Because I am a registered dietitian/nutritionist with a passion for good living I get annoyed with the general misconception surrounding weight issues. For example, in order to maintain a healthy weight one has to deprive themselves of the important experience of food, by eating unpalatable meals. Another misconception (promoted by the latest reality shows) has individuals working out 8 hours/day doing extremely rigorous exercises. I cannot exclude the commercials pushing exercise equipment or pills and supplements to miraculously melt fat away.
When will we realize there are no shortcuts and quick fixes?
These are some misconceptions:
If you need to lose weight you should try a juice fast. A juice or any liquid as sole nourishment will show up as pounds lost on the scale but in actuality water and muscle loss results not fat loss. In addition, not being able to continue these fasts the pounds lost once again appear on the scale. Your effort, time and of course motivation are negatively affected, so what was gained? Fasting has been around for centuries and is a part of some religious holidays. Occasional withdrawals of solid food where you limit your daily intake to juices do have some benefit. An occasional total fast also can have some benefits however the body reacts to these regimens. When there is no energy coming into the body, in the form of food, the brain sends the message to make fat. This fat compensates for the energy the body needs. Long-term effects create muscle wasting.
Another misconception: If you need to lose weight eliminate carbohydrates. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates that are in soda, cookies, candy and lots of packaged foods, lack fiber and do not create fullness. Complex carbohydrates in fruit, vegetables and grains contain fiber, vitamins and minerals that the body needs. Dairy products are also considered complex carbohydrates.
Misconception: If you need to lose weight eliminate fats. There are four types of fats: Trans, saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Trans fats are harmful and should be eliminated. The government has new regulations banning trans fats from foods. Saturated fats are contained in animal products, and those animal products also have beneficial protein, vitamins and minerals, therefore it is important to provide protein to your diet. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are important sources of fats for our brain, skin and our organs. They are necessary: inadequate amounts of fat can cause hair loss, and dry skin conditions.
Misconception: If you need to lose weight limit calories to 1000 calories or less per day. We are individuals and therefore the daily calorie amount is calculated using many values. Knowing that correct amount might be the difference between success and failure. This amount also changes with weight loss and plateaus so the calorie amount needs to be recalculated as time goes on.
Misconception: When discussing exercise not everyone can program themselves to go to the gym and engage in weight training or aerobic classes. Not everyone can afford a gym membership. I know many patients that do yoga or go out dancing and have made changes in their bodies. Incorporating walking and using stairs into your work day might be enough of a change to drop unnecessary pounds. Not everyone can jog or run. Many injuries as well as heat exhaustion, dehydration and heart attacks have resulted from going out to do a race without proper training. I have seen too many people become weekend warriors to end up completely eliminating all exercise because of overuse injuries.
I have patients that achieve successful weight loss and no longer need medication for hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesteremia, hypertryglyceridia by creating a food beverage and exercise regimen which is working for them. Creating an individual customized plan based on individual food preferences, budget and lifestyle is the gold standard of what I can accomplish.
Education on how to assess what we put in our bodies and how we help or hurt ourselves to digest and use those nutrients will help determine how healthy we are. How many times do you read nutrition ingredient labels? Do you recognize those ingredients? Do you understand why they are included?
The food groups exist for a valid reason. Eliminating even one will deprive your body of essential nutrients. Vitamins and minerals with unique qualities to provide the body with an important ingredient for good health. An additional quality that food provides is taking time out to take care of our nourishment. Where is the satisfaction and visual appreciation of looking at attractive meals; have you taken the time to prepare this yourself or has someone else devoted their time and effort? Are you sitting in a restaurant and paying for that meal? How can the satisfaction of sharing meals with those we care about or the time spent chewing, tasting and smelling what we will consume compare with a liquid meal?
We are in such a hurry that we do not question what we read or hear in the media. We do not question who is giving advice or their credentials. We do not question why there are so many products that do not spoil.
We are so fortunate to have true credentialed leaders in the field of nutrition and exercise. These are the only sources to rely on for information. My association the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics was founded to educate on nutrition and health. Sources such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic have devoted time and money for research for decades. Professionals that have spent years studying how the body works, and why diseases occur are the best sources to seek counseling from.