Eating Right for the Metabolism Fight
By Amy Scanlin
Special to The Pilot
You try to eat right, you exercise as much as you can and yet, each decade, that pesky old metabolism lowers and, in return, the numbers on your bathroom scale rise.
If changes to the diet or exercise levels are not made, starting at about age 30, we can expect to see gains of around 10 pounds per decade - and this holds true for those who started out with a healthy lifestyle, too.
Think back to your "fighting weight" ... are you 10, 20, 30 pounds more than you were then?
A big part of that scale's reading is your fitness level, cardiovascular, strength and flexibility. Getting a good cardiovascular workout that is safe and effective burns calories.
Here's more good news - even after exercise, your metabolism stays up for a period of time - burning even more! The more muscle mass you have, gained through some form of strength training, the higher your metabolism. Can you think of a better reason to hit the weight room or power yoga mat?
Lastly, flexibility is so important to keep the body in good working order and so -wonderful for the mental benefits, too.
Why, can't you just visualize yourself making the right choices and achieving your goals of better health?
The other big part of the scale's number is your nutritional intake.
Even with the exercise, we've got to get nutrition right. Exercise can only get us so far because there are only so many hours in the week available to us for working out and burning extra calories, and overdoing that workout can be detrimental to our health, just like doing no exercise at all.
If you find yourself needing more and more exercise to conquer the scale, that's a sign that it's time to make some -improvements to your diet and take some of the heat off of your feet.
The frustrating thing for many of us is that we have already made the easy changes to our diet - we choose low-fat dairy, we choose low-fat meats, we eat whole grain bread. And, yet, that weight keeps coming. Now what? What's the next step in making new and effective decisions?
The Choice Is Yours
There are many directions a healthier diet can take you and, thankfully, the choice can be yours - some go the plant-based diet route, others cut back on sugar or -portion size, and still others take a hard look at their daily food intake and see that they aren't quite as healthy an eater as they thought.
"It was about becoming an advocate for my own health," says Karen Pilson, who co-owns Nature's Own grocery and 195 Restaurant in Southern Pines with her husband, Milton, of her quest, starting back in high school, to make more informed food choices.
For 24 years, Nature's Own has been raising -awareness and helping the community to make smart food choices. Pilson has had many a question on how to eat healthier and keep the pounds off, and some of her favorite and simplest advice is to get more sleep, stay hydrated, and eat early and eat often - grazing -throughout the day with small nutrient-dense meals and snacks that keep the metabolism revved all day.
"The more nutrient dense the food, the more satisfied you'll be," she says.
Pilson recommends high-fiber foods to stay fuller longer, plenty of protein (and not necessarily animal protein) and staying away from hydrogenated oils, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. She also stays away from artificial sweeteners, which can cause the body to crave more calories and sugar.
Think Outside the Box
Mark Elliott, owner of Elliott's on Linden, the Sly Fox Pub and Rue 32, adds we need to change our mind-set about portion sizes. As Americans, we place value on the amount of food we see on our plate and not necessarily the quality. We are "over-portioned," he says.
Along with smaller portion sizes, he recommends -eating more slowly.
"Our body's fullness receptors are about 20-30 minutes behind," he says. Meaning, you are actually full before you -realize it because your body has not yet registered that it has had enough food.
Elliott's on Linden promotes "Meatless Mondays" with both vegetarian and vegan options on their menu, and it has been a wonderful addition for their patrons.
Thinking outside the box and developing hearty, healthy meals around vegetables is a great opportunity to make things interesting in the kitchen.
"Going meatless makes for low-calorie meals, a more varied diet with lower cholesterol, and it gives the body a rest," Elliott says. "Many have commented that they really like the variety - vegetable pot pie, vegetarian lasagna and even chili sans-con-carne."
There are lots of opportunities to eat healthier and lower calories without sacrificing taste or the things you love. Eating less, finding substitutes for certain -ingredients or a new menu altogether will help you to grow as your own personal chef, take responsibility for your food choices and, in turn, the number on your scale.
The Sandhills is fortunate that there are many -health-focused lectures, cooking classes and, of course, -registered dietitians to help you improve your food choices. It's not too late to make this your healthiest decade yet!
Amy Scanlin, M.S., is a freelance writer who -specializes in fitness and medical writing. She lives in Pinehurst.
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