Myths about dieting and best weight loss diet make news

Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

MYTHS ABOUT DIETING AND BEST WEIGHT LOSS DIET MAKE NEWS

News about how to lose weight is always newsworthy, even when there is nothing new to say. But that doesn’t matter. We are fed a steady stream of information about dieting and weight control to keep the conversation going. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a broadcaster say just once, “There will be no weight loss news tonight.”

I know I’ve had my fill.

Last month we had the unique opportunity to hear about the best weight loss diet and the top obesity myths in the same news cycle. You can’t beat that for intrigue!

What’s True About Weight Loss?

The annual list of the best diets from U.S. News & World Report arrived with the usual excitement, followed by reflexive disappointment. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get healthy or control disease, the best diets in each category still require making better food choices and keeping track of them. Nothing new there.

The top weight loss diets were all about common sense things like eating more vegetables and less meat, taking smaller portions of food and bigger amounts of exercise, and being more focused on your food than your social networks when eating. Is there anyone left who doesn’t know that?

What’s Not True About Weight Loss?

The other story grabbing headlines last month was about obesity myths. Apparently everything we’ve told about dieting and weight loss isn’t true, or at least it hasn’t been scientifically proven.

Researchers at the University of Alabama wanted to set the record straight, so looked for the studies to back up the most popular beliefs about obesity. They reported their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and said “false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive.”

Did you know there’s no proof that taking more physical education classes will curb obesity in kids or that eating more frequently throughout the day will help? With or without proof, it seems pretty obvious to me that the advice isn’t working. But it’s still news.

What Can We Do About Weight Loss?

Why not take a break from all the weight loss news and act on what we already know? There are no game-changing discoveries around the corner. Nothing new is in the pipeline that will make the task easier. And there is never going to be a magic potion that will melt our fat away.

It’s time to stop talking about dieting and weight loss and start doing something about it. We could really surprise all those researchers if we were successful in spite of the myths!

Some other thoughts on the issue can be found here:

  • Technology Beats Temptation in New Weight Watchers Plan
  • 3 Great Tips for losing Weight
  • 5 Sure Steps to Achieving Weight Loss
  • Choosing the Right Diet Plan
  • 8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring
  • 10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss
  • What Fads Diets for Weight Loss Have You Tried?
): Investing in childhood nutrition saves money in healthcare costs

Good Pediatric Care Offers Solution to Healthcare Crisis

Cost of healthcare can be reduced if children learn to eat right

While the nation continues to search for a way to resolve the healthcare crisis, I am convinced the answer lies in making sure every child in the country has good pediatric care. Other than selecting your own grandparents for their longevity genes, getting goo healthcare in the first two decades of life is the best way to improve your odds of beating your actuarial table.

Let me explain.

The growth and development of a healthy child require fresh air and water, a balanced diet, time to play, plenty of sleep and a safe environment. Adequate immunization and education seal the deal.

Accidents are the only leading cause of death in the U.S. (at number 5) that are not completely preventable, but virtually all of the others are.

Diet plays a major role in each of the top three causes of death while smoking controls the fourth:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases

So as I see it, the single best way to topple this country’s runaway healthcare costs is to make sure every child has an adequate diet throughout their childhood and adolescence. Establishing healthy eating habits at an early age is the best way to insure those habits will continue for the rest of one’s life and continue to protect one’s health. Trying to change poor eating habits in adulthood is far more difficult.

Pediatric healthcare providers have a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting good nutrition to their patients because the nutritional needs of children are remarkably the same around the world. They need foods of the right consistency, variety and quantity to thrive, yet no single food other than breast milk is universally found in the diets of children. Their undeveloped palates leave them open to experience and enjoy many new tastes and textures if regularly introduced, so there is no need to create special foods and menus just for kids.

