Sifting through diet advice
When did it become so hard to know what to eat?
Probably about the time people started advising others as to what makes for a healthful diet.
My experience thus far with trying to lose 10 pounds has opened my eyes to how unskilled I am at managing my own food intake. And I'm a nutrition writer, with direct access to the best dietary information and advice available.
I feel lucky to have the help of folks such as Brian Wansink and Pamela Peeke, both experts in making the most of your diet. They've helped me pinpoint those parts of my eating routine that are sound and those that are, in Peeke's parlance, "chaotic."
But as I write in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy column," it's not even easy to reconcile Wansink's suggestions with Peeke's ideas. Wansink, who says the best diet is one you don't know you're on, has helped me learn to make a set of small changes in my approach to diet and exercise. In the long run, he says, those small changes will add up to a more healthful lifestyle and a smaller me.
But Peeke, who has helped many women get or stay fit and trim after they turn 40, thinks I need more. She's advised I cut way back on my daily calorie intake -- without skipping meals -- and focus on building muscle as I shed pounds, making for a leaner me.
Both approaches sound great. Right now I'm trying to figure out whether both can work for me at once.
There's a bigger issue at hand, though. My personal situation is emblematic of the difficulties we all face in figuring out how to maintain a healthful diet. Whose advice should we listen to? How do we sort through all the books, magazine articles, TV shows and other sources that bombard us with diet information, much of it contradictory and much of it of dubious value? And how do we react when we learn, for instance, that eating lots of fruits and vegetables doesn't appear to reduce cancer risk after all, as a study published last week showed?
It would be so nice to be one of those rare people known as "intuitive" eaters who naturally know what's best to eat and when to eat it. I know a few: They never seem concerned over getting enough of this nutrient or that, but somehow they cobble together marvelously healthful sets of eating habits.
I never really learned (though I'm sure my parents tried to teach me) how to feed myself properly. I grew up in the 1960s and '70s, when packaged and processed foods really took hold; back then, my folks figured that stuff must be okay to eat.
Now that I'm grown, I know intellectually the difference between healthful food and junk. But it's still hard for me to use that knowledge in my daily life.
How about you? Do you struggle with sorting through advice about eating? Or do you perhaps have some, er, advice of your own to share?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
April 20, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity
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