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Posts tagged ‘losing weight’

Nutrition 101

I have had more that one person tell me that they were confused by all the nutrition information they hear. I do understand that. It does appear that the “experts” contradict each other. Who are these experts? If I successfully lose weight, and write a book about it, do I qualify as an “expert”? If I read a lot about nutrition, and pull all that together into a book, am I an expert? Am I only an expert if I am a scientist, or a nutritionist? If I am a journalist, and I see a paper written on a certain aspect of nutrition, and I have no background, but I put out the synopsis of that paper, with whatever my understanding of the paper is, correct or not, am I an expert?

That is only problem one. Problem two is: what are we talking about? Losing weight? Heart health? Cooking? Cancer? How are we talking about it? Anecdotal evidence? A scientific paper? Someone’s opinion? Are we getting a sales pitch for the latest diet, supplement, magazine, or just someone wanting to be right?

Further complicating this is you. What level of basic nutrition/human biology knowledge do you have? How badly do you want to believe whatever someone is telling you? Especially when it comes to weight loss or cancer, there is a strong motivation to believe something that might help you.

So what is the prescription? First, common sense. Is there anyone out there that really thinks donuts are good for you? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Second, What source are you listening to? What are their credentials? While everyone writing about nutrition or fitness has a horse in the race, some sources are more trustworthy than others. I would trust the Mayo clinic over some dude selling supplements. I would trust someone who can cite studies over someone saying, “Well I think…” or “In my experience…” I wouldn’t completely discount experience, but it is similar to anecdotal evidence. Maybe something works for you, but will it work for a larger population? In Supersize Me,  they interviewed a man who ate at McDonalds nearly every day, and he was skinny. That won’t work for most people. Find trustworthy sources. Listen to debates about sources, find out what other people think. Criticism might not be deserved, but at least you’ll know why people trust or don’t trust some sources.  If something is massively popular, be suspicious. Just like the “narrow path” to heaven, sound nutrition and fitness advice is not sexy or full of mass appeal.

Get some basic nutrition information. Read, either on the net or get books. Compare new information with what you’ve learned.  The Mayo clinic has a nice basic here. Here is another one, at About.com. This is one of my favorites, Nutrition Data.

Having said all of this. It is true that information changes. We have only been scientifically studying nutrition for a relatively short time. It is EXTREMELY difficult to study nutrition. You can’t put people in laboratories, you can’t deprive them of vital nutrients, you have to trust them to be honest. Clever people are trying to come up with experiments to eliminate confounding variables, and the better they get at it, the better the information is.

Ok, this is too long as it is. Maybe I’ll do nutrition 102 soon.


I choose to ignore New Years resolutions, and all they entail. Has anyone ever made life changes based on New Years resolutions? However, the temptation to comment is overwhelming, as two of the podcasts that I love, the fitcast and Nutrition Diva, both had excellent articles on the subject.  Why should I repeat what they said? Because no one I know listens to podcasts, in spite of my endless droning on how wonderful they are. I just hope my love of podcasts isn’t like 1980’s era fashions, where we all thought we were so gorgeous and now we say “what were we thinking.”

big hair from the 1980's

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

In any case, people I listen to and respect are all over the topic of New Years resolutions, and if I can’t make you listen to them, I’ll repeat what they said and get you that way. This is a broad distillation of their words, based on memory. (No comments from the peanut gallery!)

The first point is to start small, but start. If your goal is to lose weight, just by switching from half and half to milk in your coffee, you can lose 5 lbs in a year. Anything is better than nothing. Don’t set grandiose goals, like losing 25 lbs by Easter. We, as humans tend towards “all or nothing”, so if you aren’t on track by February, you’ll probably quit altogether. Make and stick to goals of changing your life, not in achieving results. The results come from sticking to the efforts.

Second, be specific. Don’t say “I want to exercise more.”  That doesn’t mean anything. Say “I’m going to go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 -6:30.  Wishes don’t get anything done, plans do.

Be positive.  Quitting smoking is tough. Taking something away does not feel good. Replace it with a positive. Put something in the cigarette hole. (no, nothing like a pie hole.) Rather, treat yourself to supplies for your favorite hobby. Save the cigarette money for a vacation.

As alluded to before, focus on the process, not the results. Results may come and go. If you stick with the process, overall you’ll get where you are going. I tried quitting smoking dozens (hundreds) of times before I succeeded. I got better at quitting at every attempt.

I think one of your resolutions should be to try one new podcast this year. You don’t need an I pod, you can use any mp3 player or even listen on the websites. You can throw this in my face in 30 years, when this advice seems hopelessly dated.


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