Figuring Out the Right Diet
Very few modern humans, particularly women, have escaped the notion,
at one time or another, that they could "lose a few pounds."
Weight, weight loss, looking good, making the right food choices -- these
are all complex social, economic, political, nutritional and psycho-spiritual issues. Everybody "knows" that the average
magazine cover model is too thin, and is probably malnourished with chronic health
problems to boot. But many of us still compare ourselves to them
and sigh, "Too fat..." The flip side of this argument,
to be sure, is the fact that America boasts more obese individuals than anywhere
else in the world, and consequently more cardiovascular problems, diabetes
and other degenerative diseases. Most people in our society, as
a rule, eat way too much yet are not getting the proper nutritional
balance of whole, fresh foods to support their vital force. While
organic farming and health food co-ops are slowly and steadily
growing to meet the demand, just look around: somebody's supporting all those donut
and burger joints out there.
"Obesity" is defined as being 20% or more than one's
"ideal" body weight. A basic rule of thumb for determining ideal weight is,
for women: 100 pounds for the first 5 feet, plus 5 pounds for every
extra inch tall and for men: 110 pounds for the first 5 feet, and 5 pounds
for each extra inch. So a woman of 5'6" weighing 130 pounds
is definitely in the right ballpark for her ideal weight. If the
same woman weighed 156 pounds, she would be well advised to loose some
weight (unless she's a competitive body builder and all muscle).
To figure out your caloric needs (anybody out there still counting
calories?) you need to first figure out your metabolic energy requirements. Get out the pocket calculator.
For women the formula is: 65 plus (9.6 x weight in kilograms) plus (1.7 x height in
centimeters) minus (4.7 x age).
For men: 66 plus (13.7 x weight in kilograms) plus (5 x height
in centimeters) minus (6.8 x age).
In both of these formulas add 10% of the total if you do minimal
physical activity; 20% for moderate activity and 30% for high athletic
activity. The magic number is the number of calories you need
per day to maintain your current weight. If you consistently eat more
than this magic number of calories, guess what? Right, you'll gain
weight. For those of us not quite 100% modern folks who still
don't think in metric, multiply your weight in pounds by .45 to get the
kilogram value, and multiply your height in inches by 2.54 to get
the centimeter value. To lose weight, and the best way is slow and steady, you need to
reduce the number of calories consumed below the "BEE,"
or basic energy expenditure. To lose 1 pound per week, eat 500 calories
less than your BEE each day. To lose 2 pounds per week, eat 1000 calories
less daily. Unless you are dangerously overweight, please don't
try to lose weight faster than 5-10 pounds per month: crash diets never
work in the long run. Why not? Because the most important thing
the dieter needs to change is their relationship with food. Folks
who need to lose weight must learn to eat to life, using healthy moderate-to-small-sized meals.
The live to eat approach will lead to pre-mature death. An old Russian adage quips, "He who
eats on a full stomach digs his grave with his teeth." Food, while totally
wonderful and necessary, is not all there is to life, and will never be a
satisfying substitute for self-respect, the will to enjoy life,
or loving relationships -- especially with oneself.
A good way to start a diet or reducing program is to keep a diet
diary for 7 days. Make note of everything -- solid, liquid or gas (!)
-- that you put into your mouth. Also, naturally, write down when
bowel movements occur. BMs are comprised mainly of our own intestinal
cells, plus some bile and a little food your body couldn't store
or use. Ideally we would "poop" after every meal the food
we ate 24 hours previous. Please make sure you do poop at least once every
single day. When your diet diary is completed, find a library
book or a pal who's a nutritionist or naturopath to figure out the calories
consumed each day. They should average the daily BEE.
When choosing how to cut down calories, remember that different
types of food have different energy potentials. That is, protein and
carbohydrates both have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories
per gram. Alcohol, not necessary in any diet but a real bummer if
you want to reduce, has 7 calories per gram. The formula to calculate
the caloric content of alcohol is: .8 times the "proof" times
the number of ounces equals calories. Check it out. Two 4-ounce glasses
of wine (12% alcohol, or 24 proof) would contain 154 calories.
Another way to figure the daily food plan is by serving, or "exchange." The American Diabetic
Association puts out an excellent booklet on food exchanges for less than $2. A "fruit exchange,"
for example, is a whole apple, orange or pear, but only half a banana (which has twice the calories).
A "protein exchange"
is 3 ounces of fish, chicken (range fed) or tofu. Three ounces of protein can
be gauged, roughly, as a thin slice the size of the palm of your hand.
A "carbohydrate exchange" is, for example, a slice of bread.
A cup of cooked bean or lentils would count as 1 protein exchange AND 1 carbo
exchange. A reasonable daily intake to maintain current weight
"Free food," to be taken in sensible amounts, is clear
broth, herbs, spices, green onions, garlic, raw mushrooms, mint, plain gelatin,
lemon, vinegar, weak tea, decaf and non-caffeinated diet sodas
(not recommended because of the phosphates). Gentle diuretic (Dandelion)
or laxative (Senna) teas are recommended. All nuts are extremely
high in mostly saturated fats and are best avoided altogether by dieters.
Since you're going to be taking in fewer calories, it is especially
important to take in high quality food. Not only will proper
nutrition satisfy your body longer, at a cellular level, but your
overall well being will magnify and radiate as you invest in healthy
eating from now on. Eat less fat, sugar and salt. Drink 8 big
glasses of purified water each day. Exercise daily and hard three
times a week. Give up alcohol. Don't eat standing up. Chew,
chew, chew. NEVER put more food in your mouth until the previous bite
has been thoroughly masticated, and swallowed down with plenty of saliva.
Digestion of carbohydrates (by amylase) begins in the mouth. For
those of you really serious about permanently changing your weight
and/or approach to food consumption, please consider investing
in a few consultations with a licensed nutritionist or naturopathic
- 3 low-fat dairy exchanges
- 4 fruit exchanges
- 3 vegetable exchanges (1 raw)
- 8 carbohydrate exchanges
- 5 low-fat protein exchanges
- 5 unsaturated fat exchanges
- free food as desired.
All the calculations and technical information in the above essay
were obtained from "Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy" by
Krause & Mahan, 7th Edition, W.B. Saunders Company, and "Exchange Lists for Meal
Planning" put out in booklet form by the American Diabetes Association, Inc. (800) 232-3472.
About The Author
A graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China, with emphasis on gynecology, counseling, herbal medicine and naturopathic manipulation...more