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By Gina Cousineau
Facts are facts. By losing only 5-10% of one’s body weight, our health will improve. But most people have much loftier goals, dreaming of what they once weighed in college or when they were just married.
Secondly, as we age, our body composition shifts and metabolism slows because of a cascade of bodily processes, including normal hormonal changes, decreased activity levels, loss of muscle, and more.
About 99% of my prospective clients reach out with their primary objective being weight loss. While my approach certainly will help them lose the weight, I cannot in good conscience help people lose weight without teaching them about a healthy eating pattern, which in turn will help them to reduce the risk of heart disease and other lifestyle diseases that are increasing our years of disability and shortening our lives.
While the traditional diet is always about calorie restriction and removing favorite foods, we all know from personal experience it does not result in sustainable weight loss.
It is with this “all or none” mentality that I am bound and determined to try to make change. As we approach the holiday season, most will not attempt to lose weight, and assume they will gain weight, with all the eating opportunities coming their way.
They might try to exercise more, but the fact is, few of us can utilize more than a few hundred calories with an hour of exercise, and that pumpkin latte from your favorite coffee shop will fill those burned calories right back up in a fraction of that time.
Guiding individuals into a healthy eating pattern allows them to both lose the weight, if needed, and improve the quality of their lives.
It allows them to also continue to enjoy the foods they “can’t live without,” but this can’t happen without proper nutrition education as to what foods we need to prioritize throughout our day, and strategies on how to gain self-control over foods that keep tripping us up.
This is no easy feat for this nutritionist and chef. So, let’s talk for a moment about what a healthy eating pattern is.
The USDA suggests including a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, and meat, as well as eggs, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
For most people who have varied food preferences, these guidelines hit the mark. Add in limiting foods with added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium; this is a logical and practical guide to calorie reduction, if weight loss is one of your goals, and improved health.
So, what can you eat? Pretty much everything if you allow the guidelines above to lead the way. Your daily scoop of ice cream is high in calories, saturated fat, and added sugar, so consider eating less of it, and/or replacing it most days with a bowl of nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with your favorite fruit, a few chopped walnuts, and a drizzle of honey.
The same can be said for your high-fat and sodium-laden crunchy snack that you eat directly out of the bag every afternoon. Consider limiting your serving size, only eating on occasion, or perhaps not buying it this week, and replacing it with some whole grain crackers and your favorite sliced cheese.
Simply moving toward more whole food choices, and including more plants in every meal and snack, could be your guide to a healthy eating pattern that will change your life in a positive way.
Gina Cousineau, a local nutrition expert who specializes in weight loss and health gain, is a trained chef and fitness professional, with her MS in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. She is offering her readers a complimentary “preventive screening” 50-minute session to help them better advocate for their health with their medical providers. Please email her at [email protected] to set up that session. Feel free to learn more about her at mamagslifestyle.com as well.