Prescribing healthy eating on your path to fitness
If you’ve embarked on a running program to lose weight, you might not like the results after three months of hard work. ‘What is wrong with this picture?’ you may ask. It could be that you are eating more than before you started. Trips to the fridge for a slice of apple pie or making poor eating choices could cause you to swerve into the unhealthy lane of life’s highway.
For some, the disappointment of so much work without results will be discouraging enough to quit. Instead, you may need to brush up on your math skills because, if you burn more calories than you consume, your fat doesn’t stand a chance.
The problem could be the desire to reward oneself after a good run. Having too much of a good thing rarely works. Instead of losing a few kilograms, you might have lost only a few grams or even gained some. Sometimes overindulging happens when we are stressed or depressed.
Food is a necessity but choosing the right food is key. How do you stop spinning your wheels and change your diet?
Dr. Aly Lakhani, who practices internal medicine, offered valuable tips on changing your eating patterns and approach. I had the privilege to speak with Dr. Lakhani, who works at UHN Hospitals, including the Toronto Western Hospital.
“The way to a healthy lifestyle is through exercise and a healthy diet,” she said. “There are misconceptions as to what healthy or unhealthy eating is. A muffin sounds healthy but it, just like a fast-food hamburger bun, contains a lot of high-fructose corn syrup, which is an unhealthy substance that is found in all processed foods and makes us want to eat more.
With substances like high-fructose corn syrup found in the foods we consume, it can affect our moods or perhaps bring on the onset of diseases.” Dr. Lakhani explained, “Cardiovascular disease is becoming more and more common – it is a disease that is seen in times of plenty – times like ours.”
The message here is to follow a balanced diet including protein and complex carbohydrates.
“Our prehistoric ancestors ate mostly vegetables and didn’t have much cardiovascular disease,” noted Dr. Lakhani. “Now we have access to a lot of high fat and high calorie food that we tend to store as fat when we eat it. It is no wonder we have so much more cardiovascular disease.”
The path to a healthy lifestyle is eating more vegetables and getting good nutritional advice. Dr. Lakhani mentioned the Mediterranean diet published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It consists of mostly olive oil, fruits, nuts and vegetables, moderate intake of fish, poultry, wine with meals and low intake of red meat, processed foods and desserts. It tends to be better for the heart than a low-fat diet.
Healthy eating tips
Here is Dr. Lakhani’s ‘prescription’ for healthier eating for summer, when barbecues or family gatherings are common:
1. Make your sandwich open-faced. After a bite, put it down to slow your eating and help you feel satisfied. Dr. Lakhani, noted, “It takes twenty minutes for your brain to realize that your stomach is full. Eat slowly and your brain will feel full when your stomach is full – and you will probably eat less.”
2. Put down your fork and knife when you take a bite of food. You will develop a slower eating pattern and decrease your appetite. Dr. Lakhani points out, “Some of the time we feel hungry it is because we are thirsty. That said, the notion that we need to drink ‘eight glasses of water’ to maintain a healthy lifestyle is probably not true. What is true is that water is good for us and that we should drink plenty of it, especially in warm weather and when we are exercising.”
Dr. Lakhani’s recommends adequate sleep, proper hygiene and exercise. And don’t forget to hone up your elementary math skills!
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Christine Blanchette is a running/fitness and lifestyle writer who lives in B.C. She is an avid competitive runner.