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Tips on Improving your Diet

Tips on Improving your Diet

The great majority of people have thought about improving their diet by eliminating unhealthy foods from their repertoire. It’s even more likely that the thought of eating healthier begins to permeate our minds right around December as the year closes, where indulging in delicious, festive, and unhealthy foods is the norm.

There are many reasons why you should eat better. Some people make this decision after a certain diagnosis. For example, lowering cholesterol, decreasing fat intake, and reducing sugar consumption helps those with hypercholesterolemia, hepatic steatosis, and diabetes, respectively.  

“Obesity and overweight are considered to be the fifth cause of death all over the world. In 2008, the number of overweight adults was 1.5 billion, of which 200 million of them were obese men and nearly 300 million were obese women.

Regaining nearly half of the lost weight after one year is usual and most of dieters acquire their first weight within three to five years. Experts believe that if a person sustains even 5-10% of his / her weight loss, it is considered a great achievement. Actually weight maintenance is defined as weight change up to 3% of the actual body weight after weight loss.

After fat loss, thermogenesis reduces, and results in resistance to lose fat. A drop in hormones levels, such as leptin and thyroid hormones, causes the risk of increased energy intake after weight loss. In this period, adipocytes face cellular stress and consequently renewed fat storage.

The determinants of the ability of weight maintenance are genetic, behavior, and environment. Among them, diet is the most important factor that influences the stability of body weight. Some studies have shown that calorie intake less than the requirement and changing the calorie distribution from macronutrients may have a role to play. Also eating behaviors such as higher dietary disinhibition and binge eating result in weight relapse.”1

“Substantial proportions of the population in many parts of the world are already overweight or obese, and therefore, efforts to reduce obesity prevalence must not only focus on the prevention of obesity in those who have not yet become obese (primary prevention), but also on prevention of further weight gain and promotion of weight loss in those who are already obese before they develop the complications of obesity (secondary prevention). In contrast to the primary prevention of obesity, where only limited evidence exists to support many of the potential interventions, substantial data exist on efficacious approaches to treatment. The principal setting for weight loss is likely to be in physician offices or other health care settings.”2

While nobody really doubts the benefits of eating healthier, it is easier said than done. However, eliminating certain foods shouldn’t be considered such a huge sacrifice when you think about all the healthy but delicious options out there. It’s about giving up specific foods and replacing them with more beneficial alternatives. With the dozens if not hundreds of diet fads constantly coming out and promising miracles, it can be overwhelming when deciding how to start off. To put your thoughts cohesively, ask yourself, ‘Why am I dieting? Is it to lose a few pounds? Is it because of a medical condition? Am I just trying to look the best I can?’

“Individuals regulate their eating behavior for various reasons, not only for their health but also to get slim for beauty, and to obey parent’s opinion etc. Motivation is important to modify behavior. It is reported that people whose motivation is intrinsic have greater interest and confidence levels, generate good results, and maintain the behavior, compared with those who are merely externally controlled for an action. The different behavioral regulatory styles are based on three types of motivation: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, and amotivation. It was said that intrinsic motivation is based in the organismic needs to be competent and self-determining. It is the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extent and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn spontaneously. People behave in absence of material reward and external evaluation. On the other hand external motivation pertains to a variety of behaviors that are controlled by external factors like material rewards, and external evaluation. Amotivation refers to the situation like person fail to the meaning to behave.”3

“Human eating behavior is regulated by multiple motives. Physiological factors like hunger determine, without question, our eating behavior. […] However, food has an incentive value beyond satiation since the pleasure of eating is also an important motivation for eating and food choice. Likewise, positive or negative emotional states or external food cues such as the smell or appearance of food items can trigger eating and food choice. Furthermore, social reasons can prompt eating behavior and food choice since eating together is sociable and often an integral part of social occasions. Unobtrusive real-life observations with electronically activated recorders showed that the amount of substantive conversations was significantly related to the time spent eating. In a similar vein, eating and food choice can also be driven by compliance to social norms and expectations of other people Thus, in addition to hunger, there are other compelling reasons for us to eat and to choose certain food items.”4

Here are a few pointers to guide you to a healthier dietary path, regardless of your objective:

Set smaller goals

One of the main problems we face is focusing too much on the endgame benefits of a healthy diet without realizing that we need to enter a phase of adaptation before being able to reach a certain goal. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep an eye on the bigger picture. On the contrary, it’s important to think big and stay positive, but it’s even more important to set smaller, short-term goals that are reachable to keep us motivated.

Eat slowly

The rush of modern life can get in the way, but there is absolutely no excuse for not eating at a slower pace than we do in today’s world. You may feel you just don’t have the time to slow down your chewing because you can’t be late to work again. However, studies have shown that this is baloney. Our speed of eating is most likely due to stress or anxiety.

“Appetite, satiation and satiety are primed, in part, by cognitive and gastro-intestinal processes even before food enters the mouth. Once food enters the mouth it is processed through mastication to increase its surface area to volume ratio to facilitate swallowing and aid indigestion efficiency. Chewing provides motor feedback to the brain related to mechanical effort reflecting food texture and it also exposes food particles to sensory receptors for the detection of flavor (taste and smell). While the chewing of food is an integral element of ingestion and digestion of food, it is unclear to what extent chewing and oro-sensory feedback influence satiation or satiety and impact on food intake. This possible effect of chewing on food intake could indeed be potentially relevant regarding the increasing burden of overweight and obesity worldwide.

