Being healthy is always a challenge, especially for busy professionals like event planners. On top of preparing meals and saying no to post-event desserts, healthy eating is also a large industry that is full of contradicting information. To help us stay on top of our New Year’s goals and sort through some of that confusion, Chicago Planner Magazine talked to professional dietitian Carolyn Gordon about classic myths, recognizing fake health stories and the best way for each of us to be healthy.
What IS nutrition and how do we stay healthy?
Nutrition is the process of obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. As a dietitian, too often I see patients focused on a quick fix for weight loss instead of the best way to fuel their bodies. Optimal nutrition should be viewed as the food necessary to keep your body and brain functioning. I have been practicing in dietetics for 6 years and much of my practice has been in outpatient counseling. One of the most difficult questions I get asked is, “What is the best diet?” There is no one size fits all when it comes to diets and nutrition. It is important that your goals are tailored to your specific needs.
Health Food Myths
Myth: Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight
Truth: Carbohydrates alone cannot cause weight gain. Low carb diets such as Atkin’s or South Beach lead you to believe that the process of carbohydrates stimulating insulin production is what causes weight gain. The truth is that low carb diets are also calorie-restricted diets. No matter what foods you eat, if you cut 500 calories per day you will lose 1 pound per week. People who try low carb diets will lose a lot of weight initially because the body is burning through the storage form of energy (called glycogen). As a result of this process water is released and therefore the initial weight loss is more a shift in water and not a sign of true weight loss.
Myth: Skipping meals can help you lose weight
Truth: When a meal is skipped, your body will slow down its metabolism to compensate for the lack of food. At the next meal, you usually eat more causing a greater calorie intake than if you just had eaten the previous meal.
Myth: Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs
Truth: Egg shell color does not have anything to do with the quality, flavor or nutritive value of the egg. The egg shell color is strictly an indicator of the breed of hen.
Fake News About Health
How can people recognize a “fake news” article that may be talking about a new health discovery? (I.E. the eat more chocolate/drink more red wine articles.)
With the digital age, we have news at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can help us keep up to date on the latest health and nutrition claims and research. But it is important to be cautious about what you read because some of it may be misleading.
First and foremost, if it sounds too good to be true it is. Be wary of the claims about “superfoods.” There are many new foods such as kale, quinoa and other ancient grains that get a lot of media attention. These are foods that contain great nutrition and should be included in combination with other healthy foods, but there is not anything “super” about them. Ignore many of the nutritional claims you may see in advertisements and on food packaging. Some of them are true, including low sodium and its link to lowered blood pressure or high fiber and its link to lower cholesterol. However, claims that are product can help support a healthy immune system is something companies can make without the scrutiny of the FDA. At this point there are no strict guidelines for companies that put claims of all natural, low sugar, whole grains or real fruit on their products. The approach is to be become educated on reading nutrition facts labels and ingredients to best decipher healthy products at the grocery store.
Things You Should Stop Doing
Many people are well-intentioned when it comes to providing nutrition advice to their friends and family, however, what may work for one person is not necessarily the best for another. It is certainly alright to share your experience and how it has helped you, but I wish people would stop trying to push their ideas onto others. An individual really needs to talk with a dietitian to find out what is going to work best for them. There is no “quick fix” when it comes to losing weight. This process doesn’t automatically work right away. There is some trial and error before discovering the optimal nutrition plan for you but is well worth the time and effort. If weight loss is a goal of yours in the New Year, I definitely applaud you for taking that significant step toward better health. The other thing I would note is that while it will be hard work with ups and downs, keep striving towards your goals and you will succeed.
Is there really that much of a difference between 1 person’s bodily needs to another? How much variance is there?
There is a whole range of different body types and metabolisms. Consequently, bodily needs are variable. We are not able to know the exact variance without specialized equipment. The most important thing to do if you are interested in the knowing your optimal nutrition needs is to make an appointment to discuss with a dietitian. This person is trained to guide you in your path to improving your health.
Is nutrition more important than exercise?
A combination of a healthy diet and physical activity are both needed to be successful for weight loss. Adding daily exercise will help you to achieve your weight loss goals faster than through diet alone. Even if your goal isn’t to lose weight, you can still benefit from healthy nutrition and daily exercise. Cardio exercise will help to keep your heart strong and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent osteoporosis and muscle wasting as you age. Making healthy choices will help to keep your risk for health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes low even with a family history of these issues.
What is the best way for people learn more about their bodies and nutritional needs?
The best way for someone to learn about their bodies and nutritional needs is to first see a doctor and get lab work done to ensure there are no underlying health issues. Afterwards, seeing a dietitian for a tailored health plan is the next important step to living a healthier lifestyle in the New Year.
Interested in working with Carolyn? You can reach out to her on LinkedIn.