Carbs, Carbs, Carbs
It is impossible to turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, or even walk
through the grocery store without being bombarded with low-carb
advertising. Just a few years ago most people didn’t even know what a
carbohydrate was, let alone how to avoid them. But with obesity rates at an
all time high in our country, people will try just about anything to drop a few
pounds. Besides the popular low-carb diets, there are even dieting plans
consisting of cabbage soup, “miracle” juice, grapefruits, secret fat-burning
pills, and, of course, Subway sandwiches.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
The current attention on weight is not without good reason. As the
fattest nation on Earth, we are heading into very dangerous territory.
Obesity is not about looking good or wanting fitting in the right size of
clothes. In fact, obesity has been linked to many preventable diseases.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH CARBS?
Carbohydrates are actually your body’s chief source of fuel. While
there is a great debate over the role of carbs in the diet, sometimes common
sense is the best approach. A candy bar and a soda are filled with
carbohydrates. Of course those shouldn’t be integral parts of your normal
diet. But what would you say to a bowl of oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, and
a glass of orange juice? They are also loaded with carbs and most people
would consider that a healthy meal. The key is not to base your diet on
carbs, rather select foods that are considered “nutrient dense”. These foods
have lots of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients compared to the amount
of calories. And calories are what matter most.
CALORIES, NOT CARBS!!
Do you remember those wonderful days growing up where you ate
everything you wanted and never gained weight? Well, that wasn’t because
of a special diet. It was your metabolism. You had no trouble burning up all
the calories each day you took in through food. Calories that came from the
red/white/blue popsicle the Ice Cream Man gave you, Grandma’s chocolate
chip cookies, and that midnight bowl of Cap’n Crunch. As we age,
however, our metabolism starts to slow down. So too does our need for
calories. When the calories taken in through food are greater than those you
burn each day, your body stores the extra as fat. Regardless of where the
calories come from, too many of them equals a gain in weight.
SO WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO LOSE WEIGHT?
Losing weight safely really involves two steps. First, reduce the total
number of calories you consume every day by making wise choices. This
should not be a highly restrictive diet plan that you won’t be able to stick
with. Simply begin to replace the chips, microwave popcorn, and soda you
consume with healthier fare such as pretzels, fresh fruit, and lots of water.
For every 3,500 fewer calories you consume, you lose one pound. That is
only a difference of 500 calories per day (an average 20oz soda contains 250
calories). Aim to lose only 1-2 pounds per week. Rapid weight loss is
unhealthy and also easier to gain back.
In addition to taking in fewer calories, it is also important to
participate in regular physical exercise. There are a wide variety of mental,
social, and emotional benefits to physical exercise, but it is an absolutely
essential component of maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise helps
increase your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories even while
you sleep. Exercise doesn’t mean joining an expensive gym or buying the
latest flex/climber/rider/glider machine. Here are some simple ways to
incorporate more exercise into your day:
take the stairs instead of the elevator
park at the far end of the parking lot
walk or ride a bike to work (gasoline is approaching $2.00/gallon!!)
maintain a garden
take an evening walk
play with your kids
go dancing instead of the movies
No matter how you go about it, taking in fewer calories and getting
regular physical activity will enable you to make the permanent lifestyle
change necessary for long-term weight management. And best of all, those
two steps don’t have to cost a penny. No specialized foods, no books, no
expensive machines – just through increased exercise and selecting nutrient