Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You Are What You Eat!

It's an adage we've heard over and over again, you are what you eat. Notice that it doesn't say you are HOW MUCH you eat, and I just read an article that addresses that very point.

Still Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated

The article details a long term study done that tracked the eating habits of its participants over 20 years and correlated their weight gain, loss or maintenance with the foods they were regularly consuming. Note that no where does it say HOW MUCH of these foods they were consuming.

This is a fact that I've slowly learned (and sometimes the hard way) over the last year. I can eat 1500 calories a day in a variety of ways. Lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, yogurt, etc.... or a fast food salad, frozen dinners, 100 calorie packs, and a candy bar. Still 1500 calories, but looking at where the calories come from makes a BIG difference. Once I cleaned up my act, ate 1400-1500 calories a day consistently of healthier foods, a magically thing happened. THE SCALE MOVED! Just cutting out fast food lunches alone was enough to get it going in the right direction. And I find that the weeks where I'm away from my usual food, especially eating out, it doesn't move.

So, why is this? It's all about macro nutrients (protein, carbs and fat), in addition processed vs. fresh, whole grain vs. white, natural vs. artificial sugars. So in reality, you are what you eat! For example (from the article):

“This study shows that conventional wisdom — to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods — isn’t the best approach,” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in an interview. “What you eat makes quite a difference. Just counting calories won’t matter much unless you look at the kinds of calories you’re eating.”

And now, for the facts!
- The average participant gained 16.8 lbs in 20 years
- Eating certain foods on a regular basis lead to more weight gain over a 4 year period, such as:
        * French fries = 3.4 lbs
        * Potato chips = 1.7 lbs
        * Sugar-sweetened drinks = 1 lb
        * Red meats = 0.95 lbs
        * Processed meats = 0.93 lbs
        * Potatoes = 0.57 lbs
        * Sweets and desserts = 0.41 lbs (phew, that's not a lot, I love cupcakes, lol)
        * Refined grains = 0.39 lbs
        * Fried foods = 0.32 lbs
        * 100% fruit juice = 0.31 lbs
        * Butter = 0.3 lbs
- But on the contrary, those who ate more fruits, veggies and whole grains LOST WEIGHT! Whole grains don't slow the metabolism, while processed refined grains (like white bread) DO!
- And, on top of that, those who lost weight ate 3.1 more servings of veggies a day on average.
- Good news for my fellow lovers of yogurt and peanut butter, those who ate more of those foods lost more weight! Those who ate yogurt lost an average of 0.82 lbs over 4 years.

So what is all this telling us? Yep, YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! Especially over a long-term period. I tend to agree with all of this information, to a point. I'm not going to never eat french fries again, but this is where the moderation comes into play. The article states:

“The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”

And on a daily basis, I believe that is true! If I ate 1500 calories of french fries, butter, potato chips, etc. every day, I'd guess that I'd be pretty unhealthy. Where moderation is key is when you are allowing yourself to have these kinds of foods. I eat french fries once every few months. Ditto for pizza, and big cups of ice cream, and whatever other treats I enjoy. But when you break down my daily food intake, it's the good for you stuff, the stuff that I want to be made of, not potato chips.

So the bottom line: your diet isn't going to last very long if you aren't changing your healthy eating habits. And the long term research in this article shows that. I highly suggest that everyone check it out, and even read the study that's linked in it.


  1. I featured your blog post in my blog today!! :) You're very inspiring!!

  2. Wow, thanks! I'm honored :) And happy that my blog helped!

  3. Great post! I hate it when people say that you can lose weight while eating 1200 calories of french fries and that all calories are EQUAL... lol. Not to say that a daily indulgence isn't allowed though :)