Carbohydrate Nutrition

Nutrition as a science has been studied for a relatively short time compared to many other scientific disciplines. Consequently, there are frequent changes to the rules resulting in contradicting information. 'Good Carbs' and 'Bad Carbs' are examples of this. Even though nutritional study is in its infancy, understanding the basics and applying them to weight loss and health is relatively simple. To run efficiently at any time the human body needs three basic nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. Vitamins, minerals and fiber are also essential, and are all present when foods containing the three basic nutrients are consumed.

Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates

The most important nutrient for weight loss and basic everyday activities is the Carbohydrate, which is the basic required fuel source for the body. In other words, for the body to simply move and the brain to think, a basic form of carbohydrate - sugar in the form of glucose - is the fuel to do the job. Fuel? Yes, fuel. Food is simply a tasty fuel for the body. Everything we eat is broken down by the digestive system to extract these basic nutrients and make the sugar available for fuel, while making the other nutrients available for the parts of the body that need them.

To avoid spikes in fullness and hunger in order to lose weight and maintain optimal health, complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads, cereals and pastas should be consumed most often. When complex carbohydrates are eaten, the body takes longer and uses more energy to digest them in order to get to the basic component, sugar. Eating these carbohydrates will allow the body to feel full longer, and avoid the intense hunger that leads to overeating and poor food choices.

Be sure to read the ingredients list on store bought items to ensure that the first ingredient is "whole wheat" or "whole grain". Unfortunately, "Enriched Wheat Flour" does not contain whole grain. It is simply wheat flour with the whole grain taken out, and the vitamins put back in.

Alternately, when simple carbohydrates like sweetened breakfast cereals or sugary sodas are consumed, the body can use the sugar immediately without much work, and get a big boost in energy, followed by a correspondingly big drop in energy when the sugar is used up. Intense hunger is usually the end result, which is not good for weight loss.

Its all about Healthy Choices

Unless certain diseases are present, the body prefers a mixture of the three main nutrients most closely resembling 60% Carbohydrates, 20% Protein and 20% Fat, with the majority of the carbohydrates being whole grain. This daily mixture of nutrients allows the body to get everything it needs to run efficiently, and run after kids and pets (in other words, exercise).

Eating complex carbohydrates most often throughout the day, especially when combined with some protein and/or fat is the first and biggest step toward a healthy lifestyle. Eating a piece of whole wheat toast with a little natural peanut butter, for example will last the body longer and make it feel more full than consuming a croissant with butter. Substituting half the noodles used in a spaghetti dinner with whole wheat noddles will gradually introduce complex carbohydrates into the daily lifestyle of a family.

These little changes will lead to more healthy changes, and a healthier lifestyle, which in turn will build the foundation for long term weight loss.

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Food Addiction

You may not even realize you have a food addiction. Maybe you consider yourself as someone who has a terrible sweet tooth or who really enjoys food. But if you think about food often throughout the day, experience a physical craving for certain types of foods or spend half the time eating a well-balanced diet and the other half binging on less healthy choices, odds are you are a food addict.

Habits of a Food Addict

1.Soothe Emotions. Typically a food addict will push down unpleasant feelings with food. Not just any food, but comfort foods. Ever have a fight with your mom or spouse and immediately hit the freezer for the container of ice cream? You try to relive the feelings without actually dealing with the problem.

The Problem: Food is a temporary fix. When it wears off you will feel worse and the original problem remains.

The Answer: Tackle problems head-on. Don’t let thoughts fester and eat away at you. Deal with your emotions and your relationship problems as they occur so you won’t feel the need to use food as your faithful friend.

2.Fixation With Food You think about food all the time and you are always planning your next sugar high.

The Problem: You’ve designed your lifestyle around food and make it one of your top priorities.

The Answer: Change your lifestyle to include activities that don’t revolve around food. Exercise, for example, is one way to get a similar high as you would from eating sugar.

3.Secret Binges. Food addicts often hide food or only binge when they are alone.

The Problem: You’re only fooling yourself. You won’t win the weight loss battle if you continually sabotage yourself. It’s faulty thinking.

The Answer: Eat scheduled meals at the dinner table. Don’t keep food in your car, desk or nightstand. Lock your purse in the trunk when you go out so drive-thru restaurants aren’t’ accessible/ Find someone who will hold you accountable.

4.Eat Until the Food is Gone. Some people were raised to clean their plates and they have a hard time breaking the habit. You lack control to stoop eating.

