Losing weight is on the mind of people across the country, but the process of losing weight leaves many people feeling left in the dark. Fad diets, meal plans and even the advice of others who might be struggling to lose the last stubborn five pounds or more to reach their goal abound, but helpful information might be at a premium.
One core issue with weight loss is the person, because even though there are certain rules of calorie consumption and what foods should be used to make up those calories, there isn’t any one program that will yield the same results across a broad range of those using that program.
Fad diets are especially on the radar in a negative way with most health professionals. Nutritionist Gillian Downs said, “Fad diets are not all they are made out to be. There are a few reasons I would encourage people to steer clear of these fad diets.”
One reason Downs gives for not subscribing to the fad diet approach is they have a tendency to target certain groups of foods or eliminate nutrients not for health benefits, but to yield the rapid weight loss which can give those diets a false appearance of credibility.
“Many of these fad diets focus on deprivation of specific nutrients or entire food groups,” she said. “But each food group benefits our body in a different way and provides our body with different vitamins, minerals and macronutrients that are essential. Eliminating them completely may lead to further health issues such as deficiencies, dehydration, fatigue, etc.”
Another problem is that all weight loss isn’t created equal, and the person needs to be aware of what type of weight they are losing. “These diets may show quick results, but that may not be weight from the specific body composition you’re aiming to lose. You may be trying to decrease fat mass as your overall goal, but this fad diet may target loss of lean muscle, water or fiber,” Downs said.
They can also lead to other problems which are hard to foresee in the beginning, she said.
“These diets may also lead to bouts of weight loss and weight regain over time, aka ‘yo-yo dieting’ or ‘weight cycling.’ So, these fad diets may work for a few weeks or months, but they are not sustainable long-term and may have negative impacts on our health in the long run.”
Downs did offer encouragement for those who have the need or desire to lose unwanted weight, however.
“The best approach is making healthy lifestyle changes that you can maintain long-term. The community should focus on the ‘big picture’ here, which is overall health, not quick and short-term weight loss,” Downs said.
Overall health can be improved through nutrition, she said, offering a few simple guidelines to get started.
“Start by getting in at least three meals per day,” Downs said. “Our body wants a consistent fuel source. Aim for three small meals, and one to two snacks as needed daily.” She also cautioned those trying to improve and establish a healthy lifestyle to avoid the temptation of skipping meals to enhance weight loss.
“It is important not to skip meals when you are working toward a healthy lifestyle. Missing meals means you may not get enough nutrients or calories throughout the day.”
Managing what you eat is also a key component to achieving a healthy lifestyle, Downs said.
“Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables,” she said for a start. “When it comes to this portion on our plate, the more color, the better. Variety in our fruits and vegetables allows us to consume different vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also a great source of fiber in our diet. People may increase their intake of fruits and veggies from fresh, canned or frozen varieties.”
Another important thing to remember is to add protein, she said.
“Include protein in every meal/snack. Protein takes longer for the stomach to digest, keeping us feeling full or satisfied for a longer amount of time. The body must also expend more energy to digest protein than it does for fats or carbohydrates,” Downs said.
Another benefit to protein is that it helps steady blood sugars, making rises/crashes less intense. “Some healthy protein sources include skinless chicken, lean beef, lean pork, fish, nut butters, beans, nuts, low-fat cheese, eggs, tofu, shrimp, etc.,” she said.
Weight loss and a healthy lifestyle should also be planned at the grocery store, Downs said.
“When shopping, try to make at least half of your grains whole grain. The term ‘whole grain’ means it contains all three parts of the wheat kernel or seed. This includes the fiber-rich bran, nutrient-rich germ and endosperm.”
The benefits of going whole grain in the shopping aisle goes a long way health wise, Downs said.
“Whole grains promote digestive health as well as heart health by helping lower cholesterol levels. Some whole-grain sources include brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and barley. A way to identify whole grain foods is making sure the ingredients list includes whole grains or that the label reads 100% whole grain.”
Another topic Downs discussed was the much-maligned fat. She said there are fats the body needs, so don’t avoid them altogether. “Choose healthier fats,” she said. “Incorporating healthy fats into our diet have been proven to increase our good cholesterol or HDL levels and decrease our bad cholesterol or LDL levels … which makes them ideal. These fats are monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.”
“Sources of these healthy fats are pure oils (canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sunflower, corn), nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts), seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds), olives, avocados, and cold-water fish (salmon, herring, halibut, mackerel). My personal favorite is canola oil as it is cost-friendly, easy to find and very versatile for cooking/baking.”
Downs said along with a healthier diet, a person wishing to make the change to a healthier lifestyle and leave excess weight behind should always look to an expert for advice.
“Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, for personalized nutrition advice, consult an expert! Registered Dietitians (RD)/ Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are the experts in nutrition and medical nutrition therapy … when seeking advice, look for those credentials of RD or RDN.
“I’m fortunate to work in a job that allows me to give back to the community through my passion of nutrition,” Downs said. “I love helping my patients meet their long-term goals and make healthy lifestyle changes to maintain them. The Center for Healthy Living through King’s Daughters offers a clinical weight management/non-surgical weight loss program. Here patients can receive personalized nutrition advice (such as calorie ranges, protein goals, etc.), education and work with a dietitian monthly for accountability.
“For some patients, medication may be an option as well. If you are interested in learning more about this program, our office number is (606) 408-1542. Information may also be found on our website at yourhealthylife.org. We also have a Facebook page which is King’s Daughters Weight Loss Center.”