On a number of occasions I’ve had people remark to me “Oh, I’d actually take advice from you!” upon learning that I’m a dietitian. Apparently this is because I’m a fairly small, fit individual. Even though this comment is always intended to be a compliment, and I appreciate it. However, at the same time, it always irks me a little. My size and fitness level have no bearing on my nutrition knowledge or my ability to provide nutrition counselling. Sure, it might seem that I practice what I preach (and I certainly try to!) but a person can be a healthy weight, and even physically fit, without eating a nutritious diet. Conversely, I know many people who eat healthily but are not physically fit. Oftentimes our own healthy habits fall to the wayside when we’re busy, this is independent of profession. I know that judging a book by its cover is difficult to avoid, but please try to remember that dietitians are people too and as such we come in all different shapes and sizes.
I was reading this article about Dr. Blair today at work. He was the recipient of a $50, 000 research award last week. Now, I haven’t seen much of his research so I can’t weigh in too much on that. Although I think that anyone encouraging people to get more physically active is doing a good thing. I just feel that the messages in the article are a little confused and unfortunate. The article suggests that we should stop focusing so much on what we eat, and losing weight, and more on being physically active as obese people can be fit. I agree that focusing on weight is getting us nowhere in the “war on obesity.” However, I don’t think that this means we just stop worrying about what we’re eating. Regardless of your weight, healthy eating is important for your overall health. And if you do want to lose weight, healthy eating is actually a far more important factor than physical activity. Personally, I think that both physical activity and healthy eating are important to your overall health. We shouldn’t be pitting healthy eating and physical activity against each other. We should be combining forces to fight for our health and the health of future generations.
More than once I’ve had people say to me that they eat healthily. More than once these same people will also admit to skipping breakfast and sometimes lunch as well. Just because the food that you’re eating (when you’re actually eating) is healthy this doesn’t mean that you’re eating healthily. Eating a healthy diet is about more than the foods you eat. It’s about when you eat them, how much you eat of them, and what you’re not eating. Like many other dietitians I’m fond of the saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. I know that many people don’t feel like eating first thing in the morning but it’s essential to your metabolism to eat something in the morning. It doesn’t have to be right after you wake-up, some research has indicated that if you’re attempting to lose weight it’s actually beneficial to wait to have breakfast after a morning workout. I’m always hungry in the morning but if I’m exercising first thing then I’ll just have some water and eat after my workout. If you’re not a big breakfast eater try having a smoothie, include fruit, protein (e.g. yoghurt, milk, or nut butter), and even a grain like oats. Liquids are often more easily tolerated than solids. Or keep a stash of breakfast items at work so that you’ll have a healthy choice on-hand when you get there.
Timing of meals is important. If you go to long without eating you’re far more likely to overindulge and/or choose unhealthy (e.g. energy-dense, nutrient-poor) options when you do finally eat. Try to get yourself on a schedule and have something to eat every 2-4 hours.
Variety is an important part of healthy eating and if you’re only eating one meal a day odds are that you’re not getting enough variety in your diet. Eating smaller portions frequently throughout the day will help you to get all the nutrients you need from different foods.
One meal a day is not enough. Eat up!