The Problem: Even healthy foods, when consumed in large quantities, pack a lot more calories than your body needs.

The Answer: Put your health first. Prepare meals plans and only eat what is on your plate. Measure foods out ahead of time into single serving packages.

5.Feeling Guilty. Food addicts tend to feel guilty after indulging in too much of the wrong foods.

The Problem: It can turn into a vicious cycle of feeling bad, overeating, feeling guilty and eating some more.

The Answer: Stop the cycle. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked in by the guilt. Forgive yourself, ask for support and get right back on your program.

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There certainly can be genetic, medical or other reasons people become overweight or severely obese. The reason for many people, however, is having bad habits that contribute to their weight problem.

Analyze Bad Habits that Contribute to Weight Gain

Closely analyze your lifestyle to determine if your bad habits are the cause of your weight gain. Notice your activity level. Do you purposely avoid exercise because you hate to sweat? Do you have trouble motivating yourself to get to the gym? Do you spend 20 minutes driving up and down parking lot aisles to get the closest spot so you don't have to walk? Start logging your exercise online or in a notebook to see exactly how much exercise you are getting in each week. Aim for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times per week.

Next take a look at your bad food habits. Do you skip meals in an attempt to save calories? Do you binge over large portions of food? Do you eat mindlessly in front of the TV or computer screen? Do you frequently snack before bed? Do you eat out of impulse or for emotional reasons? Track your daily calories long enough to get an average. Look for destructive eating patterns and conscientiously work at eating to fuel your body for energy.

Identify Bad Habits to Lose Weight

If any of these sound familiar there is hope. The good thing about these bad habits is that they are easy to change. Identifying bad habits and owning up to them is the first step towards creating positive change and losing weight. Journal about the bad habits that cause you to gain weight, be unhappy and unhealthy. Then choose a bad habit that you will work on changing. Write out a goal statement of exactly how you will break the habit. It's best to choose a new, healthier habit to replace the old behavior.

If you normally hit the vending machine to cure your mid-afternoon slump, for example, allow yourself a different type of energizer. Take a brisk walk, do some light stretching, have a cup of tea, have a healthy snack on hand, etc. It doesn't important what you choose to do as long as it is a healthy distraction.

Eliminating a bad habit and creating a health new routine takes time, but permanent change can and will take place with diligence and commitment, The final step is to return to your goal bad habit list and write out another goal statement for the next habit you want to change. The more bad habits you can eliminate, the easier it will be to lose weight.

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The holidays get the best of us. You can be plugging along on your diet and be a steady losing streak, up in the holidays hit and your willpower dissolves. You don't have to give up your favorite party foods if you boost your exercise during the holidays, though.

Counting Calories during the Holidays

The reality is that all of your calories during the holidays count. So it's important to count them in your daily totals. Don't give up tracking your daily calories for fear of seeing an astronomically high daily total. Instead, use it to maintain a little control over your diet and see how much harder you need to work to burn excess calories.

Use a diet diary or an online tracking system, like the one available on Sparkpeople, to track every calorie you put in your mouth during the holidays. Just seeing that daily total can be a huge eye-opener. If the high end of your range is 1,600, then seeing 3500 calories for your daily total shows how off-track you are and puts you back on the right track for losing weight or maintaining during the holidays.

Boost Exercise to Burn Excess Calories

You have attended a few parties and family functions this holiday season and have eaten more than your daily allowance of calories here and there. Now what? Instead of telling yourself that you blew your diet and you will never lose the weight, you need to commit to yourself and your weight loss goals. Make a pact with yourself to boost your exercise program to help burn off the extra calories you've taken in.

You don't have to avoid all of the foods that you love during the holidays. It is important, however, to watch your portion sizes and limit the amount of times you go over your daily calorie goals. A good rule of thumb is to only take a few bites of the things you love and leave the rest, while stocking your plate with healthier choices.

Ways to Boost Exercise during the Holidays

Boost your exercise during the holidays and you may be able to eat a little more of your favorite foods.

You can boost your exercise with:
  • Winter hikes
  • Sledding
  • Ice skating
  • Bowling
  • Swimming
  • Indoor golf
  • Increasing the intensity of your workouts
  • Bonus workouts at the gym
  • After dinner walks
  • Training for a spring marathon
Whatever you do, include exercise as part of your family's holiday traditions and make the New Year about achieving an active lifestyle.

