February 13, 2013

The Weight Management Facts Will Set You Free

If you’re like me, the thought of counting calories, carbs, points and blocks sounds about as appealing as getting a root canal.  Frankly, keeping body fat at bay isn’t all that hard to do, IF you are armed with the facts.  So what is the RIGHT way to fuel up?

Here are the sticking points that keep us baffled about how to eat to keep our weight in check during times of temptation.  It’s time to learn the truth well before your next race so you DON’T have to start your training season by dieting. AGAIN.

Scales and calculators not necessary.

1)      The Calorie Controversy.  Nutrition science confirms it is NOT just a numbers game when it comes to staying svelte; the “information” contained within your food calories tells your genes, hormones, enzymes and metabolism how to respond. Broccoli calories and Pop Tart calories trigger different metabolic effects in your body (even Weight Watchers and the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics are finally recognizing this fact, even changing their programs as a result!).

One of MANY studies demonstrating this was in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Kallio P, et al.) in 2007 which studied two pre-diabetic groups who ate exactly the same number of calories and exactly the same percentage of fat, protein, carbohydrate, and fiber – the only difference was in the type of carbs they consumed.  In the group that ate whole kernel rye products, dozens of genes that had made participants fat and diabetic were turned OFF and genes that helped them become healthy and thin were turned ON. The opposite occurred in the group that ate oats, wheat and potatoes which led to increased stress molecules, increased inflammation and increased oxidative stress.

Additionally, if you consistently eat food that spikes your insulin level (500 Pop Tart calories), you will gain weight.  If you eat food that reduces your insulin level (500 broccoli calories) you will lose weight. Can we please, please put that outdated “calories in, calories out” argument to rest?

Action:    Avoid eating anything that has more than 7 ingredients.  Choose whole food that most look like the way it GOES or the way it GROWS.  And if you can’t pronounce any of its ingredients, don’t eat it.

2)      Fat Facts.  Time to banish the low-fat myth along with acid-washed jeans and gigantic shoulder pads as unfortunate 1980s fads. Adequate dietary fat contributes to numerous physiological processes, helps you absorb valuable nutrients, and of KEY importance, keeps you full so you eat less. You also NEED fat to burn fat (another metabolic response to the “information” contained in healthy fat calories).  Obviously, we’re not talking MacDonald’s cheeseburgers and trans-fat laden baked goods here.

Action:  Good fats come from whole foods sources like avocado, olive and coconut oils, cold water fish like salmon and halibut, and nuts and seeds.  Make SURE you include 1-2 servings of healthy fat at every meal and snack.  One serving = 4 oz cold water fish, 1 tablespoon of oil or nut butter,  5-10 nuts, ½ avocado, or ¼ cup of coconut milk.    

3)      Boost your fiber intake. Fiber can lower cholesterol, reduce your blood sugar, promote healthy bowel movements, and decrease your appetite so you’re not tempted to make a detour for a 1,500-calorie Cold Stone Creamery treat. A study in the journal Nutrition Reviews showed that 14 grams of fiber a day, with no other dietary restrictions, helped people lose an average of 4 pounds over 4 months.

Action:  To get all of fiber’s benefits, shoot for at least 30 grams each day.  Lentils, raspberries, avocado, and nuts like almonds all pack a fiber wallop. Flaxseed, chia, and/ or a fiber powder (look for a soluble/ insoluble blend) in your morning smoothie also helps meet your quota.

4)      The Balancing Act.  Your always-on-a-diet best friend fears carbs, your vegan sister constantly tells you protein is overrated, and you’re still terrified of fat since you first bought those Snackwells Devil’s Food cookies back in 1989. But like all things in life, balance creates the healthiest dietary approach. The right carbs – fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other whole foods – come packed with nutrients. Likewise, protein and fat help build muscle, support fat burning, and keep you satiated. Want more convincing? A study in the journal JAMA concluded that a Mediterranean diet reduced all causes of mortality – including cardiovascular disease and cancer – over 50% among people 70 to 90 years old.

Action:  Model your meals after the Mediterranean diet, with its array of fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. At mealtime, fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies, ¼ with lean, clean protein, and ¼ with a high-fiber, WHOLE FOOD, low-glycemic starchy carbohydrate (see 1 above as it relates to eating things that look like the way they grow – e.g. rice, berries, black beans, sweet potatoes).  Make SURE you include 1-2 servings of fat… and that’s all the measuring that’s necessary to keep your weight stable, your belly happy, and your cravings history.

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