It’s a big temptation, after eating yourself through the holidays, to want to crash diet.
But nutritionists, including Anita Bermann of Bainbridge Island, say that will only lead to more problems.
Bermann, who owns Ideal Feast Nutrition, tells her clients that fad dieting — juicing, liquid diets and cleansing — can bring on health issues such as anorexia, bulimia, osteoporosis, pancreas problems, heart issues and diabetes.
“Radical diets are not sustainable,” she said. “They don’t last. You become weak and fatigued and you go off that diet. Then you begin to feel like a failure.”
Instead, she suggests that if you was to lose weight, read the labels on the food you are eating.
“Processed food can negatively affect you,” Bermann said. “Look for fresh vegetables, fruits and lean protein.”
She also warned against diets that totally eliminate things like fruit or bread.
“On diets where you have no carbs or sugars, you ultimately will begin to crave those things,” she said. “What you need to do is limit those things and make good choices.”
For example, she said, look for whole grain breads. They are healthier and will make you feel fuller faster.
And speaking of that, she teaches something called “intuitive eating.”
“When we are babies we eat when we are hungry,” she said. “That’s the natural way to eat. As adults, we often eat because the clock says it’s time to eat.
We need to be in touch with our own hunger and fullness signals.”
The focus should be learning how to tell when you are truly hungry and knowing when you are full, she said.
“Our bodies are meant to be fueled every few hours,” Bermann said. “So eating small meals throughout the day can be a way to keep hunger at bay.”
When crash dieting happens, the dieter often times doesn’t get enough vitamins and begins to feel sluggish.
“And they become susceptible to disease and infection because their immune systems is weak,” she said.
In order to diet safely, she suggests doing some research first.
“If you can’t afford to see a nutritionist, look online. Figure out what a balanced diet is – for you – and how much food intake is safe.”
She suggests the Academy of Nutrition website at www.eatright.org.
In the first few days of your diet, think about when you truly are hungry and when you are full.
“Listen to your body,” she said.
As for breakfast being the most important meal of the day, she subscribes to regular meals throughout the day as the most important.
“But if you skip breakfast, you are allowing your body to go without food and fuel for too long,” she added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.7 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese. Obesity puts stress on every part of your body and increases your risk of developing major health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, infertility and sleep apnea.
Type 2 Diabetes: Obesity is one cause of Type 2 diabetes, but another is unstable blood sugar levels. When you consume a lot of refined grains and sugar-rich foods, your glucose levels spike and drop repeatedly. Over time, these dramatic changes in your blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance, which is characterized by a decreased sensitivity to insulin. If this condition is not corrected, it can advance to Type 2 diabetes.
Heart Disease: Unhealthy foods are often high in sodium, fat, cholesterol and sugar. Eating these unhealthy foods on a regular basis can increase your blood pressure as well as your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Over time, high blood pressure and high lipid levels can put a great deal of stress on your heart, increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke and coronary artery disease.
Source: Bermann at www.idealfeastnutrition.com, Harvard School of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control
Nutritionists provide these guidelines:
Improper nourishment: Your body needs a certain amount of calories – the basic energy unit of the body – to function. Almost all foods have at least some calories, but not all foods have the proper nutrients your body needs. Sugary snacks, for instance, are often high in calories, but they are “empty calories,” meaning they have none, or very little, of the important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that you need. Not getting enough nutrients can result in malnutrition. Mild symptoms of malnutrition include dizziness, fatigue and weight loss. In severe cases, symptoms such as hair loss, fainting and lack of menstruation can occur.
Disease: If you body doesn’t get enough of the proper nutrients, particularly antioxidants, your immune system will feel the effects. A weakened immune system makes you susceptible to ailments, such as the flu or common cold. Lack of proper nutrients can also affect your major organs, leading to or contributing to a variety of ailments. For example, one common problem that results from a diet high in sugar and processed carbohydrates – a complex form of sugar – is that your pancreas can become overworked. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps break down sugars in the body. If you body doesn’t utilize insulin properly, a diet high in sugars causes insulin production to increase exponentially, which can lead to the pancreas eventually shutting down or limiting insulin production – a condition known as Type 2 diabetes. When untreated, Type 2 diabetes often leads to other problems, including fatigue, increased hunger and thirst, blurred vision and erectile dysfunction.
Nutritional deficiency: Most vitamins and minerals are found in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Neglecting to include these foods in your diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
This article originally appeared in Kitsap Living – Winter 2017.