“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” – Margaret Thatcher
“One swallow does not a summer make.” – Aristotle
“Fed Up!” read the cover of Newsweek, which went on to ask, “Is there anything left we can eat?” No area of health has been more confusing and misunderstood than diet and nutrition, especially as related to cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. The message is everywhere. Good Morning America is featuring weight-loss tips every day this month. AOL tells its subscribers via e-mail that it’s “Time to lose your spare tire.” Magazines lining grocery aisles exhort you to “Lose 10 pounds this month!”
According to US News, Americans spend more than $33 million a year on diet books, foods, programs, gadgets and DVDs in the hopes of losing weight. Yet, about two thirds of the American population remains overweight. Some 30 percent are obese and half of them are dieting. So, it’s become crystal clear that dieting does not work! The solution is simple: stop obsessing about every morsel you put in your mouth.
Most people think that eating properly means cutting out everything they love, and thus feeling deprived and dissatisfied. But the facts are that eating healthily and reducing weight does not have to involve pain and sacrifice. In all likelihood, many of your favorite foods are healthy, and many of your favorite recipes can be modified easily to become healthy. Proper eating requires only a few simple adjustments.
You need follow only one rule and keep one commitment. The rule: cut down the fat by making simple substitutions. This decreases not only cholesterol levels but also the number of calories. The commitment: Set aside your preconceived notions about food and become a thoughtful eater. Being a thoughtful eater mans thinking clearly and objectively about the food you eat; making adjustments and substitutions more knowledgeably and comfortably; experimenting and learning what works best for you; introducing changes over time rather than abruptly; AND, allowing for slips. Being a thoughtful eater also means becoming interested in learning relevant information about food and health.
Below are some suggestions for dietary changes. These are meant as general guidelines. You may want to adjust some or make other changes in your own eating plan.
l. Use skim or low-fat milk and cheese and nonfat yogurt in place of whole mile and regular cheese, butter of ice cream.
2. Eat more fish and chicken (with the skin removed) and complex carbohydrates such as pasta, brown rice and whole-grain bread. Eat lean cuts of mean with the fat trimmed, and in smaller (e.g. 4-ounce) portions.
3. Use egg whites and/or egg substitutes instead of egg yolks.
4. Avoid high-cholesterol foods such as liver, kidney, brain and sweetbreads.
5. Cut back on processed meats such as sausage, bologna, corned beef, pastrami, salami and hot dogs. Try chicken or turkey breasts with mustard instead of butter and mayo.
6. Adopt healthier methods of cooking: boil, stream, broil, roast or bake instead of frying.
7. Choose salad dressings and sauces made with olive oil and soy and avoid saturated oils. Flavor your meals with herbs and seasonings instead of butter and fatty sauces.
Lastly, by making food label evaluations a routine part of your shopping, you will become more knowledgeable and conscious about food and naturally more aware of the amount of fat you eat. Remember: compulsive eating leads to guilt, more compulsive eating and ultimately to defeat and resignation. Stay aware, make conscious choices, learn form your experiences, and stay with your plan. As Gandhi once said, “We cannot in a moment get rid of the habits of a lifetime.”
Richard Helfant, MD, a Harvard-trained cardiologist. Courageous Confrontations, Dr. Helfant’s latest work, is about how to use the mind-body relationship to combat disease. Many stories in the book include examples of diet and weight loss.