Myths and Misunderstandings of Nutrition

Myths and Misunderstandings of Nutrition

Recently the ever-so talented JLo challenged others to let go of carbs for 10 days. She is one of my favorite celebrities and I respect her talent and work ethic tremendously. Perhaps that is why I was so disappointed to see her promote this challenge. Severely limiting your carbohydrates can wreak havoc on your health. While experts vary in the number of carbohydrate grams they recommend, what I know from my years of practice in working with patients that are focused on their eating and body image, is that carbohydrates are not your nemesis! 

In fact, they are the primary source of energy to fuel your cells and they provide an array of other essential nutrients, such as B-vitamins, iron, antioxidants and even protein. Healthy complex carbohydrates are grains like oats, brown rice and quinoa, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, legumes and colorful fruits and veggies. But, if you have a sweet tooth like I do, incorporating simple carbohydrates in moderation (i.e., a serving of mint chocolate chip ice cream) can keep you from feeling deprived which often has the rebound effect of emotional eating. If one is restricting or eliminating any one food group without a nutritional plan to transition into normalized eating it can create a cascade of eating complications.

When it comes to nutrition there are so many myths and misunderstandings! Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore dieting trends through the decades. Fad diets date back to the 1800s and they will probably always be in vogue. Analogous to fashion, diets continuously morph and get recycled with a new twist. In the 50’s the body image icon was Marilyn Monroe and the diet fad was the grapefruit diet, fast forward to the 60’s where Twiggy was popular and vegetarianism became all the rage. Farah Fawcett and the discotheque emerged in the 70’s with Tab and calorie counting. The 80’s icon was Christy Brinkley which introduced the low-fat era. Jennifer Anniston was popular in the 90’s where low carb and high protein diets were trending, and the millennium promoted variety both in popular diets and in body types from curvaceous Scarlett Johansson to slender Angelina Jolie were the body image icons. 

What have we learned? Grapefruit gets old fast when consuming 3 times per day and a low-calorie diet is too challenging! A review of over 85 studies found that up to 6% of vegetarians are obese compared with up to 45% of nonvegetarians. I honor and respect anyone’s philosophical approach to nutrition (i.e., vegan) as long as a nutritional analysis completed by a registered dietitian confirms one is getting all of their nutrients and vitamins necessary. Caloric restriction can cause loss of muscle and suppress immune system. Restricting carbohydrates and protein makes one at risk for heart disease and cancer due to the lack of fiber and antioxidants your body needs. There is no one size fits all when it comes to weight loss because it is individualized based on your metabolic rate, biological and genetic makeup.

My hope is that we as a culture can overcome the philosophy that a dieting regimen will help us achieve our ideal body image. I propose that we no longer become self-punitive for not having willpower to stick to a diet, but introduce a positive eating plan (PEP) designed by Georgia Kostas, RD, MS where you implement all food groups and nourish your body. In lieu of focusing on what you cannot eat, focus on the fact that all foods are permissible within moderation. This approach will empower you to avoid guilt and provide peace of mind.

You are not the one that is a failure, but chronic dieting is the one that is failing you! Diets simply don’t work! Restricting our nutrition intake and foods we love leads to obsessive-compulsive tendencies (i.e., craving pizza). Chronic dieting can result in health complications: slow metabolism, vulnerability to weight gain in the future, mood swings (i.e., becoming hangry, a cleverly concocted word that represents becoming angry due to lack of food, and nutritional deficiencies which lead to diseases).

When it comes to nutrition, Cooper Clinic at Cooper Aerobics Center recommends healthy eating as a food first philosophy where you incorporate balanced nutrition. Cooper Clinic Nutrition Director Katherine Nashatker, MS, RDN, LD, CDE suggests eating healthy amounts from all five food groups is essential. According to a Harvard study everything old is new again. The study contends that the best diet is one we can maintain for life and is only one piece of a healthy lifestyle. I challenge you to let go of fad diets with no scientific research and to embrace balanced nutrition which is characteristic of prevention and wellness.

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