Nutrition today has become more confusing than ever and in the mean time the obesity epidemic continues to grow. How is this possible when there is no shortage of diets, drugs, and exercise tapes to choose from?
All of our senses are constantly stimulated with advertisements coming from every direction. Every time I put the television on I see the latest Insanity and P90x infomercial telling me how to get fit. It’s impossible to listen to the radio or to even go to the grocery store without being persuaded on how to lose weight. Several billions of dollars are spent on weight loss products each year. But it’s still not working because one-third of Americans are considered obese. In the next few paragraphs I will outline some strategies and share my take on living a healthier lifestyle.
I used to say that diets don’t work but that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. As a matter of fact I’m confident that any diet that you choose to follow will guarantee success as long as you stick to the rigid plan. “Fad diets” typically require you to commit to eating a particular type of food or to avoid a whole food group in general. Hence the grape fruit or the Atkins diet. For the average individual it’s not realistic to go from skipping meals and eating take out regularly to all of the sudden having to cook daily. Before you even walk into the kitchen you first have to walk into the grocery store to purchase the right type of foods that can be a challenge all on its own. Changing your eating habits requires you to adopt many small changes. For example after work on Friday’s you always stop by your favorite local pizza shop to pick up the meat lover pie. It’s no coincidence that you go there every Friday because you have made it a habit. Habits are automatic behaviors that require no thought process. The key to sticking to a long term plan will require you to replace old habits with some new habits. Don’t expect drastic change over night creating new habits can take several weeks.
Something as simple as going to the grocery store to shop for the right foods can be a time consuming task and expensive compared to eating convenient fast food. Being conscious of why you do what you do will help you program new habits. There are two things that you must get into the habit of doing before shopping. First, never go to the grocery store hungry. Second, don’t head in without a list. Once you are in the market stick to the plan even if the double stuffed Oreos are on sale two for five - don’t let them sucker you in. Next, make it a game see if you can complete your trip to the market without setting foot inside the processed food isles. All the nutrient dense and major food groups as you know are located around the perimeter of the store. The only exception to going to the isle would be to buy oatmeal, legumes, peanut butter, and whole grains.
After preparing a wholesome meal consisting of fresh ingredients primarily from the perimeter of the grocery store you are ready to get your grub on. Your plate should be filled with two palms of vegetables, one to two palms of protein and carbs. Depending on your goal and activity level your portion size should vary. If you’re trying to lose weight eat less and if you’re trying to gain weight eat more. Remember as you eat your stomach and brain are not on the same page. Scientists believe that it takes 10-20 minutes for your brain to receive the message from your stomach that you are full. So as you can see it is important to eat slow to avoid overeating. A rule of thumb to follow is eat until you are 80% full (good luck figuring that out though!).
Each year billions of dollars are spent on marketing health and diet products in hopes of persuading Americans to take the easy way out. But there is no magic pill or supplement. Just look around it’s obvious those “efforts” have fallen short but meanwhile corporations’ pockets continue to grow fatter as well as Americans. More than $60 billion dollars are spent yearly on weight loss products. The bottom line is, if we watched our portion sizes, eat less processed foods and more fruits, vegetables, and lean protein our obesity epidemic would start to move in a better direction.
Diets and exercise don’t always have to be boring or painful. Recruit a friend to do it with you! Try challenging a friend who has a similar goal as yourself to a little friendly competition to see who can complete their shopping with the least amount of processed foods which are things primarily from a box or a can. There is nothing wrong with a friendly wager but make it interesting the loser has to do 10 push-ups or pay up. If all else fails, find a great personal trainer that can make you accountable and help guide you!