Another One Bites the Crust: A guide to a healthier diet

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by Natalie Bushman

In today’s world, everyone is telling us to be better. And to have a “better” body. There are always ads that tell you to take care of yourself but there is always that “with our product” attached. Do you actually need some product to take care of yourself? Probably not, but it is important to take care of yourself. I’m just focusing on body weight because that is also the part so many big companies like to focus on. But what is a healthy weight for one person could be way unhealthy for another. Each individual needs to figure out what is healthy for them personally then they can choose to change in the ways they need. Even changing is individual. First, we have to learn why a healthy weight is important then focus on what that weight is and how to get there.

Just saying that a healthy weight is important isn’t enough to motivate any type of change. What makes something healthy or not is basically if that something brings you a better life in the long-term or not. Which also implies that if it kills you, it’s not healthy.

In extreme terms, being within the right weight range can help you live longer. This was proven in a study (EuropePMC) that looked at the relationship between body weight and mortality. They took a group of men that were as similar as possible except for their BMI and looked at how long they lived. The similarity was to prevent factors other than BMI from affecting the results. When graphed, the data showed a “U-shaped relationship”. Since BMI just shows how much of your weight is fat, this data means that being on either extreme is dangerous. You shouldn’t have too much or too little fat. Staying away from the upper extreme (having too much fat) can help you avoid multiple heart diseases, some cancers, and diabetes. But at the same time, it’s important to have some fat. It creates a safety net. It gives you wiggle room in your energy budget. When you do anything, you have to spend energy that you get from eating. But some days, you end up spending more energy than you take in. that’s when your body draws on your fat stores. If you don’t have enough energy stored there, your body literally starts eating itself starting with muscle.

If you’re still young, you’re body doesn’t have the energy to grow the way it should which can stunt growth. You can’t really do anything the same as before no matter how old you are. Being either over or underweight can hurt your quality of life.

What weights are healthy for you depends on who are. It depends on some genetic factors, your height, and your lifestyle. Your DNA has a lot of influence on who you are. It helps determine your food preferences, eating behaviors, and, what i think is most important, your metabolism. Metabolism is the amount of energy it requires you to stay alive and how fast your body produces and uses that energy. If your genes cause you to have a higher metabolism, you’ll probably need to eat more to maintain your weight. That also means you’ll probably need to try to be on the heavier side of your height to weight range. That way, if you have an off day, you’ll have enough of that safety net for your high metabolism to use. This goes the other way if you have a lower metabolism. You don’t need to eat as much and probably won’t need as much of a safety net. You should probably still have one but you won’t need it as much.

It’s also important to remember that there is a spectrum of high and low metabolism. You’ll need to figure that part out for yourself as an individual but websites like healthstatus.com have calculators that can help. Another important thing that changes from person to person is your height. Online, there are a lot of charts that predict a healthy weight range for different heights. But “determining how much you should weigh is not a simple matter of looking at a height-weight chart”(rush.edu). It’s smart to figure out your BMI to figure out if you need to change. Many people use their height to find out their ideal weight. This works so well because your height is determined partially by your genetics and partially by how you were raised. It’s more individual. And it indirectly includes your metabolism. When you’re taller, there’s more of you to keep running which requires more energy.

Another thing that’s even more individual is your lifestyle. This is super important. It makes sense, too. If you’re a cross country runner, you spend a lot more energy than a couch potato. This means you’ll probably need a safety net a lot more too. You could accidently spend twice as much as you consume in one day. You would need your fat stores a lot more often than most people. Being athletic could also throw your BMI off because most online calculators assume you’re an average. They don’t really take into account that muscle weighs more than fat. You could be super strong but the calculator says you’re overweight. You’ll probably be able to know which is which, so figuring out the right weight for you may mean having to watch yourself for a week first.

So around this point you need to decide if a change is needed or not. There are probably other things you can do to stay healthy. But if you do decide to change, you should find the smartest and safest way. If you need to gain weight, you could focus on eating more, building muscle, or both. I would recommend doing both. Just trying to eat more could lead to just swinging to the opposite extreme or to an eating disorder. And trying to just work out more could make the problems caused by being underweight worse. You’ll be spending more energy which could push you even farther from a healthy weight, maybe without even building any muscle.

The best thing to do is balance your eating patterns with your activity. Being more active can help push you to eat more in a natural way and eating more will give you the energy to fuel that life style. This can work for trying to lose or gain weight. If you want to gain weight, eat a little more than what balances your lifestyle. If you want to lose weight, eat a little less. But when you try to lose weight, you still do need to eat. You shouldn’t try to focus change too quickly because, again, that can cause eating disorders that can cause more urgent short-term problems than being the wrong weight would cause.

One common way people try to lose weight is by dieting. This can be good as long as you try to be smart about it. You’ll still need to have a balanced diet that’s balanced with your activity.

An article on the Endocrine Society website was written on an experiment done comparing 2 kinds of diets, a low carb diet and a low fat diet. 42 obese women were put on one of the two diets and monitored for 6 months. The low fat diet focused more on reducing calorie intake while the low carb diet focused more on changing where the calories came from. In the end, both diets were helpful in improving blood pressure, lipids, fasting glucose, and insulin levels. But the low carb diet was more effective in actually losing weight in a healthy way. And because this study was made over 6 months, the long term improvement would be higher than if they had been on week long diets. If you can create a habit out of a diet change, it will be much better than losing 10 pounds in one week and then gaining 7 the next. And being more active can help improve your health in a lot of other ways too.

So it’s not super hard to see that, to some extent, it is really important to care of yourself and your weight. But getting to and staying in the right weight range is something you can do for yourself. It’s not easy but it is possible. You need to look at yourself to figure out what is best for you personally. So get to know yourself and start using what you know to improve yourself. Whether you are within, just outside, or way outside where you should be, it’s time to be actively taking care of your own health and weight.

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