Foods and beverages that can be consumed quickly are associated with overconsumption since the speed of eating bypasses the usual ‘oral metering’ which is necessary for the full expression of satiation and satiety. This is attributed to insufficient mastication and/or to reduced levels of oro-sensory signaling during eating, leading to limited cephalic-phase responses and delayed onset of satiety.”5

It takes time for your brain to register a full stomach. Eating slowly compensates this latency by allowing your body the necessary time to tell you to stop eating. When you eat at a fast pace, you also tend to consume more than you should. Try it. Next time you have a meal, chew your food until it is completely mashed, almost liquid. I guarantee you will feel fuller with less food.

Reward yourself

Eating healthy should not mean never eating the foods you most enjoy, unless your health really depends on it. Believing that you will never get to enjoy your favorite food again only discourages your progress. A healthy diet is about getting to know alternatives and having more control over what you consume. So, if you are establishing a healthier eating habit, make sure to set a day or two to eat one of the foods you really enjoy. Just practice moderation for those ‘sinful’ times. Bingeing will only set you back.

“As expected, a healthy, well-balanced diet contains naturally occurring sugars, because monosaccharides such as fructose and disaccharides such as sucrose and lactose are integral components of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and many grains. In addition, sugars add desirable sensory effects to many foods, and a sweet taste promotes enjoyment of meals and snacks. In fact, when sugars are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as sugar-sweetened dairy products like flavored milk and yogurt and sugar-sweetened cereals, the quality of children’s and adolescents’ diets improves, and in the case of flavored milks, no adverse effects on weight status were found. However, deleterious health effects may occur when sugars are consumed in large amounts”6

Find substitutes you actually enjoy

Providing yourself nutrition does not equate to avoiding everything you enjoy, and it certainly doesn’t mean everything will taste bad now. There are endless delicious and healthy options, you just need to give them a chance. The culinary world is replete with flavors, colors, and textures. For example, instead of potato chips, you can make yourself a health and delicious alternative by using kale. That’s right, kale. Just cut the leaves in small chip size pieces, drizzle just a tad of olive oil, and sprinkle a little bit of salt. Pop them in the microwave on high for 5 minutes and they’re ready. This is just one example, almost everything can be substituted with something else.

Share your experience

One of the best ways to stay motivated and to keep track of your progress is to share with other people what you have learned and what difficulties you had to face. Finding people who are really interested in the path you are taking sounds complicated, but lots of people have thought about doing what you are doing. they just lack the motivation or the know-how. Conversing with you will let them know how it can be done. Also, the online world has kept us close to other people and removes geographical barriers. You can write articles about your experiences or upload videos.

“A great deal of interest surrounds the question of what dietary changes may be most effective in weight loss and maintenance efforts. […] All of these dietary components contribute to a reduction of total daily kcal intake. Fruits and vegetables, an important component of healthy weight loss programs provide few calories, but considerable amounts of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This study systematically looked at an at-risk, diverse population, and found interesting race and gender effects. This needs to be further researched so that tailored approaches to diet can be established based on demographic and self-reported food preferences. Further research examining dietary components with current self-reported food preferences might further clarify how individuals maximize weight loss over time.”7

“Studies of satiety have shown that some fruit and vegetables enhance satiety and reduce hunger. As yet, systematic studies designed to compare the effects on satiety of a range of fruit and vegetables in different amounts and forms have not been conducted. Such studies could help to clarify the relative roles of the energy density and the water, fiber and carbohydrate content of fruit and vegetables.

Studies of satiation show that the addition of vegetables to mixed dishes to lower their energy density is associated with a spontaneous reduction in ad lib energy intake. This effect is seen even when participants consume diets low in energy density over the course of several days. Despite this reduction in energy intake, participants do not report an increase in hunger. These studies show that a reduction in the energy density of the diet by the addition of fruits and vegetables, independent of changes in fat content, is associated with decreased energy intake.”8

Regardless of your reason to eat healthier, you have made an awesome decision. So, remember to be patient and begin slowly, while always looking for new alternatives to your favorite foods. Document your experience and share it so that you are never short of motivation.

 

References:

(1) Soeliman, F. A., & Azadbakht, L. (2014). Weight loss maintenance: A review on dietary related strategies. Journal of research in medical sciences: the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(3), 268. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061651/

(2) Swinburn, B. A., Caterson, I., Seidell, J. C., & James, W. P. T. (2004). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity. Public health nutrition, 7(1a), 123-146. Available online at https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/public_health_nut3.pdf

(3) Kato, Y., Iwanaga, M., Roth, R., Hamasaki, T., & Greimel, E. (2013). Psychometric validation of the motivation for healthy eating scale (MHES). Psychology, 4(02), 136. Available online at https://file.scirp.org/pdf/PSYCH_2013022817150876.pdf

(4) Renner, B., Sproesser, G., Strohbach, S., & Schupp, H. T. (2012). Why we eat what we eat. The Eating Motivation Survey (TEMS). Appetite, 59(1), 117-128. Available online at https://kops.uni-konstanz.de/bitstream/handle/123456789/19529/Renner_195291.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

(5) Miquel-Kergoat, S., Azais-Braesco, V., Burton-Freeman, B., & Hetherington, M. M. (2015). Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & behavior, 151, 88-96. Available online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938415300317

(6) Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands, M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., … & Wylie-Rosett, J. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(11), 1011-1020. Available online at https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/circulationaha.109.192627

(7) Champagne, C. M., Broyles, S. T., Moran, L. D., Cash, K. C., Levy, E. J., Lin, P. H., … & Loria, C. (2011). Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance trial. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(12), 1826-1835. Available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3225890/

(8) Tohill, B. C., & Joint, F. A. O. (2005). Dietary intake of fruit and vegetables and management of body weight [electronic resource]. Available online at https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/f&v_weight_management.pdf

 

Robert Velasquez
16 July, 2019

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