Here are six truths about weight-loss and nutrition that will help keep you focused and on track:
1. Diets don’t work: When someone says they are on a diet they mean they are temporarily doing some smart things to lose weight. But its temporary. Eventually they will stop doing those smart things and gain the weight back. Instead the word diet should refer to your overall and ongoing nutritional lifestyle. Permanent, positive lifestyle changes equal permanent weight loss. When deciding which lifestyle changes to make, ask: Am I willing to do this permanently?
2. Whole foods trump processed foods: Whenever possible eat the least processed food option available. Whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables offer huge nutritional benefits over processed alternatives because nothing is added or removed. An apple, for example, offers the synergistic benefits of sugar, fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients all working together as Mother Nature intended. The fiber in the apple helps slow the absorption of the sugar. The skin of the apple contains flavonoids which also have health benefits. Eating the whole fruit (or vegetable) provides the maximum nutritional value, since everything is working together.
3. You have to burn more calories than you consume: This is the bottom line when it comes to a sustained weight-loss effort. There is no getting around it. You have to burn more calories than you consume in a 24 hour period. Think of your daily calorie allowance as your “calorie salary”. Each calorie is a little gold coin. You can spend them however you wish, but you cannot exceed your allowance. It may sound goofy, but I’ve been visualizing my daily calories this way for two years, and it really helps me make sound meal decisions and budget for the occasional treat.
4. Good intentions don’t translate into calories burned: Never underestimate a dieter’s ability to lie to themselves. I speak from experience. Let’s say your day consisted of three healthy meals and a long walk. But in the evening you had two glasses of wine which you conveniently avoid logging into your calorie-tracking app. Now, those three glasses of wine put you over your calorie limit, wiping out all your effort for that day. Another example: using euphemisms to avoid having to log calories. “I just nibbled on some trail mix,” or “I just had a little taste”. Those nibbles and tastes translate into undocumented calories! If you are going to mischaracterize your efforts that’s on you, but don’t blame the math.
5. Treat food labels with a grain of salt: At best, food labels are minimally informative, and at worst they are purposefully obtuse. Let’s face it: a product can be fat-free but full of sugar, sugar-free but full of fat, fat-free and sugar-free but high in carbohydrates, or any number of other combinations that confound and confuse a well-intentioned dieter. And don’t even get me started on the wholesale abuse of words like “wholesome”. You can get very fat on wholesome goodness! If you are following number 2 (above) then you can minimize your contact with food labels. Otherwise a good rule of thumb is: the fewer the ingredients the better (and it doesn’t hurt if you can pronounce them).
6. Persistence Pays: The only way to keep off unwanted weight is to consistently do the work. It means making a smart menu choice when the aromas in a restaurant are tempting you to do otherwise. It’s getting your walk in when you absolutely do not want to walk. It’s sticking to your calorie limit.
In the world of health and good nutrition, the phrase “eat right and exercise” has been the elephant in the room for a long time. Still, an entire industry of pills, potions, powders and pre-packaged foods has risen up offering false promises that allow us to pretend that there is an easy way to weight-loss, when it’s really just a matter of getting the big things right, over and over.
What insights or bits of wisdom have you discovered in your weight-loss journey? Let us know in the comments!