To prevent overeating children should not receive external pressures to consume more than they want. Instead be allowed to respond to their internal cues of hunger and satiety. The same is true about eating for other external reasons, such as when food is used as a reward or to meet emotional needs. When these inappropriate relationships with food are not encouraged, children learn to eat for the right reasons and avoid the “food issues” that lead so many people to overeat today.

It almost sounds too simple to be true, but “you are what you eat.” The sooner in life we get that right, the better off we’ll all be.

Related articles:

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

Nutrition Facts don’t override taste when it comes to making food decisions.

Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels!

WHAT WOULD YOU BUY IF THERE WERE NO NUTRITION INFORMATION ON FOOD LABELS?

This post was written during my 2 1/2 years as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in 2013, but you can see the original post here.

Food manufacturers have included ingredient lists, nutrition information and health claims on their packaging ever since they discovered it helped sell their products. The information wasn’t always accurate or ethical, but was always good for sales.

Recognizing the inherent danger in letting these practices go unregulated, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) in 1990. The current version of the Nutrition Facts panel has appeared on packaged foods and processed meats and poultry since 1994.

In addition to requiring nutrition labels on most foods, the NLEA also requires that nutrient content claims, such as “low fat” or “high fiber,” satisfy criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, all health claims describing a relationship between a food and a disease must be approved by the FDA. That is how statements such as, “Diets low in sodium may reduce the risk for high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors” get on labels.

To make the job of finding the best food for our buck even easier, we now have “Front-of-Package” labels with abbreviated nutritional data and a variety of food rating systems, like NuVal, that use complex algorithms to rank all foods.

There is now an entire generation of Americans who have never seen a packaged food without a declaration of the serving size, calories per serving, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugar and protein it contains. Are their diets better as a result? Not really and here’s why.

Taste continues to hold its position as the number one influence over our food purchasing decisions, according to the 2011 Food & Health Survey. Even though we have more information than ever about what’s in our food and what we need to eat to stay healthy, we aren’t making most of our decisions based on that.

This led me to wonder what we might put into our shopping carts if all those metric units, daily values and carefully worded claims suddenly went away?

Putting aside for a moment the concerns of those with serious food restrictions, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing if all we had to look at in the supermarket was food. Labels could tell us the basics, like “White Bread,” “Tomato Soup” or “Strawberry Yogurt.” We could still compare prices and look for good values and favorite brands, but what would end up on the check-out counter is what we think tastes best.

And that’s pretty much what we’re doing now. The only difference would be that without the hard sell we might actually enjoy our food a little more.

See related article:

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Junk food not the problem, imbalanced food choices are.

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

5 Simple Truths help avoid the junk food mindset

It’s the catch-all phrase used to describe anything edible that’s blamed for the rising rates of chronic disease and obesity in this country, but what exactly is junk food? Given the frequency the term is used, I’ve never heard a satisfactory definition of junk food, or the criteria for labeling a food or beverage as such, that can help people make eating decisions.

Maybe we need a food group for junk foods to know which ones they are and how many servings a day we can have?

Some people say junk foods provide empty calories, or ingredients that are unhealthy, or are overly processed. Well that implies everything we eat is supposed to be full of nutrients. Ever look at the nutrition facts for iceberg lettuce? It’s pretty empty. And what about nutritious foods, like eggs, that also happen to have a lot of something in them that isn’t so good for us, like cholesterol. Are eggs a junk food? What if we eat something just because it tastes good. Should chocolate chip cookies be banned?

Blaming individual foods, beverages and ingredients for what’s wrong with our health and trying to ban certain foods as a way to fix the problem just doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t work, either. First, there is simply no way we could ever make a definitive list of all “junk foods”, and even if we did, thousands of new food items enter the marketplace every year making “the list” obsolete very quickly. Second, people eat for many reasons, not just to meet their nutritional needs. Celebrations, rituals and traditions of all sorts are based on eating certain foods, and that is an important part of every culture.

