By Monique Richard MS, RDN, LDN
Maybe you’ve overdone the holiday treats, meals, drinks and lounging and you’re feeling less than stellar as 2018 approaches. The guilt, frustration, shame, desperation and resentment can be overwhelming this time of year; it can be temporary or something you battle daily. Guess what? There’s hope, and it’s in your hands (literally), by the choices you make. With some support and letting go of the ‘diet’ mind-set, 2018 can be a fresh start for you. You can still be the amazing self you are at this moment, just an enhanced, healthier version. Think about the New Year as a time to upgrade, a more spectacular of the 2017 version of yourself because that was so last year. Invest in yourself because you desire to feel better, participate in life and are ready to embrace the possibilities positive change can bring.
Did you know that there are currently over sixty-seven (67!) fad diets out there, not including the Paelo, Ketogenic, Whole-30, and countless other recent fad diets that have popped up in the last year or two? Our culture is OBSESSED with ‘diets’ and ‘dieting,’ and yet, we are one of the unhealthiest developed nations in the world. What is happening?
I get asked daily about weight-loss supplements, diet books, programs and products. I have seen the same thing too many times to count: a perpetual pattern of restriction, frustration, desperation, and deprivation met by the mix of promises and confusion from clever marketing and misinformation. Over and over my patients and clients have said ‘I have been on every diet, I have lost X pounds, I have gained X pounds back, nothing has worked. I wish I had started here first.’ Why do they wish they saved money and time from the gimmicks and heartache and started with me first? Because together we dig deeper, we address diet—the true meaning of the word — what an individual needs according to their nutritional status (health, genetics, microbiome, etc.). We talk about the psychology of choices within their environment as well as what is happening metabolically, genetically, socially and physiologically. We address that in health, weight is only one factor in an assessment, not the end all, be all. Weight is so much more than calories in and calories out, and health is so much more than the absence of disease.
Losing weight is an extremely complex metabolic cycle of reactions. You’ve heard it a thousand times; if you take in fewer calories than you burn, you are going to lose weight. It is not that cut and dry, and nutrition is about so much more. If it were simple, we would not be facing the current obesity epidemic in our country, which is also increasing globally. Losing weight may not happen in a snap or be as easy as taking a pill, but it CAN happen by making some important changes if that is your goal and you have the right tools. Change has to be something you desire (and understand) not me, your doctor, or your significant other.
Change may need to happen on many levels: physically, psychologically, behavior-related, or environmentally. Not knowing all the facts and information can be the biggest barrier. For example, not understanding how many calories or specific nutrients one needs, compared to the calories or nutrients consumed can often tip the scale in the wrong direction. The best way to rectify this problem would be to meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in order to gain critical insight to your specific needs.
If seeing an RDN is not an option right now, then I challenge you to follow just one or two of these simple steps for a month and observe what happens. You may be surprised at the results and be motivated to keep going.
1. Decrease the calories from fat, especially saturated
Fat is the calorie king of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates). Per gram it has more than double the calories of protein and carbohydrates. It is an essential part of the diet and a critical component in helping our bodies run smoothly, but it can also be the cause of many health related problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure just to name a few. So keep in mind that eliminating unnecessary fat is worth its weight in gold.
The importance of plant-based, whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds), throughout the diet cannot be emphasized enough. When compared to plants, any and all animal products are naturally going to be higher in saturated fat and cholesterol, regardless of the cut or type. Decreasing the amount—portion as well as frequency—will make a big impact on total calories, fat, and nutrients. The fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, volume and benefits of plants when compared to animal products is consistently backed by evidenced-based research. Limit the amount of animal products consumed, moving meat from the center of the meal to a side dish is a simple way to start making changes. Decreasing or substituting foods like butter, sour cream, milk, dairy products and cheese would be a great place to start reducing overall fat (and sodium) intake. Be aware of low-fat foods; just because it is low-fat does not mean it is low-calorie or healthy.
2. Get real about portions
Over the last few decades, portions have become gigantic and have not only expanded our stomachs, but our waistlines—a lot. A “regular” size bagel offered on today’s menu is approximately four servings! A soda (usually no smaller than 12oz-24oz.) is pure sugar and can be a third of your total carb intake for entire day, all from a nutrient-deficient source. Most restaurants, fast-food joints, and even some grocery stores are serving two to four times the amount of food one person needs per sitting. Our dinner plates, coffee cups, cereal bowls, and utensils have even grown markedly in size.
Keep some visual cues in your mind to stay on track with cutting back on portions:
• Meat or protein source should be the size of a deck of cards (making up 25% of your plate).
• Fill 50% of your plate with mostly non-starchy vegetables (like green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, salad ingredients) a cup to a cup and a half, approximately the size of your fist.
• When considering whole grains, think of a baseball size portion (the final 25% of your plate), same with fruit, maybe for dessert?
• Fat should be the size of the top portion of your pinkie (think stamp sized butter pad, dollop of dressing).
• Limit distractions when eating (TV, phone), be mindful of what you are eating (taste, texture, flavor, smell) versus scarfing it down and heading for seconds.
• Try measuring. Invest in some measuring cups and spoons or a food scale and follow the dietary guidelines for the portion of that food recommended to give you a visual cue of what the right amount is. Once you try it for a while, you will quickly learn what to cut down to and veto the rest.
Bite it, write it, and win
Keep a food log and every time you have something to eat (even if just a bite), write it down and then look over your day to see what patterns, barriers, or changes you think could be made. The act of seeing it in black and white oftentimes is the information we need to make changes. Discuss with an RDN where you have challenges and any questions you have about those choices.
Pump up the volume
Eating foods that fill you up at the start of your meal will stave off the need to grab the fried pickles. Try to start with a broth based soup, house salad, dressing on the side, and load up your main entrée with fruits and vegetables. Add non-starchy vegetables to meals and snacks. Use whole grains in soups and entrees. The added fiber and vitamins and minerals will fill you up while saving on calories.
Turn your loss into gains: muscle and confidence that is
It is true that the more muscle you have, the more your body will turn into a fat-burning machine. This does not mean you have to be able to bench press your spouse or enter a bodybuilding contest. It simply means that the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body will be at burning excess fat. It will be a stronger, leaner, meaner fat burning machine.
Take up strength and resistance training two to three times a week as able and cleared by your doctor. Using your own body weight can be great too, try pilates, yoga or even do some push-ups. Any movement you enjoy and consistently do on a regular basis is going to help your body in so many ways: from improving circulation, to burning calories, to maintaining flexibility and natural reflexes, potentially preventing falls and injuries later on in life.
Try treating your body like a cherished friend, with kindness, patience, love and care. You’ll be amazed at how it responds to what you ask it to do.
Again, picking one or two of these options and sticking to them will make way for healthier habits to come. Leave the guilt behind for good while changing how your body feels. I’d be happy to help support you and customize your nutritional needs to your goals and health concerns. www.eatrightrx.com
State of Franklin Healthcare Associates
301 Med Tech Parkway, Johnson City, TN 37604
423-795-5520 | www.sofha.net
Sherman, J. The get-real diet. Vegetarian Times. January/February 2012
Spano, M. Weight Loss tips that work. Wellness Advisor Spring/Summer 2011.
Accessed December 8, 2017.
Johnson, George B. Holt Biology: Visualizing Life. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1994: 769.