by DANA NAIM March 10, 2005
Losing weight doesn’t have to be a never-ending battle
Healthy choices and smaller portions will keep off pounds
For Dorie Everin, being married to a chef for 26 years had proved difficult when it came to maintaining her figure. And at the age of 50, losing weight and keeping it off seemed impossible.
But after learning how to make better decisions and changing her lifestyle, Everin has lost 12 pounds in the past two months.
“I learned what to eat and what was good for me, such as what foods to snack on,” Everin said. “It’s a lifestyle change I’ve made, and by making these food choices and eating smaller portions, I have more energy and less fluctuation in my blood sugar.”
Like Everin, millions of Americans struggle with losing weight and maintaining their goal weights, especially at a time when restaurants have dramatically increased their portion sizes and fad diets become a temporary weight-loss solution, nutritionists explain.
More than 65 percent of adults are overweight, and 30 percent are obese, according to the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January. About 16 percent of children and adolescents are overweight, a number that has increased significantly in the past 20 years.
Learning to eat
“In our society, there’s a super-size mentality,” said Renee Simon, a clinical nutritionist at Renee Simon in South Salem. “People tend to eat fast and don’t allow the food to digest properly.”
Simon, who leads a six-week program called “Eating to Lose,” said eating one meal a day slows down the metabolic process. She stressed the importance of eating three meals a day and two snacks in order to keep the blood sugar constant and the metabolism running all day.
Once people reach the age of 25, their metabolism slows at a rate of 10 percent per decade, said Karen Hansen, a registered dietician at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco. In order to prevent weight gain, people should increase their physical activity and reduce their calorie intake.
Fad diets cause people to lose weight quickly, but they aren’t long-term solutions. In fact, people gain the weight back because they aren’t being taught how to make decisions regarding food.
“People are starved for being able to control what they’re doing,” Hansen said. “Fad diets are so limiting, people aren’t able to make choices. They follow crazy meal plans that don’t meet their nutrient needs. People think they’ve lost 12 pounds in two weeks, but it’s mostly water weight loss, not fat.”
She said healthy eating requires a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and starches, dairy, meat and fat. But the key is watching portion sizes and limiting the intake of fatty foods, sugar and alcohol.
Susan Pulling, a registered dietician at Nutrition Consulting Inc., in Mount Kisco, said it’s important to inform Americans about eating right and exercising often — especially now during
National Nutrition Month.
“The problem is that people have an all or nothing thinking,” Pulling said.
“They’re either on a diet or off a diet, and when they’re on, they’re very rigid. South Beach and Atkins (diets) eliminate whole food groups, and that makes it not nutritious.”
Rather than depriving the body of carbohydrates and other necessary nutrients, people should commit to a lifestyle that allows for occasional treats and incorporates the proper amount of servings from each food group.
A typical day should include four to five fruits, three to five vegetables, between six and 11 servings of carbohydrates, which include peas, corn and potatoes, and about two to three servings each of meat and dairy products. People should also make sure they consume 30 grams of fiber, which helps prevent many diseases, and limit their intake of fat and trans fatty acids.
Although olive oil is preferred over other types of oil because it’s considered a “good fat,” it still raises cholesterol and contributes to weight gain, Pulling said. Limit the consumption of any oil to three teaspoons per day, she said.
Depending on whether people want to prevent weight gain or shed some pounds, it’s important to start eating smaller portions, choosing healthier foods and participating in physical activity every day.
“Park in the farthest space at the grocery store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do something you enjoy,” Hansen suggested. “Every little bit you can add to your day that you weren’t doing yesterday is an improvement.”
Tips for a healthier Lifestyle
- Don’t skip breakfast. Eating small portions throughout the day keeps metabolism running.
- Eat on smaller plates and skip seconds. Allow your body to digest the food so you feel satisfied.
- Don’t keep trigger foods, such as ice cream, chocolate and chips, in the house. Snack on fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t eat while watching television.
- Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love. Treat yourself occasionally.
- Substitute whole grains and multigrain products such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta for refined grains like white bread.
- Eat whole fruits instead of fruit juices.
- Carbohydrates come from fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains and starches. Spread out your intake of carbohydrates throughout the day.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water each day.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free alternatives for dairy products, and lean meats.
- Keep a log so you can review the food you’ve consumed throughout the day.
- Limit intake of fats, sodium, sugar and alcohol.
- Participate in physical activity you enjoy. If you think you don’t have the time, start by parking your car far away and walking to the store, getting off a stop early on the subway and climbing stairs instead of using the elevator. Then work your way up to an exercise routine.
- Don’t consider yourself on a diet. Call it a permanent lifestyle change.
With restaurants and fast-food businesses super-sizing their portions, many people misunderstand the idea of serving size, experts say.
The Food Guide Pyramid recommends a certain number of servings from each food group, but many Americans don’t know that a serving is a half a cup of pasta rather than a plateful, or a piece of meat the size of a deck of cards rather than a 12-ounce steak.
“A New York-style bagel counts as four servings of starch,” explained Susan Pulling, a registered dietician from Mount Kisco. “You’re only supposed to have between six and 11 servings of starch (and grains) for the day, so if you start your day with four, you’ve already used up most of your servings.”
Here’s a guide to recommended food portions according to nutritionists, dieticians and the Food Guide Pyramid.
- Bread, rice and pasta group:
six to 11 servings, 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup starch, such as rice, pasta or potatoes, 3/4 cup of cereal, 10 French fries, 1/2 English muffin.
three to five servings, 1 cup green leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup chopped vegetables.
two to four servings, 1 medium fruit, 1/2 cup canned fruit or applesauce, 1/2 cup fruit juice, Milk, yogurt and cheese, two to three servings, 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk , 6 ounces of yogurt, 1 ounce of cheese.
- Meat, fish and poultry: two to three servings, 2 to 3 ounces of lean meats and fish (size of a deck of cards) 1 egg, 2 egg whites, and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
- Fats, oils and sweets: Use sparingly.