Despite the fact that more than half of Americans take calories into account when consuming and purchasing food, the obesity rates are still climbing — nearly 127 million Americans are overweight, 60 million are obese and 9 million are morbidly obese.
Experts agree that in order to properly lose weight and keep it off is not by counting calories but by making better choices, which means eating more nutritious food.
“One of the major reasons so many people fail on diets is that they never learn the art of making smart choices,” says Dr. Ian Smith, author of Extreme Fat Smash Diet and several other nutrition books. “Every day you make hundreds of small decisions that have an impact on whether you’re going to gain or lose weight.”
Decision-making starts in the grocery aisle. Aim for more fruits, vegetables and less TV dinners or processed food, which tend to be high in processed sugar and saturated fat.
“If you are eating more whole foods — foods that comes from the earth and not in packages — then you will learn to trust your cravings better,” says Peta-Gaye Williams, New York City based holistic health practitioner.
In addition to eating less processed foods, understanding which types of sugars and fats are okay in moderation is also essential.
“Not all sugar is bad,” Williams says. “Our bodies are made to take in certain levels of salt and sugar and fat and not all fat is not bad.”
Williams asserts that sugar from fruit and in purer forms like maple syrup or raw and unprocessed brown sugar are good in limited quantities. Fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 are important because they help to keep our joints and skin supple and lubricated.
“A lot of us are overfed and undernourished because we’re not getting the right nutrients,” she adds.
Steer clear of popular foods on the market that are labeled low-fat or low-calorie but that can actually sabotage fitness goals. The book “Eat This Not That” lists bran muffins, granola bars, margarine, low-fat yogurt with fruit and smoothies, for example, as deceptively healthy.
Bran muffins contain processed sugar and refined flour, which can spike your blood sugar and cause your body to store fat, while market granola bars often contain sugar and unhealthy fats and oils, while yogurt with fruit on the bottom and smoothies tend to contain excess sugar and fruit that isn’t fresh.
Calorie counting can be problematic because most people do it wrong, since there’s no lab available to check for accuracy.
Nearly nine out of 10 people have no idea how many calories they actually need, a survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation reports, but nutritional and caloric intake varies by the individual.
“The need for certain minerals and vitamins is going to be different whether you’re a woman of childbearing age or menopausal or an athlete, ” says Williams, “People have certain allergies or whatever aversions to certain things, so people should know themselves and not go against their body.”
Research shows that some high-calorie foods can be good in moderation, like granola, avocados, bananas and more.
“Avocados are great as a comfort food,” says Williams. “If you’re craving fat, it’s better to go toward an avocado or a natural nut butter that doesn’t have any additives.”
Williams adds that cutting fat out of your diet altogether may work against most diet goals.
“Any time you take fat out of your diet you will eat more and more, and likely gain weight,” she says.
Williams also sites coconut as a good source of fat and protein because it helps to burn fat cells. Flax seeds sprinkled over oatmeal can be a good source of fat and fuel, as well as a replacement for bran muffins.
“Sometimes it’s just better to take the time to make food on your own,” says Williams regarding items like smoothies.
Now that we have a better idea of how to eat, the last but most important key component to maintaining body weight through is staying hydrated because water is the body’s best defense against obesity.
“Water is the body’s most important nutrient, and without it your body temperature can drop and cause you to store fat,” says Dr. Ian Smith in his book “Extreme Fat Smash Diet.”
In other words, if working out consistently isn’t in your immediate future then start with your next grocery list.