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#WeAreWhatWeEat

This is arguably one of the more controversial areas in society and frankly in medicine. That said, there are some pretty good guidelines as to how much we should be eating, things we should be eating, and what we should be avoiding.  This topic is near and dear to me – at my sedentary heaviest, I weighed 240 pounds and wore size 40 pant.  If you know men’s sizes, this starting to get into specialty Big & Tall sections.  Weight loss, exercise, and battles with healthy living and lifestyle change is something I know well; it remains one of the most important interventions for me.

 

When it comes to how much we should be eating, the back of most food packages (and US Dietary Guidelines for that matter) would have you believe that 2000 calories are a daily standard. However, this doesn't fit everyone and frankly, is too much for most people.  Recommendations for minimum calories that women should not be less 1200 to 1500 calories a day. So, what happens between 500 to 2000 calories range? Unless a woman is particularly active, chances are she will find these are too many calories in a day and leads to weight gain.

Similarly for men, a 2000 calorie a day diet is a decent benchmark for someone not very physically active or looking to simply maintain their weight. For the CrossFit competitors and Olympic hopefuls out there, you probably need more calories than this. For the rest of us though, women should look to stay between 1400 to 1800 calories depending on current body weight and height, a day and men between 1700 and 2000 depending on the same.  As in all things, listen to your body.  If you are gaining weight, then you need fewer calories and if you are losing it, you need more. 

Here is an excellent take on this confusing situation by US News & World Report:

So who actually needs 2,000 calories per day (or more)?

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2016-06-14/who-actually-           needs-a-2-000-calorie-diet

What would a conversation about diet be without discussing weight loss? Generally, the sweet spot for weight loss is reducing your calorie intake by 100-200 calories daily. It's a marathon, not a race. For people who go on crash diets, it's rarely healthy and rarely sustainable, so a smaller reduction in calories and increase in exercise over time is the best way to get it off and keep it off. Working against you is a sophisticated metabolism that slows down we're not properly fueled and the best strategy patience.   How do you keep good track of what it is that you're eating? Well thankfully, there are several apps for this. One of the most common free ones out there is MyFitnessPal    (https://www.myfitnesspal.com/welcome/learn_more), available for both Android and iPhone. It has a database of thousands of meals and recipes, and you can always make your own. Apps like this will help you get a better understanding of how many calories you're taking in in a day because unless you are diligently reading every package, most people have some rough idea, but frequently underestimate the number of calories they consume in a day.

And how about eating out?  This is a bit tricky.  The short answer is to go sparingly.  The reason it is so delicious is because of butter, sugar, and oil in quantities that you typically wouldn't use at home. That pizza you ordered?  Calorie bomb: 2960 calories for a whole medium pizza at Dominos.  Banana nut loaf at Starbucks?  Atomic calorie bomb: 420 per slice.   If you were feeling a little hungry and swung into Starbucks, ordered a grande caramel Frappuccino, and a slice of banana bread, you would consume 800 calories in one meal!  One you’d probably forget about in a few hours.  Eating out, like most dietary indiscretions is best saved for special occasions or the end of the week.  

And what of carbs and refined sugars? There is truth behind this one. One of the best and most studied diets that have been shown to promote heart health, brain health, lower cholesterol, and general well-being is what's called the Mediterranean diet. This is a diet that incorporates fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, nuts and legumes, and lean pieces of meat while limiting grains. An example of a typical meal would be a small side of lentils, a salad, salmon, and some fresh fruit for dessert.

Calories are still king in maintaining weight but, this particular diet is championed by the American Heart Association and US Dietary Guidelines. Carbs are not out of the question but should be thoughtful and based on whole grains. So, white bread, white pasta, and breakfast cereals or pastries should be saved for special occasions. 

For more info, check out:  https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/mediterranean-diet

Author
Dr. Jon Doctor, Entrepreneur, Founder of Aveo Wellness

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