Saturday, October 22, 2011

Learn the Basics of Nutrition

One of the biggest problems I face as a trainer and nutritionist is people's complete lack of  basic nutrition knowledge.  It is such a journey, for both the client and myself- to teach them the reasons that what they are eating is making them fat.  They are being bombarded with advertisements for "healthy" and "natural" products that are full of sugars and other simple carbs.  Most Americans believe that granola bars are healthy because the box says so.  That box of cereal is healthy because it tells them it will "lower your cholesterol".  Bagels, muffins and breads can be eaten freely as long as they are "whole grain". 
  We are more obese than ever as a society, in spite of buying more and more of these "health foods".  Problem is, these foods displace fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to the point where many of us are eating virtually no REAL food.  These fake foods also cause us to release a flood of insulin every time we consume them, and insulin is the fat storing hormone.  Most people (other than Lance Armstrong) can't utilize the large number of carbohydrates these foods provide, they simply aren't active enough to burn them off.
  Another issue is the unawareness that things that may be good for you (or at least better than a big greasy burger) can still have lots of calories.  I  met a friend at one of our local health food restaurant hot spots the other day.  I was there a little early, and while I sipped my green tea I couldn't help but notice the table of young ladies in front of me.  They had massive amounts of food on their table.  Huge pitas with piles of hummus, fried falafels, and each one also had their own colossal sized gyro wrap or chicken pita.  If I had to guess, each girl probably consumed well over a thousand calories in that one meal.  Your body doesn't care if its 1500 calories of health food, or 1500 calories of Burger King, both kinds of excess calories will go straight to fat storage.  And that was just lunch.  Similar scenarios were taking place at all but one other table around me, where a lady ordered a large salad with the dressing on the side.  Even her friend had a lavosh pizza the size of a place mat.
  In my business ladies like this will come to me upset that in spite of only eating healthy foods, they simply cannot lose weight.  They say their metabolism is messed up, or they think they might have a thyroid problem.  I always encourage them to get tested, and nine times out of ten they are fine.  Then the arduous task begins to re-train their way of thinking about what they should be eating.
  At the very least, I would encourage everyone to pick up a book such as "Nutrition for Dummies".  Having a basic knowledge of proteins, carbs and fats as well as how to read a food label is so important.  Secondly, track a few days worth of calories to see what is really being consumed.  There are great, free databases online that even have the calorie counts of most restaurant foods.  The support of a professional is also helpful, not only to learn how to help yourself, but for emotional support in changing your health and way of life forever.