UW Health Nutritionist Says Eat to Lose Weight

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Man making dinnerMADISON - On a drastic diet? EAT, says a UW Health nutrition expert.

"It may sound illogical. But you should actually eat to lose weight instead of starving yourself by extreme dieting," says Liz Freitick, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics nutritionist.

According to Freitick, severe calorie restriction can signal your body into "starvation mode," when the body works extra hard to protect itself by hanging on to every last pound.

"Starvation mode slows metabolism and can significantly slow or even stop weight loss," she says.

Freitick says there are three "lean by extreme" categories that can sabotage weight loss:

Liquid Diets

"Getting all or most of your food through meal-replacement drinks and other
fluids never really satisfies appetite," says Freitick.
She refers to a study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, testing the theory that liquids don't satisfy hunger.

One group ate an additional 450 calories of jelly beans a day for four weeks. Another group consumed an extra 450 calories of soda a day during the same time period. The results revealed that the people who ate the jelly beans compensated for the extra calories by limiting other foods. The soda drinkers did not and consumed 450 additional calories each day.

"Occasionally replacing a meal with a liquid meal replacement is not
going to hurt," says Freitick. "But a consistent liquid diet can be nutritionally poor and will sabotage you in the long run. You don't really learn how to manage eating healthier with typical foods."

Very Low-Carb Diets

"It's one thing to watch your carbs, especially simple carbohydrates," says Freitick. "But regardless of their recent popularity, very low-carb diets are not a good idea."
Freitick explains that while proteins and fats may satisfy, they don't provide a full feeling in your stomach. Higher-fiber complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and whole grain do that. In addition, carbs provide a quick-release source of fuel and energy for the body.

"A lack of carbohydrates often makes you tired and feel weak," Freitick points out
And cutting out the carbohydrate-containing foods (like fruit, milk and yogurt) that contain important vitamins and minerals may be hurting your long-term health.

Food Groups Restriction

"Most of us can't eliminate foods we really enjoy, but we do have to limit them," says Freitick.
Your body really likes to have a variety of foods at every meal, including healthy fats, to help stoke your internal burner and boost metabolism. The trick is to choose foods for your meals from each food group (grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean proteins) as often as possible.

Along with this, it helps to figure out whether you're eating because of hunger or out of habit or other reasons. Then learn to stop eating before you're over-full - that is, to stop when you're comfortably satisfied.

Nutritionists recommend a weight loss of one-half to two pounds per week (an average over time) by figuring how many calories it will take for you to lose and to maintain your weight.
Freitick says calorie-counting doesn't work for everyone, but calories do count when you want to lose weight. The calorie level you need to shed pounds is based on gender, activity level and overall metabolism. A simplified, general rule is that women should not eat fewer than 1,500 calories a day; most men should eat at least 1,800 to promote weight loss.

It can be a challenge to eat fewer calories while eating plenty of healthy foods, but doing so along with getting regular heart-pumping exercise will give you the best results. Most important: choose healthy foods in moderate amounts and enjoy eating.

Date Published: 04/28/2009

News tag(s):  food and nutrition

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