Despite popular belief, there is no secret to nutrition.
Sometimes simple observations offer the most direction as to what you should be focusing on. If you simply ‘go with the flow’ and ignore any point of focus, you find yourself doing what everyone else is doing. And in this case, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance with nutrition gives some startling stats and health trends of chronic preventable diseases skyrocketing.
The staggering statistics
Most Americans over-consume fat and sugar, along with foods that are high in sodium.
People are over-eating prepackaged and convenience foods. Overall vegetable intake has taken a huge hit. In terms of macronutrients, you may not realize how little protein you’re consuming. Protein not only provides essential building blocks, but plays a major role in satiety, blood sugar balance, and increasing your metabolism through the thermic effect of food.
If all you did was double your vegetable intake and cut your sugar intake by half, you would be much better off. The reduction in calories alone would provide long-term benefits against chronic preventable diseases and obesity.1
It’s no secret that the way the majority of Americans eat is not a healthy template. According to the CDC, over 70 million adult Americans have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The way we’re eating also doubles the risk of heart disease. In addition, over 22 million Americans have diabetes—that’s over 10 percent of the adult population. It’s currently estimated that in the next 30 years, over one-third of the population will be diabetic.
To add to these staggering statistics, almost 80 million adult Americans are obese.2
The problem with diets
It’s also no secret that most of us hate dieting, and for good reason. Not only is there mental anguish, cravings, and unpleasant palate experiences, but the majority of diets don’t work.
Traci Mann, PhD, social psychologist, undertook the task of analyzing 31 long-term studies that focused on dieting and long-term results. One study she reviewed followed obese patients for short and long periods of time. The group that was followed for 2 years or less showed that 23 percent gained the weight back and then some.
For those who were followed for 2 years or more, 83 percent gained more weight back than had been lost.3
The key is not that the diet didn’t work, but that adherence to the diet really didn’t remain. A short-term extreme diet may not be a bad way to start but we need to plan for the next 6-12 months after the 21-day challenge ends. When we fall back into the habits we were in previously it’s no surprise we get the same results.
So should we focus on as a sustainable long-term goal?
Simple, long term success
Precision Nutrition has three general guidelines that can be applied as a filter to help keep you head in the right direction and ensure long-term success.
- Healthy body composition. Many of us care about weight, but realize that the number on the scale is just one data point. Having an estimate of your body fat percentage will give you a more accurate assessment of your ‘lean mass’. Weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily equate to fat loss. The difference is that fat loss will take more time.
- Maintains or improves health. You should steer clear of a diet that drastically spikes your blood sugar, increases cholesterol, increases blood pressure, or increases body fat percentage. On the flip side, you don’t want drastic drops in the opposite direction, either. Extreme weight loss is not sustainable and plateau phase usually brings with it a lot of feelings of guilt and frustration on the part of the dieter.
- Maintains or improves physical performance. The maintenance of performance would rule out many fad diets. Not many people can maintain their weightlifting, gymnastics, and met-cons while cutting to 500 calories per day. In order to be physically well-rounded, health and body composition must become a priority alongside performance.4
If one of the three is out of balance or not maintained it will affect the other two eventually as well. The secret is consistency and sustainability.
Frank Bodnar is 2010 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic with a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and is certified in sports nutrition through the International Society of Sports Nutrition (CISSN). He practices in Racine, WI where he lives with his wife and two children. He is passionate about using nutrition to improve patient outcomes, and enhance lifestyle changes through counseling and education. He can contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org, 262-930-2188, follow him on twitter @drfrankbodnar or connect on LinkedIn.