Efforts to maintain a healthy work-life balance do not always include maintaining balanced nutrition. A healthy diet often falls through the cracks of daily life and is overshadowed by the convenience of fast food and restaurant delivery options.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans information resource, the average American diet has an excessive amount of salt and refined grains, and calories from solid fats and added sugars. And a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey revealed that one in three adults, and one in six children between the ages of 2 and 19, are overweight.
Long-term solutions for a healthy diet require a sustainable plan that many quick-fixes and fads do not offer, and misconceptions over healthy body-types often promote poor eating habits.
Nutritionist Rukhsana Shanbhag has been practicing in Winter Park for more than 21 years and has experience in diabetes treatment and education. Shanbhag is also a practitioner of functional medicine – a means of addressing the root causes of chronic disease and restoring health through personalized treatment.
In this edition of Healthy Discourse, Shanbhag answers the question: What are common misconceptions about nutrition?
There’s a lot of emphasis on whatever the going trend is, such as keto or a high carb/low-fat diet, but one size doesn’t fit all. The mistake people make is going with a trend or thinking, “if I eat less, I will lose weight.” Or they take pills, which only work as long as you take them. Then you’re back to square one.
The human body is very adaptive; simply lowering your caloric intake will not lead to weight loss. If you eat very little, your thyroid gland will shut down to reduce your metabolic rate. On the other hand, the notion that eating a number of small meals will help with weight loss is not true either. Your body keeps producing insulin, which helps use the sugars you ingest and stores the rest. Some snacks are good, and some of my patients choose fast foods. So, I let them know which fast foods are most beneficial for them. It is important to pay attention to what you put on your plate and base your eating on your level of activity.
You need to eat when you are hungry, not at a time of day when you think you should be eating. If you eat by the clock, you’re not really addressing whether you’re hungry or not. When kids go to school, they have to eat at a certain time. Some are hungry at breakfast and others aren’t hungry until eleven o’clock. Some people get hungry before dinner time, but they wait. And if you eat too late, how does that affect your sleep? Again, one size does not fit all, and everybody’s appetite varies from day to day.
I also don’t recommend having a lot of fluid with your meals because you will dilute your digestive enzymes. It is better to drink lots of fluids between meals, but they should be non-caloric. Juices and any kind of sodas are not something I recommend, but mineral waters are good. If you want something fizzy, you can flavor them with berries or lemon juice.
Sometimes we confuse real hunger with other issues. We eat because we are stressed, or when we are trying to fix an emotion. You must separate your mental health from your eating habits. The analogy I use is that, if you injure your thumb, you’re not going to bandage your toe. I have patients make a list of five-minute interruptions they can follow to find out whether they need food, or just a simple distraction. It could be cleaning out a drawer, or deep breathing, or taking a walk – and if you’re still hungry after that, it is true hunger.
The success I have had is a result of my patients being very curious. They ask questions and do their own research outside of our discussions. People need to be excited about this kind of lifestyle change, and not see it as a punishment. Focus on how it will benefit you and what you will learn about yourself.
The Healthy Discourse series focuses on physical, mental, financial, and professional health. Winter Park-based experts offer advice and insight through a brief conversation inspired by one question. If there is a topic you would like to suggest for Healthy Discourse, please email email@example.com.