America is slightly schizophrenic when it comes to weight. If you open a newspaper you can simultaneously read that the five skinny women left must need counselling and society is to blame for that but anorexia is genetic even though that gene seems to only be present in middle-class white girls, all while we are the fattest country in the world. It can be confusing to people outside the US and anyone with a clue.
There is some practical advice that has resulted from 70 years of weight studies; people who consume fewer calories than they burn lose weight 100% of the time. The problem is that people don't tailor their eating to their metabolisms and that has nothing to do with genes but it may have something to do with society.
Registered dietitians Suzanne Dixon and Dave Ellis work for a 'functional' food company called AppleBoost Products Inc. and have outlined 15 common sense recommendations that can help keep you thin or even lose weight - if you can stick to them:
1. America is a toxic food environment. We’re constantly bombarded by junk food commercials and surrounded by fast food joints. If you think you’re unaffected by food marketing, think again. If you are not seriously committed to healthy eating, you will not eat healthfully.
2. Get real about being active. If maintaining a healthy body weight were easy, two-thirds of American adults wouldn’t be overweight. The older we get, the more work it takes to live lean.
3. Reading food labels will not make you healthy. You don’t need a label to tell you apples, oatmeal, and carrots are good food choices. Avoid highly processed foods like chips, cookies and fast foods and you will be healthier.
4. Don’t drink your calories. We’re wired since the dawn of time to draw calories from food and wash it down with water. With the exception of an occasional glass of wine, 100% fruit juice or similar healthy beverage, avoid the usual diet-busting suspects – soda, fruit punch and energy drinks.
5. Balance eating with what you do. The number one problem in studies of dieters is that people tend to over-estimate the calories they burn exercising and underestimate the calories they consume eating. A walk around the block does not burn off a fried chicken dinner. It takes a lot of exercise to burn even 500 calories. A fancy coffee drink can cost you those 500 calories.
6. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are not: Eating for any reason other than hunger contributes to weight problems. Learn how to tune into your hunger and turn off eating when you sense fullness.
7. Find something to do when you are bored. If frustration or anger triggers your eating impulse, you may need help to better understand and gain control over these common catalysts for binge eating. If it's just boredom or a trained response when you watch a movie, change it.
8. Doing it for health works better than looks: People who lose weight to increase energy and improve health stick to their healthier lifestyle more effectively than those dieting simply to look better. Realign your goals for lasting results.
9. Eat balanced meals and maybe moderate healthy snacks. Make it three well-balanced meals and snack in-between on vegetables, fruit, and nuts if you must though, if we are being honest, people have been saying this "eat lots of little meals" stuff for 20 years and it has corresponded with ballooning weight. So maybe just eat three meals and don't be too clever with snacks.
10. When you see someone who looks fit, know that he or she works at it. Very few are born lucky when it comes to the fat loss lottery. Stop the pity party and get moving.
11. Everyone can get healthier. Start by making a 1-day commitment to living healthier; then try to stick with it for 2 days, a week, and then a month. If you are like most people, after a week you will keep at it because you won't want to have wasted the time you already spent.
12. Quality sleep is a must for effective weight management. Less than 7 hours of sleep means more cortisol produced by the body. Cortisol spurs hunger and tells your body to pile on the pounds in response to stress. Before Edison made the light bulb famous Americans slept 10 hours a night, ate less, burned more calories, spent more time working and were thinner. Of course, the average life expectancy was 42 then. So just sleep more and eat less.
13. Fast food can be addictive. The sugar, starch, and fat typically found in fast food combo meals trigger the pleasure centers in the brain, which is one reason people return for that next meal. If you can’t envision your life without fast food, you may need to avoid it completely to gain control. You don't find many recovered alcoholics or smokers saying they will cut back to once a week. If you are an addictive personality, go cold turkey.
14. The human body responds remarkably well to starvation, so unless you have the discipline to fast for four days every two weeks, a crash diet is unlikely to work. Temporary diets make the metabolism slow down, not optimize. It’s better to eat smaller, healthy meals than to deprive the body of nutrition altogether.
15. A sedentary lifestyle allows virtually no room for error when consuming food. If you can’t find time to exercise regularly, at least try to move around more than usual. And eat less.