By Marie Albiges
Stand up if you’ve ever tried a diet before, Tiffany Owen, CSCS, CPT, a Performance Coach from the Tidewater Performance Center, asked a room full of women gathered May 5 at the Performance Center in Newport News.
Most stood. But as Owen threw in more caveats, like stay standing if you’ve kept the weight off or stay standing if you’re still on that same diet, most of the room ended up sitting down.
The moral of the exercise?
“(Diets) always have a beginning and an end, and people end up gaining the weight back,” Owen said.
And that was the point of the gathering of women that night. It was the first event in an annual Women’s Health Week free community series hosted by Tidewater Performance Center.
“We truly care about our clients,” Owen said. “That’s why we’re offering these seminars. To help.”
In this first session, the attendees gathered for a 45-minute lecture on nutrition – The Anti-Diet: Principles of Healthy Eating and Energy Balance – and then went through exercise demonstrations.
Owen started out talking about diets because diets, Owen told the group, mean you are restricting your calories. They are generally not sustainable, long-term ways to lose weight and maintain good nutrition.
“I want you to start thinking of your food as nutrition,” said Owen. “Your goal shouldn’t be to lose weight; instead, your goal should be to improve your overall health, and that starts with healthy eating.”
And this is how Owen recommended doing it.
Eating fewer calories is not always the answer. Women, in general, should not consume less than 1,200 calories per day, or anything less than their resting metabolic heart rate.
Thinking you can eat what you want all the time and work off the calories is also not the answer. Many women don’t realize how hard you do have to work at working off excess eating and drinking.
Drink a margarita on Cinco de Mayo? That was probably 700 calories or more alone. You have to run 7 miles just to burn it all off.
Eating the right calories based on the nutrients in the food, and the appropriate number of them for your body, is the way to go.
It’s not uncommon for Owen to hear that women are afraid of carbohydrates. That they think eating too many of them will be what makes them put on weight, or that eliminating them will help them lose weight.
The reality is, Owen said, carbohydrates should be 45 to 65 percent of your daily intake.
“It is your primary fuel source,” Owen said.
For normal brain function, women should consume 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Not from candy bars and white bread and pop tarts, though.
“Brown and low to the ground” is Owen’s rule of thumb for selecting the right carbs. Think the least processed forms of grain, and make sure it has more than three grams of fiber per serving.
Yes, with carbohydrates comes sugar, Owen said. But there are good sugars and bad sugars.
Sugars that occur naturally in foods are good. Think fruits. Vegetables.
Sugar that is added to food to flavor it are bad sugars.
Largely they are differentiated by the way bodies break it down. Those natural sugars – like in apples and strawberries – are more complex and take the body longer to absorb into the blood stream. That means blood sugar levels aren’t spiking, causing sugar crashes and cravings throughout the day.
Don’t be afraid of fat. Good fat, that is, Owen said.
Dietary fats are essential to the body. Fats should make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake. It’s needed for cell structure, hormone production and energy storage.
Just like sugar and carbs, there are good fats and bad fats.
Bad fats, or saturated fats, should be avoided.
“It does nothing for your body but raise your cholesterol,” said Owen.
The healthy fats are the unsaturated fats and omegas, which improve cognition and decrease inflammation, which helps prevent heart disease. These are found in fatty fish, seeds, nuts and avocados.
Not just for body builders.
Women’s diets should include about 10 to 35 percent of protein per day.
If you take your weight and divide it in half, that’s how much protein, in grams, you need per day.
Protein helps maintain a healthy immune system and build muscle. You’ll find it in fish, meat, beans, soy, dairy and plants.
Portion Control, Breaking a Fast and Meal Times
A big cause of being overweight is overconsumption.
“Many people struggle with portion control,” said Owen.
You should have a fistful of carbohydrates, a palm-full of proteins and a thumb-sized portion of fats each day. Half of your plate during meals should contain fruits and vegetables.
Eating smaller portioned meals throughout the day that include the macronutrients carbs, fats and protein is an easier way to avoid hunger and get in the proper blend of nutrients.
Eating should also start off the day, Owen said, stressing how vital it is that women eat breakfast every day, even if it’s on the go.
“Eating breakfast is more important than anything,” Owen said. “It jumpstarts your metabolism.”
Owen suggested waiting no more than ten hours between dinner and breakfast.
Take your weight and divide it in half. That’s the number of ounces per day women should drink in water. Sound like a lot?
Think of it this way, Owen said. Drinking water before or after a meal can stop you from overeating. Water will increase the stretch response in your stomach and stop the hunger.
Good nutrition doesn’t stop at healthy eating. You also need to incorporate exercise.
Eating after exercise is also important. Owen suggests you wait no longer than 30 minutes after exercising (especially after a hard workout) before refueling so that your muscles can recover.
Best post-workout fuel food?
“Low fat chocolate milk.”
Marie Albiges is a freelance writer based in Newport News, Va. Second only to writing, Marie’s passion is running.