So if you’re still trying to figure out if something belongs on the junk food list du jour, here are 5 Simple Truths to help you put it all into perspective:

  1. No food is bad for you unless the food is bad – as in unfit to eat. It’s the quality of your total diet – everything you eat and drink throughout the days, weeks, months and years of your life – that determines your nutritional well-being. (Exceptions apply for those with diseases or allergies for which special foods must be consumed or avoided.)
  2. There are no fattening foods or foods that make you gain weight. The calories in everything we eat are all equally available to be used as energy or stored as fat if not used. Some calories come packaged in foods with many other nutrients, but if we eat more of them than we need, the nutrients will not make us healthier, but the calories will make us fatter.
  3. There is no perfect diet, or diet plan. Instead of shopping around for the next best diet, start paying attention to what you now eat and how that stacks up against the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Then you can begin to fix your diet one food group at a time using ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  4. People come in different sizes and so should their food. There is no one serving size that’s right for all of us, so don’t count on that food label to tell you how much you should eat. The serving size listed on packages is just a reference amount for the rest of the nutrition information found on the label. Eating too much of something that’s good for you is a much bigger problem than eating a little bit of something that isn’t.
  5. Hypocrisy is the worst nutrition message parents and other care-givers can deliver to children. It sounds like this: “No you can’t have that junk food, it’s not good for you,” one day and then, “You can have that junk food because it’s your birthday, a holiday, we’re on vacation…” on another. It’s far better to teach them how to enjoy all foods in moderation and set a good example for how to do it, one chocolate chip cookie at a time.
Fast food undermines survival instinct to work for food

Fast Food May Hurt Us in More Ways Than One

Eating fast food removes the effort that helps keep our mind and body in shape

When most people think of fast food, images of burgers and fries come to mind. But if you are part of the Slow Food Movement, even sliced bread would be in the picture. Although all convenience foods do not come loaded with calories, recent studies have me thinking the faster we get our food, the easier it is to get fat.

Let me explain.

For most of human history, hunting and gathering food took all of our time and energy. When we figured out how to raise crops and animals more than 10,000 years ago, we had a somewhat more reliable food supply, but still had to work very hard to get something to eat. Then with the dawn of modern agriculture less than 200 years ago, the era of cheap, easy and fast food began.

Whether it’s take-out fried chicken or boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, fast food brought with it a dramatic change in our way of life. Once we no longer had to expend much effort to get our food, we had a lot more time to think about other things, like ways to produce even more food even faster.

But what if the evolutionary connection between food and work is important to our survival? It appears this may be true for some animals.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the more effort mice had to expend to get their food, the more they valued it. In the study, mice were trained to press levers to receive treats. They preferred the sugary treat that took 15 presses of the lever over the treat they could get after pressing the lever just once. Then when the sugary treat was replaced with a low calorie (less tasty) snack, the mice continued to show a preference for the harder to get treat.

The study suggests that mice valued working for their foods so much they would eat something less palatable (and better for them) as long as they could “earn it” through hard work.

A related finding was seen in birds. Researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Centre in Upsala, Sweden found that survival among birds in urban areas was based on brain size because they have to work harder to find food than birds living in the countryside. These “urban adapters” as the researchers called them, are able to develop novel foraging techniques and sustain a varied diet, which is key to survival in a changing environment. Again, working for food paid off.

I realize animal studies cannot explain human behavior. But it makes me think our quick and easy food supply may be bad for us in more ways than just nutritionally. I know I have never heard anyone complain about a meal of home-grown, home-made food, have you?

Poor time management can lead to weight gain

Lack of Time Can Cause Weight Gain

Learning time management can lead to weight management

People are always complaining they don’t have enough time. They blame their lack of time for not reading more good books, not visiting their favorite relatives and not improving their tennis serve. The lack of time is also keeping people from losing weight.

Weight control requires that you have control over two other things in your life: the number of calories you consume and the amount of energy you expend. Controlling those two halves of the weight control equation requires a big investment of time.

