. It’s certainly true that consuming too much fat increases your risk for a variety of diseases and contributes to obesity.
People eat too much sugar. Sugar not only makes you overweight, it also contributes to your risk of diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. The first thing you need to know is that there are carbohydrates that are good for you, and there are those that are not. All carbohydrates are really made up of combinations of simple sugars. The simple sugars are glucose (or blood sugar), fructose and galactose. When you combine two simple sugars, you get a double sugar (disaccharide).
For example, when you combine glucose and galactose, you get the double-sugar lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. When you combine glucose with another glucose, you get the double-sugar maltose, which is found in beer. When you combine glucose with fructose, you get sucrose. Table honey and brown sugar are both sucrose. Sucrose is one of the “bad carbohydrates” and a primary one that we want out of our diet. When you combine a whole bunch of simple sugars in complex combinations, you get polysaccharides. When a polysaccharide comes from a plant source, it consists of either cellulose or starch. Just think of cellulose as the scientific way to say fiber. And fiber is good for you.
The best sources of fiber are in vegetables (especially green leafy), fruits, legumes and whole grain products. Starch is found in some of our favorite foods, such as potatoes, pasta, beans and rice. And while it’s true that too much starch will cause you to gain weight, it’s really an important part of a balanced diet. When grains are processed or refined, they’re stripped of much of their nutritional value. They become, more or less, empty calories, which we want to avoid. We should eat whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, brown or whole grain rice and whole grain pastas. These are harder to find and more expensive, but your health is well worth it.
Second, eat two servings of fruit each day. Eating two servings of fruit each day is one of the healthiest things you can do, and it’s also one of the easiest. Fruits come in all shapes and sizes, tastes and textures. We eat, first and foremost, to satisfy our nutritional needs. If your basic needs are met with nutrient-rich foods, you not only need to eat less to satisfy your nutritional needs, but you’ll begin to crave less food. Fruits are nutrient-rich foods; they contain water, vitamins, fiber and minerals. However, keep in mind that fruits contain the sugar fructose and can contain a fair amount of calories. Two servings of fruit a day is perfect, three is fine. Eating more than three servings of fruit a day is not necessary and only winds up contributing to excess calories.
Third, eat four servings of vegetables each day. When it comes to nutrition, nothing beats vegetables. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, water and fiber, and they fill you up. Their contribution to both your health and weight loss efforts can’t be questioned. Just be sure to get in your four a day, even five if you want. Even though you can count frozen vegetables toward your vegetable quota, fresh veggies are a far better choice and worth the little bit of extra effort. Canned vegetables have a much lower nutritional value than either frozen or fresh. It’s best to avoid them completely.
Fourth, eat a maximum of seven servings from the grain group each day. This group refers to the whole grain group since your best food choices are whole grains, including whole grain breads, cereals, rice and pastas. Technically, any product containing flour, such as cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies, could be considered a part of this group. But you know that these products need to be limited (or eliminated) from your diet, and since they don’t positively contribute to your nutritional needs, making them one of your seven daily choices robs you of nutrition. When you do allow yourself one of these indulgences, don’t count them in your grain quota. Simply consider it an occasional treat. Just don’t treat yourself too frequently.