What Does A “Healthy Diet” Really Mean?

All I’ve seen in the news and on magazine covers in the days leading up to and following New Years Eve is weight loss tips. Everybody seems to have the resolution to get into shape and live a healthier life, but the advice I’ve seen to get that way doesn’t actually seem to be very helpful. One example I saw was the “3 day diet”, in which one participant claimed to lose 9.5 pounds in 2 days. In another example, the cover of Health magazine boasts the title “LOSE 12 LBS THIS MONTH”, and the entire magazine is labeled as the “2013 weight-loss special issue”. With increased focus on losing more and more (and even more) weight, the resolution of living a healthy lifestyle seems to be replaced simply by a number on a scale. I personally want to learn how to eat better and exercise in a way that feels good to me and will make me healthier, but I don’t really know what that means with all of these magazines screaming weight loss tips at me. Luckily, my wonderful and beautiful mother is a dietician, and has helped hundreds of people over the years develop a balanced diet with a focus on health rather than weight loss. Read what she has to say in the interview below:


During this time of year living a “healthy lifestyle” seems to be the only topic in magazines. What does that phrase mean to you?

It means listening to your body- eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, getting exercise, eating a variety of food, and doing everything in moderation.

In elementary school we learned about the food pyramid and the serving sizes we should be eating every day from each food group. Has that changed? What are the recommended servings people should be eating to maintain a healthy and balanced diet?

Yes, it has changed, because the same recommended servings don’t work for everyone since people have different needs depending on their amount of exercise, metabolism, etc. The trick is to be mindful of when and what you eat, and to not allow yourself to get too hungry or too full. All meals should include some protein, some fat, and some carbs, and people should also include more fruits and vegetables into their diet.


For people like me, who love sweets and anything chocolate, should we be cutting that out of our diet?

Absolutely not. Someone can have a piece of chocolate every day for the rest of their lives and have a perfectly healthy diet. The important thing is to look at the big picture – make sure you’re eating enough of other foods as well, but don’t restrict yourself of any one food group.

How often and what type of exercise should people be doing daily? I’ve heard ranges from 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to 2 hours of any sort of movement.

Everybody should be active, but it can vary between each person. Just do what you enjoy doing – I take offense to workout tips that say everybody should work out for 30 minutes or everybody should do this type of workout, because it should be something they enjoy, not something that another person told them to do.

Exercise should be fun, not forced.

Exercise should be fun, not forced.

How does extreme or fad dieting effect the body in both the short and long term?  

You may lose weight in the short-term, but most people don’t keep it off and tend to gain even more weight back. I’ve personally never seen it work, and depending on the diet it can have some serious long-term health consequences.

Ellyn Satter, a well-known dietician, further defines “normal eating”:

“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.”



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