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Weight Loss in an Obese World - How Nutrition Can Change the Scale

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Health Statistics Reports released the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (which covered obesity data collected from 2017 to March 2020-prepandemic). According to this survey, the American obesity rate was at an astounding 41.9%.  Proper Nutrition

This means nearly half the American population suffers from obesity, which also means a significant amount of individuals are at a much higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Most of these obesity-related conditions are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death. Other diseases and serious health concerns that are often directly related to obesity and excessive weight gain include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and sleep apnea.  

Of course, not everyone who is overweight is classified as obese, but everyone can certainly benefit from proper nutrition and healthy eating habits. Although diet culture continues to spend millions of dollars promoting and selling “the next best thing” for all your weight-loss struggles. There are so many diets claiming to be the solution to all your problems, it can be quite overwhelming! However, at the root of all those diets out there (KETO, Adkins, DASH, Mediterranean, Vegan, etc.) is this; nutrition is at the heart of weight loss. In fact, recent research suggests nutrition knowledge is scientifically associated with greater weight loss!  

Nutritious Food Sources 

Nutritionists have many conflicting opinions on the various diets out there, and very few agree on “the healthiest” diet above all. However, experts have observed the health benefits of certain eating habits that often expand across multiple diets and cultural eating standards. The healthiest nutrition options come from plant-based diets, healthy fats, low sugar and sodium, and fresh/homemade food options over processed foods. 

With the latest nutrition research, without any influence by the food industry or agriculture policies, nutrition experts at Harvard Health Publishing developed the “Healthy Eating Plate.” This offers a more accurate recommendation for healthy eating. This visual methodology suggests half of every meal should be a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The Healthy Eating Plate also recommends whole grains, healthy oils, limited dairy products, healthy protein sources, and lots of water.  

With these healthy eating habits, we can also maintain a healthy meal mentality. Even when the priority is to drop a few pounds, our bodies still require nourishment to thrive. This means, even if we want to lose weight, eating is important. The over-simplified explanation is something we all already know: eat a variety of whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, and eliminate or minimize processed foods with added sugars and saturated fats.  

Choosing to eat as a way to lose weight is a challenging concept, and it is more complicated than you might originally think. Protein variety is one piece of the puzzle to achieving optimal health (which means losing some of those unwanted pounds). High protein foods (such as beef, poultry, fish, eggs, soy, quinoa, and buckwheat) encourage your body to feel full faster and longer, so you can avoid unnecessary snacking and prioritize the “good stuff”. Furthermore, consuming a protein rich diet means your body is actually burning more calories. As it breaks down protein, the process of digesting the protein boosts your metabolism a bit. Integrating lean and healthy protein options into your diet will significantly help you on your weight loss journey. By eating less red meat and processed meats, incorporating plant-based proteins whenever possible, and consuming a variety of protein sources, you can take control of your diet habits to be that much closer to your health and wellness goals. 

Why are some foods healthier than others? What makes something nutritious? 

Micronutrients are also often referred to as vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are vital to healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing, but they are not naturally produced in the body. They must come from our diet. The six (6) essential micronutrients are iron, vitamin A, iodine, folate, zinc, and vitamin D. Each of these nutrients play a crucial role in our body’s growth, development, and overall health, which is why they are equally important for weight loss. Many dieticians and experts confirm, our body is more likely to achieve weight loss/management results when it consumes a diet that includes high micronutrient foods. 

Are there Nutritious Supplements for Weight Loss? 

There has been a lot of research about the potential of using nutritional supplements to aid in the weight loss process. Although the research is rather inconsistent and varying in their findings, a recent scientific overview of supplements found that those providing caffeine, GTE, GCBE, choline, glucomannan, and/or capsaicinoids may offer some benefit to weight management. These are generally considered safe when used as directed. However, they do not seem to provide any significant increase that is more beneficial than focusing on consuming nutrition through diet. Thus, nutrition for weight loss does not mean you can just take a bunch of supplements (even though it would make things a lot easier!).  

Conclusion 

We live in a food-focused society, but we don’t have to fall prey to the pressures of the fast food lines. Through a mindful eating plan that incorporates various fruits and vegetables, lean protein and grains, and limited processed sugars, your body will gain all the glorious benefits Mother Nature provides. It might feel like a difficult journey. However, nutrition is a powerful step toward weight loss, healthy weight management, and perhaps most importantly, a happier, healthier YOU! 

References 

Batsis, J. A., Apolzan, J. W., Bagley, P. J., Blunt, H. B., Divan, V., Gill, S., Golden, A., Gundumraj, S., Heymsfield, S. B., Kahan, S., Kopatsis, K., Port, A., Parks, E. P., Reilly, C. A., Rubino, D., Saunders, K. H., Shean, R., Tabaza, L., Stanley, A., … Kidambi, S. (2021). A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, 29(7), 1102–1113. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23110   

Klohe-Lehman, D. M., Freeland-Graves, J., Anderson, E. R., McDowell, T., Clarke, K. K., Hanss-Nuss, H., Cai, G., Puri, D., & Milani, T. J. (2006). Nutrition knowledge is associated with greater weight loss in obese and overweight low-income mothers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(1), 65–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2005.09.047   

Mah, E., Chen, O., Liska, D. J., & Blumberg, J. B. (2022). Dietary Supplements for Weight Management: A Narrative Review of Safety and Metabolic Health Benefits. Nutrients, 14(9), 1787. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14091787 

Pascual, R. W., Phelan, S., La Frano, M. R., Pilolla, K. D., Griffiths, Z., & Foster, G. D. (2019). Diet Quality and Micronutrient Intake among Long-Term Weight Loss Maintainers. Nutrients, 11(12), 3046. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11123046  

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