Food and Exercise for Weight Control
A large study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, surveyed diet and exercise patterns of U.S. men and women over a 20-year period. The participants were evaluated at 4-year intervals for diet, physical exercise, and body weight. Here’s what the researchers found about diet:
Higher amounts of vegetables and fruit, whole grains (instead of refined grains), nuts and yogurt protect against weight gain.
Each individual food group had a separate protective effect. The results showed that that if a person ate vegetables, fruits, nuts, and yogurt daily, there was a greater protective effect than just eating extra vegetables and fruit. The reason these foods gave protection against weight gain appears to be that as consumption of these “good foods” increased, people ate less of “bad foods”. Also, higher fiber content in fruits, vegetables, and nuts results in slower digestion and great satiety – the medical term for feeling full. In addition, yogurt consumption promotes the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract that prevent weight gain. Finally, people often avoid eating nuts because nuts tend to be high in calories – but not all the calories in nuts are digestible. One ounce of almonds contains approximately 160 calories, but because of the insoluble fiber present, only 130 calories are digestible.
Foods that caused weight gain were potatoes in all forms (particularly potato chips), sugar sweetened beverages, alcohol, refined grains, sweets and desserts, unprocessed red meat, and processed meats.
Foods that contained the highest amounts of refined carbohydrates – whether these were added (for example in sweets and desserts) or were not added (for example refined grains) caused weight gain because they are rapidly digested. In Liewise, potatoes, which are mainly starch, are also quickly digested. Sugar-sweetened beverages, juices, and alcohol are digested even faster. No surprise that these liquid calories caused weight gain.
The take-home messages from this large study are:
1) Eating more vegetables, nuts, fruits, yogurt, and whole grains will keep you slim and trim. Higher fiber content and slower digestion of these foods enhance satiety or fullness.
2) Potatoes, refined grains, sugar- sweetened beverages, and alcohol will cause you to gain weight.
What about exercise? When I ask patients whether or not they are physically active, the two most frequent replies are: “I don’t have enough time” or “I go on the treadmill for 30 minutes”. Sorry, but both responses signify that you are not being efficient with your time! In the first case, given the fact that the current President of the United States has time for daily exercise signifies that you are not prioritizing. The second response indicates that the workout is becoming stale.
When you exercise you want to get the most benefit from the time spent. Our bodies become quickly accustomed to exercise – this is called the training effect. The training effect is welcomed when we are learning a sport but actually hampers progress in your daily workouts.
Spin classes are hugely popular and for good reason. During a spin class the intensity is constantly changing through resistance, leg speed, and body position. The variety in 45 minutes of spin class keeps you engaged by motivating you to push harder.
If you are a steady inhabitant of the gym, try taking your workout outside. Hey, I know it’s cold but just layer up. A beautiful winter day outside is invigorating. Why not try ice skating lessons?
Shake up your by picking up a new activity. Working out in a new way will challenge muscles with unfamiliar patterns resulting in more calories being burned.
Jana Klauer, M.D., is the author of “The Park Avenue Nutritionist’s Plan” and “How the Rich Get Thin.” She was trained in internal medicine and rehabilitation medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Dr. Klauer also holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Please visit her web site at http://www.janaklauermd.com/