Column: Making healthier food choices may mean addressing other issues

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Q: I’m sick and tired of being overweight and have been on every diet imaginable. I’m truly ready to get healthy and enjoy my life in the New Year. Any help is appreciated!

A: We live in a society where the foods many consume daily are highly processed and highly palatable, nutrient deficient and easy to come by. Whether it is fast food, grocery items marketed to lure you in, or supplements in place of real food, the fact is, there are many ways we can get caught up in overconsuming calories. Learning new ways of thinking about food and weight can be a great step toward modifying existing behaviors.

One suggestion would be to eat solely for the purpose of good health, rather than weight loss. This means getting back to eating real food such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lentils/legumes. Why? These foods contain fiber and water to fill you up, all while feeding your body the nutrients it needs to function properly. To boot, they are low in calories, sodium, fat and refined sugar, translating into healthy weight loss. You get to eat and enjoy food, rather than deprive yourself. When cooking, using herbs and spices, vegetable broth, and other healthy means of flavoring can add even more appetite satisfaction.

When asked, people identify some of the most common scenarios negatively affecting their ability to lose weight, including:

- Eating meals away from home. Dining out brings with it far more calories than most of us would realize, not to mention the extra salt and fat used in preparing the meal. Restaurant meals are also typically much larger than those you would eat at home.

- Caloric drinks. Common examples here are designer coffee, soft drinks, smoothies/juicing, or any other addition on top of regular meals.

- Holiday time, birthdays, sporting events, office parties or other group gatherings. Chances are that there will be plenty of tempting food and beverages available in these situations, ones you would probably not otherwise eat.

- Emotional eating. This habit is based on relieving negative emotions or boredom. The brain can get a boost from even the worst of foods, only to crash afterwards. The best way to change brain chemistry while also losing weight is to be active, whether a formal workout or just taking a walk.

Hidden calories – These are extras we add to food such as oils, salad dressings, creamers, sauces, croutons, butter and cheese.

Supplements – Replacing real food with pills, powders and drinks. This is a trillion-dollar industry and most people are no match for heavy marketing. Examples here are powders and/or pills to replace fruits and vegetables, protein products such as bars, powders and shakes.

Lack of exercise. Being active instantly relieves stress, boosts the metabolism and helps offset a sedentary lifestyle. When we are inactive we eat more, plain and simple, while moving the body does the opposite.

The best approach to weight loss involves recognizing current patterns around food, obtaining information to optimize your health, and ultimately making your own good choices.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to

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