Practice Healthy Eating Habits
One of the good points about many of the popular low carbohydrate diets is that they draw attention to the quality of the carbohydrates that we’re eating. Most Americans are choosing lots of refined, sugary, calorie-rich (but nutrient-poor) carbohydrates like soda, candy, white bread products, white rice, and processed french fried potatoes. A healthy eating plan consists of 55-60% of mostly high quality, wholesome carbohydrates (including whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats and other whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, and low fat milk foods). That doesn’t mean that it’s “bad” to eat sweets or processed foods once in a while or even every day. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Balance is key.
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For instance, white rice or white pasta is not “bad” if you’re eating it with high fiber vegetables and a good source of lean protein. The whole meal is rich in fiber. And, the protein and fat in the meal help slow down how fast the carbohydrate is digested and absorbed, so the result is a lower insulin response. Further, if you’re active and spending many calories a day, you can enjoy some “empty calories” in your diet. It’s all about balance and moderation!
The only way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. So, in theory, to lose ½ pound to 1 pound a week, that means creating a deficit of 250 to 500 calories per day (either by eating fewer calories or burning more in physical activity). Of course, genetic differences determine how easy it is for you personally to lose weight. In one recent study, researchers overfed a group of people 1000 extra calories every day for 8 weeks and found that there was a huge difference in the amount of weight gained (ranging from 3 to 16 pounds!) The researchers concluded that the people who gained less weight were able to “waste” the extra calories by fidgeting more and giving off more body heat. The people who gained more weight lacked this capability and simply stored the extra calories.
To maximize fat loss, minimize the drop in your metabolism, energy, mood, and grades, and increase the chances that you won’t gain it back, lose weight slowly! Decrease your intake slightly by 300-500 calories per day and increase your exercise level. Aim for about 0.5-2 lb. weight loss per week. If you are very overweight, 2 lb. per week is acceptable. But, if you only have a few pounds to drop, the rate should not exceed 0.5-1 lb. per week.
The only way to gain weight is to create a calorie excess. So, in theory, to gain ½ pound to a pound a week, that means creating an excess of 250-500 calories per day. Whether or not those extra calories go towards building muscle or body fat depends on whether or not you exercise. Of course, as with weight loss, genetic differences make it easier for some people to gain weight and harder for others. If your metabolism speeds way up every time you eat more, you may have to consume many more calories before you’ll achieve results.