Nutrition is an essential aspect of our overall health and well-being, no matter what our age. What we consume can make us gain weight, lose weight, or cause (or prevent) many health problems. I had lost 30 pounds during my cancer ordeal in 2017, and the weight started to creep back up. I realized that if I didn’t change my diet, I would probably gain the weight back and some. Scientific studies show a link between obesity and medical problems like cancer, high cholesterol, and diabetes. As I age, I want to be as healthy as I can and prevent any further medical problems – or recurrence of cancer.
After talking to my doctor about my concerns, I went to a dietician she had recommended. I told her I was following an intermittent fasting lifestyle, and the dietician was good with that as long as it’s working for me. In the hour I was with Marni, she listened to my concerns and gave me some great tips. She wants to help me make healthy choices during my “eating window.” She says my dietary habits need some “tweaking.”
Following are the words of advice that stand out for me. Keep in mind that each person’s situation will be different, and dietary recommendations given here are tailored to me, my situation and my overall goals. You may find some of these tidbits helpful, or you may want to see a dietician for your own personal advice.
#1. Consider the 80/20 Rule. For 80% of the make “healthy choices.” She said it’s okay sometimes (about 20% of the time) to eat or drink what we consider “fun foods.” We all need to satisfy our indulgences or treat ourselves once in a while. “Cheat days” are not encouraged. Instead, follow the 80/20 rule and you won’t feel guilty. FYI – 20% of equals 1½ days per week or about four meals in seven days. Read more about the 80-20 Rule.
#2. The 50/25/25 Plate. When filling up your plate, half should be vegetables, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter carbohydrates/starch. For some people, the carbohydrates can be reduced or eliminated. My doctor also told me to reduce the amount of carbs. For example, if I was having a piece of bread, cut it in half. Pasta, rice and other starches should also be consumed in smaller amounts. Here’s more info on the healthy portion plate.
#3. Focus on Healthy Choices and Lifestyle (Not Weight Loss). Psychologists, dieticians, and obesity specialists are realising that they have to stop focusing less on weight loss as this does not help people keep weight off in the end. The focus has to be more on healthy choices and lifestyle. Also, the “set point” theory states our body is going to try and get to a certain weight, no matter what we do. If we weigh less than our set point, then our body is going to do whatever it can do to get to that weight. Case in point, on the TV sensation, “The Biggest Loser,” the contestants may have lost a lot, and I mean A LOT of weight. When some of these people were followed up six years later, they had gained most of the weight back, except for one contestant. This is a testament to the set point theory, and it is related to metabolism. All we can do is focus on healthy nutrition choices and lifestyle, and go by what our body is telling us. If it feels healthier with the choices we are making, then we can say that’s a win! The dietician told me, “Things have their way of coming together.” For example, if you are a runner, you may eat differently to fulfill your caloric needs.
#4. Know Your Why for Wanting to Lose Weight. I had to think about the reason why I wanted to lose weight. Was it because society tells me I “should” weigh less? Is it societal pressures on me as a woman? Is it because I want to “look” better? Or is it because I want to be healthier? For me, I know there are many reasons why. And what I do know for sure is that I don’t want to be overweight or obese.
#5. Keep Unhealthy Junk Food Temptations Out of the House. If you don’t have those unhealthy choices around you all the time, it’s a lot easier to avoid them. Instead of opening up the cupboard to find that unhealthy snack, you would have to drive to the store to get it. That little deterrent can help a lot. Having a supportive environment can help support healthy choice goals.
#6. Listen to Your Body – Eat When Hungry, Stop When Full. Some people don’t know what hunger feels like. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. When you do it, make sure you eat until you feel full. Eating more of the “healthy choices” will help prevent you from snacking and eating things you consider unhealthy — more quality AND quantity.
#7. Eat 1-3 Servings of Fruit a Day. Fruits are a good source of vitamins and minerals, and play a role in preventing vitamin C and A deficiencies. Read more about why fruit is so good for us.
#8. Practice Mindful Eating. The first bite or sip of anything is the most satisfying and rewarding. We usually don’t need to eat much more than a bite or two to satisfy a craving. If what you desire is considered an unhealthy or “fun food” choice, try one or two bites, or a small amount. That’s probably all you need. We usually continue to eat something because we want that feeling to stay. But that’s usually not the case (e.g., potato chips and chocolate.)
#9. Follow the 2019 Canada Food Guide. There are lots of great tips and advice there. For example, water is recommended as the beverage of choice. Mindful eating is encouraged.
#10. Nuts and Legumes are Healthy Choices. These are considered good sources of protein and healthy fat.
#11. Dietary Fiber is Important. Beans, whole grains and brown rice are all good choices. Here’s the top 10 according to WebMD.
#12. End Your Meal by Brushing Your Teeth. I like to end my meal with something sweet or fresh-tasting as I don’t like the food after-taste. I used to chew gum after, but in the evenings that cuts into my “fasting window” time. I was in the habit of eating chocolate or something else that was sweet (even marshmallows!). Options would be to brush my teeth, chew gum for a bit, or have a mint. A breath mint spray may also work.
The dietician was pleased that I have found something that works for me (intermittent fasting) and she is going to help me tweak it. She says regimens like WW (Weight Watchers) works for some people, and there are other programs that can help with making healthier choices. A good friend of mine has lost 20 pounds on WW! We are all different and it’s good to have choices on what works for us and complements our lifestyles. What works for one person may not work for the next.
I will consider all these tips and see what works for me. I know there are plenty more tips and you may want to add some of your own in the comments below. The dietician wants to see me again in April, and she has registered me for the Well 4 U exercise and education program. There is also a Fit 4 U program this fall that she recommends I attend.
By the way, she said I could have a little bit of dark chocolate every day! 1-2 squares daily is okay – even more if my body says I need it. But as it turns out, I gave up chocolate for Lent. No chocolate for me until Easter!
Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW