The Nutrition Paradigm

A Well-Oiled Machine

“I want to get in shape.” That’s one of the most common things people say when evaluating their lifestyle. Maybe you’ve put on a few extra pounds. Maybe you’ve developed new pains. Or maybe you just don’t feel as good as you used to. Tired? Sluggish? Sound familiar?

The first thing people tend to do after coming to the realization there needs to be a shake-up in their day-to-day routine to get “in shape” is to get active. It’s a good start. And honestly, it’s much easier than the one thing you absolutely have to do to be successful–taking a hard look at your diet. Giving up the things you love, that do not love you back–junk food, soda, fast food, processed food, et cetera–is the key to building a healthier lifestyle.

Exercise without proper nutrition will not lead to desired results, only frustration, and most likely a shelving of the exercise. Why do it if I’m not seeing results?

Liken the human body to car engine that runs on gas. If you accidentally put a little diesel fuel in the car, you’ll probably not notice. But if you fill the tank with diesel, odds are the car will not run. If it does, the car will run poorly and the engine could be damaged. That scenario is no different than constantly filling the human body with junk. Eventually it will break down.

The Proper Fuel

Documentaries such as Super Size Me and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead portray accurate accounts of the severe effects neglecting proper nutrition can have on the human body. We’ve turned to registered dietitian Jennifer Dietz of Dietz Nutritional Consulting to shed a little more light on nutrition.

When looking for professional nutritional guidance it’s good to know the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. A nutritionist has a four-year degree in nutrition. A dietitian also has a four-year degree in nutrition as well as a six-month to year-long internship and has completed the Registered Dietitian (RD) exam. To work in most medical facilities you must be a registered dietitian.

When you’re ready to change, the first thing you need to do is take a detailed snapshot of what you’re putting into your body. Jennifer says, “Empty calories from sugar and fat are two of the main culprits in weight gain.” Liquids such as regular sodas, sweet tea, juice, and milk are loaded with calories. “We need to limit high kcal drinks. It is better to eat an apple than to drink apple juice,” Jennifer continues. Using fat for flavoring is another example of empty calories. Sure it may taste like grandma’s cooking, but there are forty calories in one teaspoon of oil. Jennifer says, “Those calories add up fast if you eat fried foods often.”

Getting fit isn’t about tackling the latest fad diet, it’s a lifestyle change. You have to be willing to be in it for the long haul. You have to look at that fried, processed food on your plate and that soda in your glass and understand you’re breaking up with the bad. “Most fad diets have not shown success in keeping the weight off long term. When someone sets their mind to eating healthy and exercising for a lifetime, they will probably be more successful at losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight compared to someone who does a fad diet. Being successful at weight loss is as much a mindset as it is in altering one’s diet choices and exercise routine,” Jennifer says.

Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, with approximately thirty-five percent of the population falling into the obese category. Obesity is defined as carrying a bodyweight of at least twenty-percent higher than the normal weight range. According to a study online in The American Journal of Public Health, obesity accounts for eighteen percent of deaths among black and white Americans between the ages of 40 and 85. Obesity is leading cause of preventable death in the United States. With the war against obesity at our doorsteps, it’s time for Americans to become more cognizant of what they use to fuel their bodies. Terms such as clean eating are gaining popularity among the health conscious.

But just what is clean eating? Jennifer says, “Clean eating means eating foods that are unprocessed or as close to the natural state as possible.” Clean eating is a diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Examples are – eating a grilled chicken breast instead of a microwaved chicken patty, or eating a banana instead of dried banana chips. “Everyone needs to try to eat more fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, healthy fats, and avoid added sugars to try to be healthy and meet the daily nutrient needs. We consume more nutrients and less sodium when we avoid highly-processed food and get back to the basics of more natural foods in our diets,” Jennifer continues.

The Basics of Eating Clean

– Eat whole foods

– Stay away from processed foods

– Avoid refined sugar

– Consume five to six small meals a day

– Prepare your own meals

– Combine proteins with carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are oftentimes misunderstood. There is a solid difference in good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Jennifer says, “Good carbs would be foods high in fiber and nutrients like whole-wheat bread, dried beans and peas, fruits, and milk. Bad carbs would be high-fat, sugary foods like doughnuts, pastries, and biscuits. You should consume healthy carbs every day in their portion sizes. A healthy 2000 calorie per day diet would have around 250 grams of carbohydrates. Your brain prefers sugar (which carbs break down into) for fuel and requires a minimum of 125 grams of carbohydrates per day for proper functioning. This is why diets that severely restrict carbs often leave people feeling tired, cranky, and headachy,” Jennifer says.

Carbohydrates are usually associated with weight gain. Jennifer says, “I believe some carbs such as pasta, potatoes, and rice are eaten in too large of a portion which can lead to weight gain. It is true that these foods have more calories per half-cup than most fruits and vegetables. So, if you have a tendency to eat more starches than other foods, you may be eating too many calories per meal.”

Learn the Language

Nutrition labels can be confusing, so know what to look for and what to avoid. Serving size and servings per container are two numbers you should always check. Calories per serving, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and fiber content also factor into whether you’re making a healthy choice. “For starches and plant foods it is important to look for more than 3 grams of fiber per serving. For meats and dairy products look for foods with low single digits of saturated fats since this is the kind of fat that raises blood cholesterol levels. Avoid products that contain trans-fat. Depending on your health issues, you may need to look at the ingredients list located under the nutrition label,” Jennifer says.

The term “grain” can baffle. Whole-grain, 7-grain, multi-grain? Jennifer suggests not going by the description of the product on the front of the package. Always read the nutrition label. “In the case of breads, looking at the fiber content and making sure the product contains more than 3 grams of fiber per serving would ensure it is a high-fiber product,” Jennifer says. “For cereals, I recommend they have 5 grams or more of fiber per serving. Usually when a product is made from 100 percent whole-wheat flour it has a good amount of fiber per serving. It would always need to be the first ingredient listed.”

Common Mistakes that Derail Progress

Overeating is something that most people are guilty of from time to time. Some more than others. “Even if a meal is healthy, you want to stop eating when you’re comfortably full, not stuffed. Most people overestimate a portion size,” Jennifer says. Understanding portion control arms one with the knowledge to ensure that you’re not overeating. Jennifer suggests using visuals to estimate portion sizes.

“Making meals balanced, meaning divide the plate into four equal sections with one section each for meat, starch, fruit, and vegetable with dairy on the side will provide the nutrients you need per meal and keep portions in check. I often suggest using a salad plate to eat smaller portions. This trick is helpful for those members of the ‘clean plate club’,” Jennifer says.

Another mistake that can make success seem impossible is the idea that water “flushes” fat from the body. “Water may fill you up before a meal causing you to eat less. You will probably have more energy when well-hydrated, and water has no calories, but it doesn’t help you lose weight faster,” Jennifer says.

The Ideal Weight

When people are serious about getting fit, one of the first questions they ask is, “What’s my ideal weight?” Jennifer says that most registered dietitians use the following equation to calculate Ideal Body Weight (IBW).

For men: For the first 5 feet of height give 106 pounds. Then multiply each additional inch by six.

For a man who is 5’10” – ideal weight is 166 pounds +/- 10%

For women: For the first 5 feet of height give 100 pounds. Then multiply each additional inch by five.

For a woman who is 5’5” – ideal weight is 125 +/- 10%


Another way to calculate IBW is to chart Body Mass Index (BMI).

Jennifer says, “Often, the client will decide where they feel most comfortable weight-wise. Any weight loss, even ten pounds, for someone who is overweight or obese can be beneficial to his/her health.”

Scale Watching

When people make the decision to get fit a lot of time is spent on the scales. Don’t become discouraged if the weight isn’t dropping as fast as you would like. Getting in shape isn’t always monitored by how much weight you’ve lost. Just dropping a few pounds can make a difference in factors such as better fitting clothes, more energy, and less aches and pains. “Sleeping better can also be a benefit from weight loss. People with diabetes may notice blood sugars improve. People with hypertension may notice improved blood pressure. Cholesterol numbers can also be reduced with weight loss,” Jennifer says.

The human body is one of the most complex machines known to man. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simple. And it starts with what  you choose to fuel your machine.