Balanced diet necessary for weight loss

This article submitted by Molly Connors on 11/5/96.

The human body needs a certain amount of nutrients, calories and yes, fat just to maintain ordinary, necessary functions like breathing and blood flow.

Liquid diet programs that incorporate milkshakes aren't unhealthy, said Sue Hecht, a dietician at Paynesville Area Hospital. Dieters do get nutrients from these shakes.

However, these types of diets are gimmicks that don't teach proper nutrition habits. To maintain weight lost through a liquid diet program, a dieter has to stay with the program.

Herbal supplements and diet pills aren't the way to go for weight loss, either. Some diet pills are diuretics and some are laxatives, which dehydrate the body. The dieter loses water weight, not fat. Other diet pills contain ephederine, which speeds up the heart rate.

The herbal supplements concern Hecht. The dieter doesn't know exactly what he or she is putting into his or her body. Their exact amount isn't listed, so their effect is difficult to determine.

Anyone who takes medication of any sort should consult his or her physician before trying any diet pill or program.

"You are much better off doing it (losing weight) the hard way," Hecht said.

The hard way that Hecht speaks of is following a healthy diet: eating the correct amount of meats or proteins, vegetables, fruits, milk products and grains every day.

To lose weight, gradually change your eating habits. Analyze them. Do you eat because you're depressed, or because you're bored? Does your family overeat? Do you go out to eat and order unealthy, fat-laden items?

Once you've figured out what eating habits you need to change, it's time to adopt a new diet. Eat the correct number of servings every day: four breads or cereals, two servings of milk products, two servings of meats or proteins, two fruits and three vegetables. There are also two servings of fat in this diet.

Fat cannot be completely cut out of anyone's diet. It is a necessary part of eating. Because fat is such a large part of many people's diets, it's gotten a bad name. Overeating any type of food isn't good for the body.

Hecht also said that no one will ever completely swear off sweets. Sweets are okay "once in awhile," she said. "Just don't eat the whole package."

A serving of meat is approximately as big as the human hand. If your hand is smaller than most, your serving can be a bit larger. Conversely, if you've got large hands, your serving is a little smaller.

A small amount of meals every day - one or two - doesn't always add up to a smaller amount of food, fat or calories consumed. Often, dieters try to cut down on the number of times they eat. Instead, the dieter should concentrate on his or her fat and calorie intake.

According to Hecht, extra calories add up. One hundred extra calories every day - less calories than most candy bars contain - add up to ten extra pounds at the end of the year.

Anyone trying to lose weight should start out with breakfast. Skipping breakfast means the body goes 16-20 hours without food. It starts burning muscle instead of fat. This means the calories that you eat in the next meal go directly to sustain your fat cells.

A big breakfast also benefits those interested in losing pounds because most calories eaten earlier in the day are used throughout the day. According to Greg Landry, an exercise physiologist, busy people have a tendency to eat "very little all day and then eat a huge evening meal."

The evening meal should be the smallest meal, Landry said, followed by a snack like fruit a few hours later. It should not be the largest meal of the day, unless you're on a diet to gain weight.

Many people have found success eating several small meals every day. When people eat often, they aren't as hungry when the next mealtime rolls around. Because of this, they have more control over what they eat and are less likely to binge or eat unhealthy, high fat foods. Landry recommends eating every three hours.

One of the best ways to stick with a diet is to keep track of it. Write down what you eat every day. Include how many servings of each group you've eaten. Also write down the extras and when you eat them. This will help you to figure out where and when your extra calories come in.

If you find that yours extra calories come from snacking, but you aren't able to give up snacking, try some healthier snacks: yogurt, vegetables - carrots and celery- with low fat or fat-free dip, rice cakes and fruit are all healthy snacks.

Finally, don't forget to drink water: eight 8-ounce glasses every day, more if you exercise. The hydrogen and oxygen in water helps metabolize, or turn into energy, all the calories you take in. Without water, your calories won't be used.

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