Tips, Ideas and Nutrition Information
for Healthful and Sustainable Living
With Amira Elgan
Take charge of your health -- and your life -- and find out what it really means to be healthy.
I will provide useful, practical and empowering information about health, nutrition and organic living that will put you in control of your own well-being.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet will give you the energy to live an active and productive lifestyle. Health is the foundation to a long and happy life.
Get healthy now!
Dieting: Losing Weight
without Losing Your Health
Obesity is America's number one public-health problem -- and, increasingly, in some other countries as well. It is no surprise that weight-loss diets are popular.
Fad diets and weight loss programs are a booming and growing industry in the U.S., costing billions of dollars each year (about $40 billion in 2002, for example). Obesity costs another $92 billion each year (half funded by tax dollars) in medical bills in the U.S.
The motivation for losing weight is often vanity. People want to look better. Looking "better" really means looking healthier. It's somewhat ironic that some dieters take drugs, rob themselves of nutrition, eat processed, unhealthful diet foods or imbalanced diets -- in other words knowingly degrade their health -- in order to appear healthier. Some smokers even say they don't want to quit because they're afraid they'll gain weight.
You may be unsurprised to learn that I think the best way to look healthy is to actually BE healthy, by eating wholesome, vegetarian organic food and exercising regularly.
What's a Diet?
We often use the word "diet" to refer to a temporary eating plan we're "on" in order to lose weight. The implicit assumption is that once we've lost weight, we'll go "off" our "diet" and go back to eating the way we used to. (That's a recipe for fluctuating weight and poor health if ever there was one.)
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "diet" means, "food and drink regularly provided or consumed." In other words, our diet is what we habitually eat. The word diet comes from the Latin diaeta, which means "manner of living."
If you want to maximize health, your "diet" should not be temporary. Nor should it rob you of essential nutrients or include harmful ingredients.
What's Wrong With Fad Diets
Fad diets are like fashion, they're trendy today but later you'll ask yourself: "What was I thinking?" Ugly clothes and bad hair-dos never hurt anyone (who knows, maybe they do!) but a fad diet can have a lasting impact on your health.
Losing weight rapidly by eliminating entire food groups -- or any scheme that creates dietary imbalance -- is unhealthful.
Fad diets that focus on one food group (such as meal replacement drinks) and neglect all other dietary needs might help you lose weight, but temporarily.
Weight loss plans based on pills can deprive you of essential nutrients and make you suffer the pain of side effects such as vomiting, headaches, insomnia, nervousness, addiction and worse.
Experts who have studied the most popular fad diets have found that the weight loss is achieved through calorie restriction, in spite of what they claim. When it comes to looking healthier by losing weight, a calorie is a calorie regardless of where it comes from. But when it comes to actually being healthier, the quality of those calories really counts.
In a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet, for example, excessive intake of protein can lead to loss of calcium and eventually osteoporosis (osteoporosis is more common in developed countries like the U.S. where high-protein food is the norm). A diet consisting of high fats can increase the fat in your blood to unsafe levels. Studies have shown a link between high fat and certain types of cancer and heart disease.
Carbohydrates in moderation don't cause obesity, although the typical American diet is too high in simple carbohydrates.
Nutrition-poor and high-calorie foods coupled with insufficient daily exercise -- is what's causing obesity and related illnesses in children and adults alike.
There is overwhelming evidence that consumption of grains, fruit and vegetables are necessary for optimal health and prevention of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, eliminating these will make you sick in the long run.
Fad diets and diet programs make you loose weight fast, but starve the body from other necessary nutrients and are more harmful than beneficial. No craze diet can be better than eating a diet based on healthy variety of whole food, eating in moderation and exercising regularly.
Interestingly, both junk food and fad diets tend to throw the metabolism out of whack, and cause intense food cravings, which lead to more eating and more weight. Healthy food, on the other hand, gives a feeling of satiety and reduces cravings, which makes it easier to maintain a lower weight.
Our obsessive spending on fad diets and weight loss programs gives the appearance that we're willing to do just about anything in order to lose weight.
In fact, most people aren't really willing to do that much. The easier the diet, the more popular it is. Some say, "Just eat what we've prepared for you." Others say, "Just eat fattening, greasy food and you'll lose weight." Still others claim that weight loss will come from a pill.
The boring and unprofitable truth is that eating healthy food, sensibly and moderately, reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and exercising regularly to burn more calories than we consume, will make us lose weight. And permanently changing our habits means we'll keep the weight off. As a bonus, we'll feel good all the time, have more energy and live longer!
Copyright© By Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.
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Amira Elgan is an experienced cook, who has created innovative, healthy recipes for more than 15 years. She teaches healthy cooking classes for Whole Foods Market’s Salud! Cooking & Lifestyle School and Sur La Table. Amira is a former top manager of some of the premier dining establishments in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Hollywood, including the Mondrian, Bonaventure and Beverly Wilshire hotels. She is a devout yoga practitioner and healthy organic living and fitness expert with first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is the author and publisher of the Vegetarian Organic Life e-mail newsletter and is currently writing a vegetarian organic cookbook. She is married and has two sons.
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