Proteins. Carbs. Fats. Sugars. Thousands of pages have been written about these basics of nutrition. For every page that tells you that one of them is good for you or that it is the key to your health, you can find more pages that say the exact opposite. Navigating the mire of nutritional fact and fiction can be a nightmare.
Your weight is determined by the balance of a simple equation:
INTAKE – OUTPUT = WEIGHT GAIN/LOSS
Calorie INTAKE is a measure of what and how much your body takes in through the foods you eat. Calorie OUTPUT is a measure of how many calories you burn each day through activity and exercise.
The balance between these two factors, intake and output, determines your weight. If you eat the same number of calories that you burn in a day, then the equation is equal and your weight stays the same. If your intake outweighs your output, you will gain weight. If your output outweighs your intake, you will lose weight.
With that information in hand, it is obvious that there are three basic ways to regulate your weight. You can take in less calories, you can burn more calories, or you can do a combination of both.
It’s important to start with a knowledge of basic nutritional principles. Nutrition is an explanation of how food affects the health of the body. All food is comprised of macronutrients which include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These macronutrients provide calories which fuel the body and give it energy, and each play specific roles in maintaining physical health. Foods also supply micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals which do not provide calories, but which also play important roles in physical health. Please check out the post Weight Loss Basics for more details on micronutruients and macronutrients.
If You Fail to Plan…
You should begin with a healthy eating plan. It doesn’t have to be detailed at first, since you can always modify and improve it later. But you do need to take a couple of basic steps before you can begin losing weight effectively.
First you should examine you current eating habits. Spend a week or two recording everything you eat and drink each day. You might be surprised what you learn. While you’re doing this, you should also keep a record of how you feel each day – are you tired? High energy? Do you have a mid-day slump? You can compare these trends to the foods you eat that day and the day before and look for trends.
Next, you should make a list of changes you would like to make. Some may be obvious, like you want to reduce or give up soda consumption, reduce sugar intake, try to go gluten free, and such. Others may have only become obvious after noticing that you only had a mid-day slump when you had fast food for breakfast, or that you felt better when you drank more water during the work day.
Now you can at least make an informed decision about what dietary changes you might want to make. But there’s a saying in the military: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” When considering a diet plan, the enemy is not the weight we want to lose, but the bad dietary habits which contributed to our weight gain. Bad eating habits prevent many of us from making headway when we try to start a diet.
John Foyet, Director of the Baylor College of Medicine Behavioral Medicine Research Center, says “Many people are skeptical about changing their diets because they have grown accustomed to eating or drinking the same foods, and there is a fear of the unknown or trying something new.” It’s easier to maintain a status quo, so our habits can prevent us from making changes even when we want to make those changes. Foyet continues, “Over time habits become automatic, learned behaviors, and these are stronger than new habits you are trying to incorporate into your life.”
And that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Anyone who is overweight, probably got that way because of a lifetime of bad eating habits.
Easy Does It
Keri Gans, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, suggests you “Try to gradually incorporate new habits over time, and before you know it, you will be eating more healthfully and losing weight.” Given time, your taste buds will adjust to healthier eating.
Many diets fail to work because they deal in absolutes. ”Stop eating this now,” or “Only eat these proteins,” or “cut all carbs.” The average user struggles trying to implement a rigid system while quitting all their bad eating habits cold turkey. Although the fad diets rarely suggest it, I have found that a gradual adjustment has helped me develop better eating habits that stick.
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