How To Eat A Diet For A Lifetime
What Are The Best Healthy Diets?
On a recent checkup at my internist's office, I broached this question to him - 'what are the healthiest diets?' I would like to lose weight and I would like to stay in good health as I round the bend past 55. When I sat down with him to discuss what the 'best' diet was for me, I was completely shocked by his answers.
On thinking about it later though, it made the most sense of any philosophy regarding healthy eating that I've ever heard. Especially in the US, I think we are so accustomed to fad diets and the newest rage where dieting or eating habits are concerned that we assume we have to have a set 'plan'. In actuality, applying simple principles will take you farther and not only will you be able to lose weight or maintain it if that is your goal, but you will be eating a diet that you can live with for the rest of your life - the ultimate in healthy diets!
The Elements of Healthy DietsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Advice To Live By
For as long as I can remember, there have been diets - 'eat more of this', 'eat less of this'. 'This causes cancer', 'this prevents cancer'. Who are we to believe? It seems if you give it enough time, everything that was on the 'good list' comes around and ends up on the 'bad list'.....and vice versa. How to know what is ultimately right and what is incorrect?
My doctor actually made the most sense to me on the subject of healthy eating and diets in general. His advice was simple - it was direct - and it was something I can definitely live with.
The principles are these:
- Don't give everything up - this is the pitfall of most diet plans or what sabotages most people's attempts to eat a healthier diet
- Figure out what your body needs - to maintain your weight, to lose weight, to gain weight and work from there
- Don't set unrealistic goals - whether it is for weight loss or lowering your cholesterol - ANY progress is progress and move on from that point
- Eat smaller portions if you are concentrating on weight loss but eat something of 'regular food'. By this he means you can have an egg, you can have a piece or two of bacon. You do not have to eliminate everything to be healthy or to be at the weight you want to be - just be sensible
- Keep track of your weight gains or losses but don't become obsessed with it. If you cut back on calories because you want to lose weight, figure out by keeping a diary how many calories you are eating in general and try and keep that a constant - if you did not lose or you did not lose as much as you wanted to, now you have to readjust your calories
- Everyone has a 'target' zone for how many calories they can consume and maintain weight, lose weight, or increase weight - you have to find your individual number and then adjust your diet accordingly
- Quit eating your big meal in the evening! This is such simple advice - on so many levels. Eating late in day can increase weight but not only that - it can also increase digestive problems such as reflux and stomach acid accumulation because you do not give your body enough time to process the food before going into sleep mode
- Instead of eating your largest meal at dinner, switch it to lunchtime. That way you have ample opportunity to digest the largest meal of your day and still have time to burn some of it off
- Adhere to the theory that when you eat, you have all the time in the world. Think about eating when you ARE eating - are you wolfing down your food and not even enjoying it? Taking a few minutes to savor your food no matter what diet you are on - for health reasons or for weight loss - makes all the difference in the world. If you enjoy your food and take the time to know your body, you will discover that you enjoy eating on a different level and secondly, you will know if you are full before you overeat
- Consider the elements of a healthy diet - we all know that junk food is a necessary 'treat' for most of us and there are indulgences that we all enjoy; however, be aware that a diet consisting of mostly processed foods and junk foods is a setup for disaster - health-wise and weight-wise. Moderation in all things - it is okay to treat yourself but the components of a healthy diet cannot be stressed enough for overall well-being and good health
- Lastly, if you simply need help in steering yourself into a 'formal diet plan' that is regimented, the South Beach Diet is the healthiest way to go at the moment
An Ounce of Prevention
I'm of the old school when it comes to diets in the first place. I do not believe that anything worthwhile is achieved easily. I do not believe for the most part in prepared foods. I have always operated under the assumption that I can make anything - and I can make it healthier than store-bought. I can also make it cheaper usually.
The old ideas of eating a well-balanced diet have a lot to be said for themselves. Combining elements such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins in our daily sustenance would go a long way to seeing us all stay healthier and heartier. The added benefits of exercise and 'good clean living' as so many of our ancestors preached also will increase our longevity and most likely ensure that we reach older age in a healthier state.
The idea that cooking from scratch takes so much more time is ludicrous in my humble opinion. The time it takes to prepare a healthy and hearty meal is minuscule compared to the health benefits one reaps and in my mind, also provides a wonderful gift - to family, to friends, even the community. It is something we do that makes us give of ourself - for ourself but also usually for others. It is a creation if you will of something for someone to enjoy and to take nourishment from. That simple concept has always struck me as a tremendously powerful - to be able to make things that people enjoy eating and thus maybe feel better overall. We don't have to be chefs to prepare healthy foods; we don't have to be retired either. It is all a matter of planning.
Eating healthier just makes sense. Making sure that we follow the basic tenets of nutrition is not that difficult when you weigh the positive effects against the negative effects of eating an unhealthy diet. Again, taking the time to shop for healthier alternatives and planning ahead in order to prepare healthy, palatable meals takes some dedication and effort - but again, the benefits far outweigh the negative. It has been proven that kids eating a healthier diet do better in school, have less emotional and physical problems, and overall are better equipped to meet the demands everyday life puts on them. It is the same for adults of all ages. While we subscribe to health clubs and have every gadget in our lives known to man, we somehow seem to miss that entity called fueling our body much too often because we are 'too busy'. What is more important than running our once-in-a-lifetime gift of a body on appropriate fuel?
Summing It Up
In short, if you are looking for a 'magical' healthy diet, the South Beach Diet would be most likely the best to follow - or an American Heart Association Diet. However, again, the problem lies in that without permanently changing dietary habits and eating healthier in general for a lifetime, most people find that they fluctuate up and down, back and forth participating in such diets.
The principles of the South Beach Diet are sound - eating good carbs, good fats, eliminating refined sugars, etc. Eating more unsaturated fats, omega-3's, fruits, vegetables, beans, grains - at different phases of the diet - these are all great ideas but probably can be incorporated into 'regular' eating habits that will last you a lifetime.
However, learning to eat a healthy diet is all about spending time figuring out the foods that are better for you and your family and then learning to adopt this as your 'traditional eating style'. To be a healthy diet, the diet needs to sustain you not only today but in the future and be a blueprint for your eating habits. I embrace the idea of being able to eat a diet that I can live with today and also next year without major fluctuations and giving up things for weeks, months at a time. Again, moderation in all things seems the operative word and learning to have a healthy diet is part of that concept.
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