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Nutritional health

Dieting dos and don’ts

It being January, the month of resolutions and new beginnings, I know many people are deciding that this is the time to do something about those extra pounds. People start a diet with the idea that if you “eat less and move more” you will lose weight. It is the foundation of most popular diet plans out there. I have a question for those of you that have tried this method. To quote Dr. Phil, “How's that working for you?” If you are like most, it doesn't work well at all. It may work for a little while, but then, inevitably, just taking in less calories than you used is not the answer to a permanent and healthy way to lose weight.

Your life is changing all the time. Factors such as age, stress, energy levels, activity levels, even budget, all fluctuate. All of these factors dictate how much food you need and what kinds of foods you need.

The three macronutrients, protein, fats, and carbohydrates, are all necessary for optimal health. But the factors listed above dictate how much of each macronutrient you need on any given day. For example, if you lead a life where you spend much time sitting (in your car, at a job, at home, etc.), you simply do not need as much food as a person who spends most of their time standing, bending, lifting, and stretching. The amount of energy you put out is a good guide to how much energy you need to take in.

This switches the popular “calories in, calories out” theory that, in order to lose or maintain a certain weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you use. There is a logic to this theory, but it is misguided. It is not the quantity of calories that matters as much as the quality of those calories. That 100-calorie processed “snack” will not give you the same amount of energy as 100 calories of an apple, a piece of chicken or an egg. The more nutrient-density a food has, the less you need of it.

Processed food, by its very design, will taste a certain way and propel the consumer to want more, more, more! This has nothing to do with feeding your body the energy it needs, but everything to do with selling that product. For example, a bag of potato chips can tout having “only 100 calories per serving!” as the reason you should eat it. Never mind that the serving size is very rarely what people eat. And what, exactly, are the ingredients in those potato chips anyway?

Real food, on the other hand, is designed, by nature, to taste like what it is. It is inherently filled with the nutrients specific to that food and no other. For instance, let’s look at broccoli. Broccoli is a vegetable that is full of vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten in its natural, raw state or cooked in a myriad of ways to enhance its flavor. If cooked in certain ways — lightly steamed, for instance — it will retain most of its nutrient density. If it is cooked in other ways, broiled for example, it will lose some of its nutrient density, but not all.

The only similarity between the 100 calories amount of potato chips and the 100 calorie amount of broccoli is that number, 100 calories.

The quality of those 100 calories is startlingly different and therein lies the way the food affects your body. If you are not a big broccoli fan, replace a different nutrient-dense food for your own comparison. Use eggs, nuts, seeds, a different vegetable, chicken, etc.

Your body can and will use the nutrients in the real food. It cannot use the toxins (flavors, additives, preservatives, etc.) in the processed food. Your body will end up storing those toxins anywhere it can, usually in the form of adipose tissue, aka body fat.

Another thing to consider is that, while it would be easy to consume a bag of potato chips in its entirety and still want more (been there, done that), the body is able to tell you when it has had enough of a high-quality food.

If you are deciding to do something about some excess weight, remember that quality is far more important than quantity. Always choose real food. Shop on the outskirts of the store and drink plenty of water. If you choose a food that comes in a package, remember the “5 and 5” rule: five ingredients or less and 5 grams of sugar per serving or less. These simple changes will take you a long way in losing weight and, more importantly, staying healthy.

Jeni Hall of Dublin is a board certified nutritional therapist practicing in the Monadnock region. Her mission is to empower you to heal your own body and keep it healthy. See www.jenihall.com, for more information.

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