Walden faculty members Dr. Grace Lasker and Dr. Jody Early explain how healthy eating and exercise produce better long-term results than crash diets.

Grace Lasker

Last week, Dr. Grace Lasker and Dr. Jody Early, two Walden University School of Health Sciences faculty members, guest blogged and shared their thoughts about eating right and staying healthy in “We Interrupt This Diet for an Important Message: Weighty Tips for 2013.” This week they continue to offer advice and share how some diets can do more harm than good and even lead to cardiovascular risks.

Eat to live, not live to eat!

Food should be about eating for your overall health and giving your body what it needs to sustain itself. Eating shouldn’t become a fixation or a set of rules that leads you to worry about “What’s on the list?” or “How many points is it?” or “Is this acceptable as part of diet x, y or z?” While those strategies may work in the short-run, restrictive eating practices usually lead to binge-eating and feelings of failure. Eating well is about balance as well as self-empowerment. Educate yourself about good nutrition, but don’t be duped. Although there are thousands of diet books on the market, the principles of healthy eating are not complex.

Jody Early

Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight does not require a complicated algorithm that you need an expert or product to decode for you. It’s simply figuring out the right balance between the calories you take in and the energy you let out. The eating to live mindset means making a lifelong commitment to stock your cupboards and refrigerator with healthy, nutrient-dense foods—and learning to like them. The less processed, flavor-enhanced food you eat, the more you’ll desire the good, healthy stuff. Eating also shouldn’t become a hobby—something to do when you’re bored, lonely, or depressed. It also shouldn’t be the center of your universe. In order to sustain healthy eating as a way of life, you must first examine what keeps you from eating healthy in the first place. What is your relationship with food? Are you eating to live, or living to eat? If you don’t figure that out first, you may never get off the dieting roller coaster.

“Crash” diets are called that for a reason.

We really wish we could tell you that overhauling your lifestyle and losing weight could happen overnight. But it doesn’t. It took years to put the weight on, and it’s going to take a while to take it off. If you want lasting results, it’s essential to overhaul your thinking and your behaviors—and that takes some time. That’s why New Year’s resolutions often don’t work. Those who make resolutions, approximately 40% of Americans, look forward to creating change in their lives, but because their expectations may be unrealistic, they get frustrated when they don’t see immediate results. It’s no wonder why 65% of those who start weight loss “diet” programs in January will quit by the month’s end. Diet plans and products that promise you quick weight loss without having to change anything about your daily habits, including your inactivity, will lead your metabolism to “crash” and may be doing more harm than you realize. Extremely low calorie diets or weeklong fasts may lead to a quick drop in a dress size, but these strategies will also drop your basal metabolic rate so that your body can do more with less. This means you will gain even more weight when you go off of the diet and resume eating more calories because your body has lowered its caloric set point. What you do to your metabolic set point in two weeks may take months—even years—to correct. Research has also shown that yo-yo dieting and deprivation diets can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of dehydration, weakened heart tissue, heart palpitations, and cardiac stress. So to avoid crashing, burning out and harming your body, keep weight-loss slow and steady and get moving!

Strive for adopting a lifestyle that promotes healthy decisions and a healthy body—not just about getting to that unrealistic size zero. It’s not going to happen immediately, nor should it. Your body wants to get back to its “happy place” over time, not overnight. Your job is to interrupt your brain telling you to lose weight “as fast as possible!” and replace that diet message with one empowering you to do this the right way and sustain change over time.

To support adopting a lifestyle that promotes healthy decisions and a healthy body, Walden’s College of Health Sciences is partnering again with the American Heart Association this February—American Heart Month—as a national sponsor of Go Red For Women. Visit www.waldenu.edu/hearthealth to register for the “Heart Smart: Live Heart Healthy” webinar featuring Dr. Erin Donnelly Michos from the Division of Cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, as well as other resources and activities to stay heart healthy.

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