How Much Should I Eat To Maintain My Body Weight Key Concepts in Healthy Eating

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Key Concepts in Healthy Eating

You are what you eat.

Everything you are, your muscles, bones, skin, face, hands, hair and brain, is built and maintained by the ingredients you give your body through what you eat and drink. The better your ingredients, the better your body works. Have you ever noticed the difference between a fertilized shrub and an unfertilized shrub? The fertilized bush will be taller, stronger, greener and healthier. This is how it works for you too.

Given all that we want to achieve and experience in our lives, we want to be the best we can be. Prioritizing healthy eating is simply necessary if we want to live our lives to the fullest.

So what and how should we eat? Below is a quick, high-level overview of some ideas you’ll want to bring to life.

Oh, to be 22 again!

The first and perhaps most important thing you can do to improve your health is to maintain a healthy body weight. For most of us, that means returning to the weight we were in high school.

Because we are not all the same height, healthy weight varies from person to person. So that we can all speak the same language, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was developed. Although it may not be quite as accurate as some other methods, BMI is very easy to use. See the chart to find your height and weight and to arrive at your BMI. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is in the normal range. 25 – 30 is considered overweight and >30 is fat.

Walter Willet, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and professor at Harvard Medical School, points to evidence in his book Eat, Drink and Be Healthy that suggests the likelihood of developing heart disease, cancer and other modern ailments is beginning to rise , when BMI gets above 22 and continues to rise with each subsequent point above it. So he recommends people keep their BMI between 19 and 22.

The secret to losing weight

Want to know the secret to losing weight? It’s a simple math problem: Calories in minus calories out. Calories in means the number of calories you consume through eating and drinking. Calories Out means the calories you use through exercise, sleep and just living. If calories in are greater than calories out, you gain fat. If calories in are less than calories out, you lose fat. With some nuances we can talk about another time, it’s basically that simple.

So if you want to lose weight by losing weight, you can either eat less or exercise more. You should probably try to do both. Personally, I’ve noticed that it’s easier to control my weight despite the amount I eat because it takes a lot of extra exercise to burn just a few hundred calories. But both elements play important roles.

What about low-fat diets, low-carb diets, and low-fat diets, you say? Does it matter what kind of calories I eat? Yes, it matters a lot if you want to be healthy. It is very important to keep your body running. But you can’t lose weight (by reducing fat) unless you burn more calories than you consume. There is no way around it.

What should I eat? Quality over quantity

Michael Pollan, author of the eating manifesto The Omnivore’s Dilemma has recently come out with a great little guidebook to eating entitled Food Rules. In it, his tips on healthy eating are organized under 3 small sentences, which together I think provide the best advice I’ve heard on how to eat well. They are:

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

By food, Pollan means distinguishing real foods—plants, animals, and fungi people have eaten for generations—from the highly processed products of modern food science that now dominate the Western diet. He suggests, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Avoid things like potato chips, yogurt in squeezable tubes, packaged cookies, frozen pizza, etc. Instead, think apples, grapes, tomatoes, spinach, whole grain bread, fish, nuts, beans, etc. Shop the periphery of the grocery store. Avoid the packaged food-like substances in the middle.

Once you’re eating real food, the next step is to make sure you’re mostly eating plants, especially leaves. Meat must be used as a flavoring agent or on special occasions. By eating mainly vegetables, fruits, beans and nuts, you will get plenty of fiber, consume fewer calories to satisfy hunger and supply your body with important nutrients. When you eat meat, make sure that the animal you are eating has itself eaten well. Shop at stores or farmers markets that have wonderful fresh vegetables. The food at these places tastes much better than what you find in the normal grocery store. If you like the food, you are more likely to eat it.

“Not too much” means eating until you’re not hungry. It’s very different from eating until you’re full. Eating the right amount has a lot to do with focusing on your eating when you eat. Do not eat while watching TV, talking on the phone, or while multitasking. Don’t eat because you’re bored or because it’s “lunch time.” Eat when you are hungry to satisfy that hunger. Eat consciously. Sit at a table, focus on the food, enjoy it, and stop before you’re full.

One way to help control cravings is to avoid foods that cause cravings. Foods high in sugar, fat or salt all cause cravings. Because they do, manufactured foods are loaded with these things to make you eat and buy more. By eating real food like your great-grandmother did, you’ll avoid these trigger ingredients and maintain more control.

Make the change

If this type of dining is new to you, get excited because you are at the start of a wonderful adventure. Taste buds will reawaken, energy will return to you and you will live longer. Focus on the wonderful new food combinations you experience rather than on the old foods you give up. Before long, you won’t miss them. Have you ever switched from whole milk to skimmed milk? Remember when skimmed milk tasted like water compared to what you were used to. Now you probably like it better than whole milk, which can seem like drinking thick pasta. The same things will happen when you switch to this better way of eating.

So welcome the adventure and dive in. It is the most important thing you can do to develop a healthy body, avoid cancer and heart disease, gain energy, look better and live longer. That’s the kind of diet we’ve been eating as a species for millennia, and that’s the approach to eating that will work best for you today.

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