Weight loss: Simple math, common sense

Posted: Sunday, December 26, 2010

Editor's note: "Focus on Fitness" is a Clarion feature with healthy lifestyle advice from local and national health and fitness experts. Check here weekly great information and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Have you heard it said that it is possible to lose weight if you eat only celery? It may not surprise you that this is true. A serving of celery has 6 calories and takes 8 calories to process by the body. Increasing consumption of raw foods in general is perhaps the most important dietary change a person wanting to lose weight can make. Food eaten in its raw form is usually the best way to gain essential nutrients and is calorie efficient (nutrient dense, low calorie). Raw and less processed foods are generally higher in fiber also. In addition, raw foods take more energy to process by the body.

Once food is cooked it usually loses some nutritional value and its calories are more easily absorbed. In one study a group of mice was given all the raw grain they could eat and another group was given all the cooked grain they could eat. The group eating uncooked grain was very thin but healthy. The group eating the cooked grain became obese. While it is not feasible to eat uncooked grain it is feasible to increase your intake of a variety of raw foods. If you are looking for a recipe for weight loss, raw foods should play an important role.

Just as cooking food enables the body to absorb its calories more efficiently so does processing of foods. This is why it is important to switch to grain products that are made from whole grains. Also, processed flours may cause an inflammatory effect that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Breads, crackers, cereals and pastas are something most of us eat on a regular basis. By making sure these products are made from 100 percent whole grains you will be more successful at losing and/or maintaining weight. Be sure to read the ingredients. Often products that say whole grain or multi-grain are a mix of processed flour and whole grains. Also watch out for extra sugars and sodium, which may be added to enhance flavor. Whole grain products are the fastest growing segment of the food industry so it is getting easier to find whole grain products that taste good.

Water is the best overall choice when it comes to fluid replacement. A person participating in strenuous physical activity for more than 45 minutes (or activity in extremely hot conditions) may benefit from a sports drink. However, water and a snack is usually all you need. Sugar laden drinks provide calories with little or no food value. Many people could lose some or all the weight they want to by simply cutting out sugary drinks.

Low or zero calories beverages are not necessarily the best choice either. Often these drinks are sweetened artificially. Artificial sweeteners have a variety of effects on blood chemistry. One effect they share is how they signal the body via the tongue and brain to release insulin. Insulin processes sugars in the blood and enables the body to use them as a fuel. With no rush of sugars to process the extra insulin results in lower blood sugar. This causes us to crave carbohydrates. Maybe this explains the desire to have a candy bar with your diet drink.

Food that is high in fiber helps you feel full which satisfies your hunger. Whole grains and raw foods are high in fiber. Eating one high fiber bar per day is a good addition to your fiber intake.

Just as it is important to develop an exercise routine that is easy to follow it is also important to develop a routine of what you eat that is easy to stick with. Below is an outline of an example of how to apply the above concepts with your daily food intake. The possibilities are endless, there is so much food out there that tastes good and is good for you.

Breakfast: Thaw one cup of frozen blueberries in a bowl (about one minute in the microwave). Pour one serving of 100 percent whole grain cereal over berries and add skim or 1 percent milk. Have this for breakfast five to seven days a week.

Frozen blueberries can be purchased in bulk (three pound bags) from local warehouse stores. Blueberries are considered a super food because they are nutrient dense, calorie efficient, high in fiber and full of antioxidants.

Snack: One high fiber bar and a banana.

Lunch: Regardless of what you eat for lunch have an orange or an apple and two ounces of nuts or seeds before you eat other food items.

Snack: Orange or Apple. Do not repeat lunch fruit serving.

Dinner: Regardless of what you eat for dinner have two servings of raw vegetables before you eat. Do not add any dressings or dips to the vegetables. Choose any vegetables you like.

You may choose other fruits in place of the ones listed above. I like the banana, apple, and orange routine because those fruits are usually available in good quality year round. It is important to find fruits and veggies you like. You are more likely to stick to a routine when you like the foods. Also, foods you like will satisfy your cravings so you will be less likely to over eat.

There are many other ways to fit more veggies and fiber into your diet. Even when cooked, veggies make your dish healthier so add more of them (zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach, etc.) to your soups and pasta sauces. Add the veggies late in the cooking process to avoid overcooking. Top your pizza, sandwich, Mexican dish or omelet with sliced tomatoes, avocadoes or other veggies. Add a couple of tablespoons of flax-meal to your smoothies, soups, sauces and even burgers and taco meat. This adds more fiber and extra nutrients.

Remember, you do not need to make all these changes at once. Start small and add changes each week. Maintaining or losing weight is all about developing a routine of eating and exercising that you can stick with. There are endless ways to incorporate healthy foods into your daily food intake. It is well worth the effort to make healthy lifestyle changes. You will feel better and have more energy throughout your day.

Charlie Stephens is a retired P.E. teacher and owner/operator of Kenai Sport & Train, Inc. He can be reached at ccstephens@gci.net.

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