The Last Nutrition Resolution

Published: 12-19-2006
Americans are spending more than $40 billion dollars on dieting and diet-related products, yet an astonishing 95 percent of dieters will regain the weight that they've lost within one to five years.

Americans are spending more than $40 billion dollars on dieting and diet-related products, yet an astonishing 95 percent of dieters will regain the weight that they've lost within one to five years. So why is it that a country so obsessed with body image and diets can be the fattest and unhealthiest in the world?
Perhaps it is our mental approach. In other words, it is not how we lose weight but why we lose weight. Most people will say they are going on a diet. Merriam-Webster defines diet as

a: food and drink regularly provided or consumed

b: habitual nourishment.

So if you put food into your body today, you are on a diet. Also, it's important to recognize that carrying around extra pounds has implications that reach much further than the mirror and scale. Overweight and obesity are independent risk factors for several chronic diseases like heart disease, type II diabetes and hypertension. Most people decide to lose weight to fit into clothes they owned when they were 21 or have that body that the fashion industry tells us is ideal. This wouldn't be a bad thing if it actually was enough motivation to work. But if your goal is to increase your quality of life and make sure you are around to see your grandchildren, then the goal becomes clearer.

So for starters, let's change our vocabulary. Instead of saying I'm going on a diet to lose weight, try saying I am making lifestyle changes to improve my health.

Now that you've wrapped your brain around that major paradigm shift you are probably thinking, okay Dr. Hamrick, this is a nutrition article- tell me what to eat for this lifestyle change!

For any lifestyle change to be successful it MUST be 2 things- sustainable and healthy. It must be a change that you are willing and able to sustain for the rest of your life, not just for the next 2 months until you lose 15 pounds. And it must be the proper blend of calories, vitamins, minerals and physical activity to nourish your mind, body and soul. The diet industry wants you to continue to believe that there is a quick fix-Atkins, South Beach, Zone, lose 10 pounds in 10 days' gimmicks. The key to these diets is to make you focus on your eating habits which ultimately lead to less overall intake of food. Some fad diets are merely ineffective in the long term and others are downright dangerous.

Anyone remember the movie What About Bob? Yes, baby steps are the key for making permanent lifestyle changes. Completely turning your food intake and behaviors upside down will probably help you lose weight in the short term but is usually not sustainable. And the biggest problem with that approach is the very high likelihood of gaining the weight back. And this brings me to the dangers of weight cycling.

When the average person loses weight they lose approximately 85% fat and 15% lean muscle tissue. When that person gains the same amount of weight back they gain 100% fat. So for just one weight loss/gain episode, a person's body composition increases fat and decreases lean muscle tissue. Each time your body breaks down lean muscle tissue this permanently lowers the amount of calories you need. In other words, you will have to diet even harder the next time. The newest diet research is finding that it is better to be overweight and never diet than to weight cycle. In fact, it may be diets that are to blame for the obesity epidemic.

So here it is. the moment you've all been waiting for the key to weight loss comes down to one simple question: Are you regularly putting in more energy than you are expending?

Yep, that's right! It all boils down to basic chemistry- the energy balance equation. So make this your LAST nutrition resolution. Resolve to improve your overall health and nutrition quality of life by:

  • Enjoying a variety of foods in smaller portions,

  • Eating small, frequent meals to avoid being hungry, and brace yourselves now

  • Exercise regularly.

What to do is simple. It's making it happen that is the biggest challenge. But it need not be difficult. Remember, the best plan is an individualized plan. For online help, check out the websites at the end of this article. For in-person help, check out the American Dietetic Association website ( to find a dietitian near you, or visit my website at And stay tuned to this column for mildly amusing practical nutrition advice. Until then, I suggest you walk to the store and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

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