My Cure for America’s Food Paradox

I turned on my computer this morning and saw a few headlines in my news feeds and email inbox:

  • "14 Foods to Not Eat"
  • "12 Foods to Remove from Your Diet Forever"
  • "6 Superfoods to Consider"
  • "7 Inflammatory Foods to Avoid"
  • "10 Foods to Fill You Up"
  • "7 Foods to Whiten Your Teeth"
  • "10 Foods to Omit or Reduce from Your Diet"

Phew, my head is spinning, and I’m a nutritionist! Thanks to mainstream media, we are in the middle of a nutrition frenzy that makes eating more of a science experiment them a pleasurable event.

But wait, you still are supposed to enjoy eating. In fact you are supposed to take great pleasure in what you eat. And that's not all you should do. You should be able to buy the foods you like and prepare and eat them without too much difficulty. You should even be able to pronounce and spell most of their names. You should be able to travel, eat out, go to parties and enjoy holidays without guilt or fear of gaining weight.

But when I counsel clients, it seems as though that is exactly what isn’t happening. Drinking calories instead of eating them is trendy. Avoiding specific foods or food groups (e.g. gluten, carbohydrates, dairy) is the norm. Blaming foods for certain ailments or what one weighs is not uncommon. Cleansing and detoxing are cool. We’re mixing up all sorts of concoctions, sure that we are getting more nutrients that way than we would if we just sat down and ate a fresh, homemade, unprocessed meal just like Mom or Grandma used to make.

There is a paradox in America: Never before has there been such an interest in food and eating healthy, but never before has America been so overweight. Despite all the new rules, trends, food fads and science, I am counseling more and more overweight people. And, shockingly, they are usually young adults. They readily tell me how healthy they eat and how much time they spend at the club exercising. They show me how much muscle they are building and how strong they are.  For what?  Sitting at the computer all day? And the scale often doesn’t budge.

So, the message I have for America is simple:

Eat Smart

Eat everything but in small amounts. 

Recalibrate Your Meals

Try eating like a European, meaning opting for a bigger lunch than dinner. Why? It gives your body more time to burn off those calories. And eat your smaller dinner earlier, too.

Move More

Take a walk after lunch. After dinner, instead of plopping down in front of the TV or computer, do chores or take a walk. And move more during the day, too. Do an activity that gets you moving and count your steps. One hour at a health club probably won’t offset eight hours sitting at a desk. I have lots of overweight clients to prove it!

Know Your Calories

What amount do you need to maintain your weight? What do you need to do to lose? What calorie level causes you to gain? Once you've armed yourself with that knowledge, budget your calories just like your checkbook.

Enjoy Everything You Eat

This is the most important one. Don’t eat foods you don’t like just because. Eating should be fun. Develop a good relationship with food and celebrate healthy eating.

Monica Joyce on Twitter
Monica Joyce
Monica Joyce, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, is a local and national speaker to health care professionals on diabetes and co-author of the book, Too Busy to Diet. Follow her on Twitter.