119 years of Trust F i t n e s s THE TRIBUNE
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Sunday, July 25, 1999
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Eat well and keep the weight off
Anup Deb Nath

WHEN any of us wants to lose weight or even just make the body look better, we take up either some form of exercise, or we go on a diet, or then it’s a combination of both these. Exercise, of course, is good for us, but contrary to what most of us believe, dieting as we know it, is not. Eating sensibly and eating nutritious and balanced meals is what all of us need.

Eating sensibly and eating nutritious and balanced meals is what all of us needHow to eat enough to benefit our bodies as well as fill our stomachs, how not to over-eat, when to eat, how much should each portion consist of, what are our body’s basic nutritional needs are ... the list of questions is endless. Yet these are questions we need to ask and get answers to before we embark on any ambitious diet plan we have set ourselves. The unfortunate fact few of us accept is that few diets work. Mostly we lose weight for a while with the diet and then put it on often a little more than we lost in the first place.

In a survey done in New York on 100 people who were advised by their doctors to lose weight, the survey found that at the end of one year, only 12 people had lost a significant amount of weight, and by the end of the second year only two persons out of these had managed to sustain the weight loss.

The way out is to be realistic in the goals you set yourself. In order to be successful any diet you set yourself has to be sustainable over a period of time (apart from being a nutritious and balanced diet.) Oddly enough, even a balanced, sustainable diet may not work for you if it is unsuited to your tastes or lifestyle.

As one diet expert put it: "Dieting starts with a question, because if putting on weight is easy and taking it off is harder, keeping it off is harder still. Any diet can work in the short term, but only you can make those results last permanently."

What is nutrition, and specifically what do we mean by good nutrition?

Nutrition is how food affects the body. If you are well nourished, it means that you are consuming nutrients in the correct amounts that your body needs for optimal health, neither too much nor too little. How can you tell if you are eating a nutritiously balanced meal? Simply by looking at yourself. How you look — your hair, skin, body — and how you feel — your energy, stamina.

What are the basic nutrients and what do they actually do?

The substances in food that nourish your body are called nutrients. As the food you eat is digested, its nutrients are released and carried to all the cells of the body. There are over 40 nutrients that we need and these come under the six broad categories of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, vitamins and water.

Each nutrient performs a specific and distinct function. Proteins build and repair the body tissue and are responsible for growth, while carbohydrates and fats form the main energy source for the body (along with proteins to some extent as well). The vitamins, minerals and water all regulate different body functions. The B group of vitamins helps your body produce energy while C group fights infection and keeps your gums and blood vessels healthy etc.

What are calories and where do they come from?

Calories come from the food we eat. They aren’t nutrients, though many people mistakenly believe them to be. Calories are used as a measure of energy, both the energy in food as well as the energy used by our body to perform physical functions.

The nutrients also have calories for proteins and carbohydrates have four calories per gram while fats have nine calories per gram.

Why do different foods have different calories?

As the nutrient value of different foods varies, so does the caloric count of different foods. Fats have twice the calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates do. Foods that are high in fat tend to be high in caloric count as well, while food that is high in fibre content tends to have a lower caloric count. This is because fibre is not completely digested and most high fibre foods are low fat. Serving size or the portion you eat also affects the calorie cut. The bigger the serving the higher the caloric count and vice-versa.

Are calories of any use to my body?

The human body needs calories to perform certain functions. The metabolic process such as breathing or your heart beating needs calories. Calories are also needed to perform any physical activitiy and to digest food by the body.

This is where people are caught. On the one hand the human body needs calories to perform even such simple and essential functions such as breathing. On the other hand calories are blamed for all the bother of putting on weight and sought to be cut off.

Here there is one basic principle to keep in mind. The only way you can maintain your body weight and keep it in check is by eating the same number of calories you burn. In other words let your body eat how much it earns by working off in a day. This equation, if adhered to, will certainly help in making sure that your caloric input and burn-up are the same.

When you eat more than your body needs, or uses, is when you gain weight. Though our metabolic rates are not changeable, we can certainly increase the calories that are burned up by increasing our physical activity.Back

This feature was published on July 18, 1999

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