Have you ever tried to do work in a crowded cafe’? It is not easy, and often I find myself trying very hard to tune out the conversations around me. But today, I happened to sit down next to two women and I just couldn’t shut my ears. One woman was telling her friend about the new diet program she had started, which is a pretty common conversation right now considering we just started a new year. After listening only a few minutes, I was finding it extremely difficult not to poke my nose in their conversation. Still, I mustered the strength to just sit and keep typing away on my laptop.
This woman next to me was telling her friend about all the different types of prepared food her “great new diet” included; energy snack bars, pre-packaged meals, oatmeal and soup that miraculously all had the same caloric quality and nutrient impact. I wondered, how are these companies so good at making someone think that was good for their health?
The diet this woman was describing could only be one of those programs where the meals are packaged nicely into individually wrapped boxes that are labeled with nutrition information that illogically tries to help you understand how it will affect your body. For those of you that often wish and hope that the latest diet you’ve heard about will bring you to the shape you dream to be, take some time to read the article, “Fad Diets: Why They Are Bad & How To Spot Them,” by Wellsphere.com. This poor women sitting near me had fallen prey to one of these fad diets, a program that doesn’t encourage you to eat real food, because heaven forbid you can’t count the actual number of calories in the food you are eating!
From my years of self-education, I have a reasonably extensive understanding of nutrition and I’m continuing to build my knowledge through coursework at NYU. Listening to this woman speak made me wonder if these diet “experts” had even taken one nutrition class. I felt compelled to get up, walk over to the woman’s table and start reading aloud an article I had just read, “3 Reasons Crash Diets Don’t Work,” by Tina Haupert. This article seemed like it was written to save women just like her from wasting their time on another weight loss program that would never work and would only leave her feeling discouraged. But I didn’t. I just sat at my laptop, typed away and tried to let the sounds of their conversation drift into the background.
I felt truly sorry for this woman. She was taking the initiative to be healthy and take care of her body, but she fell victim to some crazy diet plan. I wanted to tell her, “Stop, don’t do this! I can help you! Those diet program creators are just trying to sell their product!” None of the food recommended in the diet was actually even food. It was only a bunch of chemically-enhanced mixtures in a perfectly-proportioned calorie-count package. Isn’t it so convenient that in order to successfully complete this diet program, you have to eat only their “food!” Whether you meet your goals or not, they are making money on your initiative. Your health is of no matter to them.
Living a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be packaged in a box and complicated. You should not need a degree in nutrition to be able to calculate the right portions to eat, or a private chef to cook your meals. And the truth is, it doesn’t. Unfortunately, so many people looking to lose weight are desperate and confused and the proper information is not readily available.
Looking over at the two women chatting, I found myself wishing they were my friends so that I could simply talk them out of following such crazy diet programs. I wanted to explain to them that calorie intake is not the only important factor in weight loss or weight gain. What is important is eating “real food” to help your body reach your healthy weight.
I read an article recently by a respected physician that talked about how processed foods can actually prohibit weight loss because they disrupt metabolism. The diet this woman was describing could actually cause her to NOT lose weight. Instead, the bulk of her diet should include foods that are unprocessed, naturally occurring, and the best are plants instead of animal products. Cooking meals at home can also help to control quality by allowing you to watch ingredients more carefully. It is also helpful to eat a variety of vegetables, in larger portions, to maximize your intake of vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. And don’t forget to drink lots of water and avoid any and all soda. Keeping refined carbs and sugars out of your diet will play an important role, and artificial sweetener should be avoided as well.
If I was friends with the woman at the table next to me, I would have given her healthy recipes and told her to eat when she was really hungry – ravenous even – instead of eating every hour or so. Then, I would encourage her to fill up on fresh and healthy whole foods, but not to over-eat.
I would also tell her that it’s important to be physically and mentally satisfied as well. It’s important to eat food that tastes good and doesn’t leave you feeling hungry and deprived. I would tell her that she should think long and hard about starting a program that makes socializing or leaving the house difficult.
But unfortunately, we were strangers sharing this small space in a cafe’ and so I couldn’t share this advice with her. However, she was a reminder of why I care so deeply about helping people live healthy lifestyles and hope that someday, a woman just like her will come to me for advice and I will be able to share my knowledge and really change the way she eats and lives. I would help put her on a path that keeps her healthy, allows her to achieve her goals and eliminates her desire, or need, to diet forever.