Let’s Eat!

A primer on healthy, happy dieting

Almost every woman has tried at least one unsuccessful diet; logic holds that if the first had been successful, there would not have been a second, third, forth and so on. Want to end this cycle? Think about “diet” as what you eat instead of what you can’t eat and then decide how to modify what you eat to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Here are the ways to modify what you eat to manage a healthy and happy diet:

Elements of a Healthy Diet

Consume at least 1,200 calories per day…minimum!

Elements of a Healthy Diet

Elements of a Healthy Diet

No matter your size, a diet that allows fewer than 1,200 calories per day is asking for trouble. And the larger you are, the more calories you need to maintain your health, even if your goal is weight loss. A general rule of thumb to maintain weight is 12-14 calories per day per pound (depending on your activity level). With this in mind, the perfect diet plan can be determined by multiplying your realistic ideal weight by 12-14 calories per day, then reducing what you currently consume to that number of calories. For example, if most weight charts indicate your ideal weight is 140 lbs., then you need to consume 1680-1960 calories to maintain this weight. The magic is that if you eat to maintain 140 lbs, but now weigh 180 lbs. you will start losing weight. Once you reach 140 lbs. you will have practiced eating to maintain this weight all along and be able to maintain your weight loss.

Eat protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

A healthy diet contains protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Simply put, protein helps the body repair itself, carbohydrates help maintain energy levels, and fat keeps the body lubricated and helps aid in nutrient absorption. Carbohydrates also fill you up, while proteins and fats satiate appetite. So…you can and should eat all three to maintain your heath.

Choose nutritious food and eat fewer empty calories.

The problem with most American diets is that we eat too much in general and tend to overload on carbohydrates and fat. Additionally the carbohydrates many people eat aren’t fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but rather processed foods with refined sugar, flours, and fat. A healthy diet is roughly 60% carbohydrates, 20-30% protein, and 15-25% fat. At MyPyramid.gov you’ll find guidelines for getting the suggested daily amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and the types of food that provide these nutrients.

Control your portions

Again, the problem with most American diets is that we eat too much! Because Americans eat too many refined foods, we get lots of calories with less volume. So we increase the volume—which adds lots and lots of calories. Because refined foods also cause your body to produce insulin at an accelerated rate, most people find themselves hungry again within a few hours. The remedy here is selecting fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, whole grain breads, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and “good” fats, and then limit portions. Making more “whole food” choices means you can enjoy more food because the bulk hasn’t been removed by processing and calories haven’t been added during processing (in the form of refined sugar and fat). A good way to keep whole food portions in check is to allow your self a palm-sized serving of protein, a fist-sized serving of carbohydrates, and a fist-sized serving of green vegetables at every meal (4-6 times each day).

Now that you’ve got some basics for a healthy diet, what about that happy diet thing?

A happy diet is one that becomes a comfortable, natural, healthy way for you to eat while enjoying what you eat.

Elements of a happy diet

You always have enough to eat.

If you are starving, you are not happy and you won’t stick with a diet, let alone choose it as the way you eat for a lifetime. Move to healthier choices and you’ll be able to eat more, maintain a healthy weight, and get the nutrition you need.

You can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.

If you modify your eating habits and make healthier choices most of the time, you can enjoy your favorite foods some of the time. But yummy foods need to be portioned too!

You can find something to eat no matter where you are.

If you know the foods that make up healthy choices and you are determined to make healthy choices, you will find them wherever you go. You may have to ask to have food prepared differently than a menu suggests, but I have never been to restaurant (or convenience store) where there was nothing to eat. However, you need to make specific choices and stick with moderate portions.

You can maintain your loss forever.

A happy diet is one that eventually becomes “the way you eat,” not the diet you are on this week. If you cannot see yourself easily maintaining the basic elements of a diet for the rest of your life, it is not the diet for you. The basic elements of a successful diet: healthy choices, enough food, easily accessibility to the foods you eat, and some room to include the foods you enjoy.

Now, that you know the basics of healthy and happy dieting…Let’s eat!

July 1, 2009