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Eat More Often

While eating three balanced meals is a great way to lose weight, the body sometimes responds better to eating healthy foods more frequently throughout the day. One way to boost metabolism, burn more calories, and decrease hunger is by eating mini-meals.

What Are Mini-Meals
Mini-meals are smaller meals eaten frequently throughout the day. Instead of having three large meals during the day, meals are broken down into five to six smaller meals spaced three to four hours apart throughout the day. If a dieter is one who counts calories, the calorie total for each mini-meal is calculated by taking the total daily allowable calories and dividing by how many mini-meals will be eaten. For example, if a dieter's plan calls for 1800 calories per day, and six mini-meals are eaten per day, the total calories for each mini-meal should be approximately 300 calories.

How Mini-Meals Aid Weight Loss
If too much time goes by between meals or no snacks are eaten, it's easy to overeat at the next meal. Mini-meals keep hunger at bay because meals are eaten every three to four hours, so there's no time to get hungry. Mini-meals boost metabolism by making the body consistently burn calories digesting and absorbing food. Since mini-meals consist of fewer calories than larger meals, eating mini-meals is a great way to control portions.

Example Mini-Meals
Each mini-meal should contain a protein, a healthy carbohydrate, and a small amount of fat. A few examples of balanced mini-meals are:
  • Turkey on whole grain bread
  • Chicken roll-ups with low-fat cheese
  • Mixed green salad with added veggies and water-packed tuna
Tips to Losing Weight with Mini-Meals

  1. Keep track of calories until eating mini-meals becomes second nature. Eating mini-meals makes it easy to eat more total calories throughout the day. Without counting calories at first, overeating could be a problem.
  2. Make sure a mini-meal consists of healthy foods instead of processed foods.
  3. For some, eating mini-meals makes them feel like they're overeating because they're eating so often. Be patient and give the body enough time to get accustomed to a new way of eating.
While eating mini-meals aids weight loss, cardio exercise, strength training, and getting enough sleep are also important when trying to lose weight.

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Boost Metabolism

Cheating on your diet is usually considered a bad thing. Scheduling a cheat day, however, can have a positive effect on your diet. The trick to to stay in control of when and how you cheat.

A Diet Cheat Day Boosts Metabolism and Prevents Plateaus

One reason why a diet cheat day is helpful is that it boosts your metabolism. You body will continually adjust to the amount of calories you consume. So if you cut back 250 calories per day, you will lose weight at first, but then as your body adjusts, it takes more to keep your metabolism fueled. Continuing to cut calories can only work for so long before you reach the lowest amount of calories you should consume for your height and weight and then your weight loss hits a plateau. A diet cheat day works to boost your metabolism and keep your body guessing. Just raising your calorie consumption one day per week can kick your metabolism up and prevent a plateau.

Avoid Feelings of Guilt and Deprivation by Scheduling a Diet Cheat Day

Another reason dieters often fall off the wagon and return to old habits is that they feel deprived when following a restrictive diet. Never being able to eat their favorite comfort foods again is unrealistic. People become obsessed with thoughts of the foods they wish they could eat that are now off limits. A scheduled cheat day removes the feelings of guilt and deprivation though. It allows dieters to follow a healthy meal plan most of the time and take one day a week to relax and eat the high fat, high calorie foods they miss. While most dieters can't stand the thought of never eating junk food again, they can follow a strict diet knowing they can have a treat in a few more days.

The psychological benefit of a diet cheat day is huge and it allows people to stick with their diet much longer than if they never cheated on their diet.

Restore Leptin Levels with a Diet Cheat Day

Keeping your hormones in check is essential for weight loss success. Leptin is the hormone that signals the brain when you are full. Low leptin levels make it difficult to lose weight because you are always hungry and never feel satisfied. Building a cheat day into your diet works to restore leptin levels and improve your weight loss results.

Potential Dangers of a Diet Cheat Day

Dieters tend to get caught up in all-or-nothing thinking. Making poor food choices can tempt people into returning to their old eating habits that led to weight gain in the past. Dieters can also be tempted to skip their workout on their cheat days. Poor habits, such as overdoing it on the calories and skipping exercise, can lead dieters down a slippery slope. Its important to schedule your cheat days and stick to them. Remember to stick with the healthy habits you adopt for a lifestyle that promotes weight loss.

References:
McQuillan, Susan. "It's OK to Cheat on Your Diet," Psychology Today. March 22, 2009.
Zelman, Kathleen. "How to Cheat on Your Diet and Still Lose Weight," WebMD. October 15, 2009.

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