To control the calories coming in, you have to be willing and able to prepare foods that can fill you up without exceeding your allotted calories for the day. To keep that number high enough to be satisfying, you have to be willing and able to be in motion more hours of the day.

Both take time.

The foods that are most filling while also being lower in calories are fruits and vegetables; lean meats, fish and poultry; and whole grains. Building your diet around these foods requires more time to shop for them and prepare them. No matter how many modern appliances you have in your kitchen, none of them can do the labor-intensive part of food preparation.

You can let the food industry do some of your fresh produce prep, like husking your corn and shredding your cabbage, but you’ll pay more and get less nutritional value for that time savings. And as good as frozen vegetables are, there are no frozen salads.

Turning lean cuts of beef, pork and chicken into tasty dishes takes time, too. Lacking fat, flavor must be provided by marinades, spice rubs and sauces, preferably not from a jar. And a side of brown rice, pearl barley or bagged beans takes longer to cook than their white, instant and canned counterparts.

Fortunately, shopping and cooking are a form of physical activity, the other half of the weight control equation. Whether done in a gym four times a week or wedged into each day, finding time to stop everything else and put your body in motion is an anti-obesity strategy that deserves your time, too.

If you are one of those people who is time-starved and overfed, this is your wake up call. Please don’t hit the snooze button. It’s time to take control of your time.

To get started, here’s 3 Smart Time Management Tips for Better Weight Management.

  1. Handle food in batches to avoid duplication of effort. Examples: Prefill coffee filters with ground coffee and stack them up for the week, cook a large amount of brown rice and freeze extra portions in zip-top bags for easy thawing, chop 3 onions at a time and save some for another day.
  2. Put other things in the oven once it’s preheated and in use. Examples: Add a few potatoes or yams so they’re ready for a quick lunch, cut-up pita bread or corn tortillas for homemade chips, slice and drain tofu and bake for use in a stir fry later in the week.
  3. Stand instead of sit whenever you can. Examples: In any waiting room, at airport gates, when talking on the phone, watching kid’s sporting events.
The concept of Yin Yang can be applied to food selection for a healthy diet

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

How to use the philosophy of Yin Yang instead of MyPlate to make healthy food choices

The food world got a new circle in June called MyPlate. It was created to illustrate how we should proportion our food at each meal to balance the diet. It works pretty well if you can separate your food into individual piles of grain, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy, but not if you’re eating a slice of mushroom pizza and a fruit smoothie.

Given the many ways food is combined to make it taste good – think lasagna, burritos, sushi – the strategically divided MyPlate is not the handiest tool for diet planning. But the ancient symbol of Yin Yang is. It represents the idea of balance by viewing everything in relation to its whole, like the complementary characteristics of day and night, sky and earth, fire and water.

Using the concept of Yin Yang at meals would encourage us to think about whether our choices harmonize well as part our daily diet, instead of trying to figure out into what food group each item on our plate belongs. I particularly like the way the symbol of Yin Yang invokes the importance of balance without making us feel like we need a scale to get it right.

Seeing the image of Yin Yang might gently nudge us to be mindful when eating and consider whether we have had enough whole grains for the day or possibly too many. In that way it could help us make healthy food choices without ever having to deconstruct a bowl of soup into its component parts.

The inclusive nature of Yin Yang also allows for all of our food choices, without judgment, as long as no food or drink dominates our diet or is neglected. This distinction of Yin Yang preserves the essence of cuisine that makes eating so enjoyable. In the harmonizing world of Yin Yang, food can be a little salty or spicy or savory or sweet. It can be hot or cold, liquid or solid, crunchy or smooth. All of the most highly personal to the most patently universal aspects of food selection can be accommodated.

In short, the Yin Yang message can be used to promote moderation and variety in the diet. And that’s pretty much all we need to know to achieve good nutrition. Why not conjure up the image of Yin Yang at your next meal and see what happens?