Many Americans are obsessed with dieting, but the fact is dieting is not a healthy lifestyle choice. Lena Beal, M.S., RD, LD, a therapeutic dietitian at Piedmont’s Fuqua Heart Center, says, "If you're not going to [follow a diet] for the rest of your life, don't do it at all."
She compares dieting to having a gorilla on your back. So much anxiety goes along with the pressure to lose weight that the emotional stress is often too much to bear and sets people up for failure.
Instead, Beal recommends balancing food groups and reducing calories.
"If you want to lose weight, focus on losing two pounds a week at most. Start by knowing what you are putting in your mouth and the effects it may have on your body."
If you are emotionally, psychologically and physically ready to lose weight and keep it off, Beal recommends avoiding these foods as you embark on your new healthy lifestyle:
1. Saturated and trans fats
Trans fats are non-essential fats.
"If a label shows that a food contains trans fat, put it down. There's no need to eat it," she says.
Trans fat raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Saturated fats should also be kept to a minimum with less than 3 to 5 grams per serving.
2. Drinking calories
Sweetened beverages provide a lot of calories for very little nutrients. It's best to keep sports drinks, sodas and fruit juices to a minimum. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sugary drinks have been linked to poor diet quality, weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes in adults.
3. Refined sugars
Refined sugar, better known as table sugar, is a common ingredient in most processed and restaurant food. When you consume large amounts of sugar, you raise your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and cardiovascular disease.
4. White carbohydrates
The so-called “white” carbohydrates are highly-processed foods that have been stripped of much of their nutrient value. These foods can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, causing spikes and crashes that can sabotage your weight loss goals and lead to health issues. Don't be fooled by white rice and potatoes. White rice has been stripped of its natural B vitamins, 60 percent of its iron and all of its fiber. Potatoes are the only white carbs with nutritional benefits, but they have a very high glycemic index, which means they turn into sugar quickly in your bloodstream.
5. High fructose corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup is another food that is totally unnatural. It is super sweet and super cheap to produce, which means it is used in mass-produced processed foods. This syrup interferes with the body's metabolism, slowing down the secretion of leptin in the body, which is a crucial hormone that tells you that you're full and to stop eating. It has been directly linked to obesity in the U.S. and is like an addictive drug.
Beal believes raising awareness and understanding which foods to stay away from and portion control will lead to successful long-term weight loss. She encourages her patients to embrace the 9-inch plate serving size concept. This means using a 9-inch plate for your meals instead of a typical 12-inch plate. Fill one quarter with protein, one half with two servings of vegetables or one veggie and one fruit, and one quarter with whole grains.
"You control your own success," she says. "Adopting healthier behaviors today will help delay, deter and reduce your risk of diseases like stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. It's never too late to make a difference."
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