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Health & Well Being Articles
Where Diets Go Wrong
The Positive Weight Loss Approach
Facts About the Smoking Habit
Live a Longer and Healthier Life


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Where Diets Go Wrong
by Nora Penia

Strictly speaking, diets don't fail, people fail to stick with a diet. Following any reduced calorie diet will result in weight loss. The problem is sticking with it. Unfortunately, most diets have built-in failures which trip up the dieter.

Diets go wrong by being too restrictive.

Many conventional diets demand a fairly low calorie intake in order to lose weight. They are based on a fairly simple concept: in order to lose weight one must eat less. Although true, for people who have a large amount of weight to lose, reducing their usual daily intake by 1000 - 2000 calories a day is a depressing task. Such dieters feel deprived before even starting a new diet.

Even for people with small amounts to lose, cutting their usual intake from 2200 or 2500 to 1200 calories, can be a shock to the system. A quick glance at any women’s magazine reveals at least one sample menu for weight loss. Upon comparison, the amounts of food seem very small and usually include uninteresting foods such as yogurt, cottage cheese and chicken breasts.

Diets go wrong by requiring the dieter to change the type of food eaten.

Humans are creatures of habit and usually eat the same foods over and over. Granted, overweight folks are eating too much of the wrong foods. But, in an effort to promote eating a variety of healthy foods, conventional diets suggest new dishes which often include exotic and hard to find foods or just plain boring foods. Using a sample week’s menu of meals can result in buying unusual ingredients, using a small amount for one recipe, then often wasting the rest.

Diets go wrong by making it difficult to eat.

Most diets suggest using fresh foods, cooked from scratch at home. This requires more meal planning, shopping and preparation time. It’s easier and quicker to rely on fast food or convenience foods. The drawback with fast food is in controlling exactly what is eaten since the ingredients are not easily known. Even with the new improved labeling on convenience foods, there’s no guarantee the totals at the end of the day will be within healthy ranges. And who has the time to keep track?

But trying to eat less and prepare strange new dishes can be discouraging. New recipes can take longer to prepare, making it tempting to revert to old eating patterns and simply give up. Eating at a favorite restaurant or at social gatherings is difficult at best. The required food is not available and making substitutions is tricky.

Diets go wrong by feeling like a punishment.

Diets require the reduced intake of food, cutting out favorite foods, learning to like new foods, spending more time planning and preparing food. All these changes can make the dieter feel punished by the very process which is supposed to improve life.

However, people usually approach a diet with the attitude: ‘this is just until I lose x number pounds.’ This is where people fail diets. Any change required to lose weight will need to continue after the pounds are gone. When dieters revert to old habits, the weight creeps back on.

Diets go wrong by creating a repeated failure record.

Every time a dieter fails at a diet, stops trying and returns to old eating habits, the chances of succeeding at the next attempt is reduced. The dieter becomes fatalistic about the possibility of ever losing weight.

How to win the ‘diet’ battle?

The real answer to the shortcomings of diets seems to be: eat the foods you are accustomed to, but reduce the amount of everything eaten. Rather than learning new ways of cooking, suffering through painful shopping trips for food you don’t like, spending hours cooking and tracking the amounts eaten, simply fill your plate as usual, put part of it back and eat the rest with a clear conscience.

A reduction of only 500 calories a day will result in a weight loss of one pound a week which adds up over time. (When was the last time you lost 52 pounds a year?) This approach automatically cuts the amount of fat consumed as well as reducing the intake of sodium, sugar and concentrated calories such as meat and carbohydrates.

So, rather than put yourself on a ‘diet,' make moderate changes. Omit one large snack or dessert, and all second helpings each day. Eat a little less meat and high fat foods. Add a salad or extra serving of ‘skinny’ vegetables every day, (you know which ones.) Go for a walk after supper. Give it time.

And, never say ‘diet’ again.

Nora Penia is an educator and writer. She has written one novel, as yet unpublished, and for over two years has written for her own online magazine entitled At the Fence, Relationships and Parenting.

This article may be used in any online media. Please contact Nora if you wish to publish this article in traditional print media.

Live a Longer and Healthier Life
by Herlan Westra

An unexpected research finding with great practical significance is that experimental animals live longer with much lower rates of disease when they consume less than the recommended daily allowance of calories. The finding is unexpected because we associate less-than-optimal nutrition with poor growth and health, and common sense tells us that we do better if we are well nourished. In fact, most of us may be overnourished, and too much of a good thing may be doing us harm.

An adequate diet is one that provides not only enough calories but also all of the nutrients necessary for efficient metabolism without any excesses that promote disease. What constitutes a good diet is a matter of controversy, and much of the controversy is based on emotion rather than reason.

An average person needs less than 2,000 calories daily, with 300 to 400 of the calories coming from fat. Present labeling laws are helpful in determining your caloric intake, but maintaining your weight or losing weight is much more complicated. The FDA supports two ways to diet: increase exercise and decrease the intake of food.

Dieting Can Make You Fat

That's it? The secret to a long and healthy life is diet and exercise? Not really! Metabolism slows down during a diet, and the body burns fewer calories, causing more fat to be stored as a protection against extended "famine." When the food supply is restored, the metabolism is slow to respond, and the body stores even more fat. In humans, this yo-yo phenomenon is harmful - starvation diets simply fool the body into starting a famine cycle. Once the diet is over, we are back to where we started, or worse.

Granted, exercise programs help keep the metabolism active, but most of us are about as committed to our exercise programs as we are to our diets. We fall off the exercise program at the same time we end the diet, increasing the yo-yo effect. Then how should we combine dieting and exercise into a healthy life?

First we need to modify our diets, lowering caloric content without greatly reducing the amount or the appeal of food we consume. The best way of lowering caloric content is by cutting the fat content in our diets. Fat has almost twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrate.

Second we need to restrict caloric intake either by fasting or by eating a limited diet one day a week. Our body's metabolism will not react quick enough to begin a "famine" cycle during a one-day diet. Fasting should include plenty of liquids, with enough fruit juices to maintain a minimum caloric intake. When fasting, reduce the intake of supplemental vitamins and minerals, as some supplements may become toxic if not consumed with adequate amounts of food.

Vitamin Supplements

Our bodies don't benefit from the food we eat, but rather by what is digested, assimilated and eliminated. The food is taken in, broken into smaller and smaller parts until it can be absorbed and the by-products discarded. Enzymes digest all of our food and make it small enough to pass through the intestines into the blood. Enzymes are a part of every metabolic process in the body, from the working of our glands to the proper functioning of our immune system. Enzymes require vitamins and minerals to do their work.

Many manufactured vitamin and mineral supplements, because they are fractionated (broken down into basic elements), are treated as toxic waste in the body. Some minerals in an unnatural form can accumulate and cause harmful effects. Fortunately, many commercial vitamin and mineral supplements are so badly formulated that they pass right through our digestive systems without breaking down and being absorbed. Unfortunately, we haven't received the benefit that we paid for.

Many people are now using all-natural herbal forms of vitamin and mineral supplements. Because these are in a natural form, they are more easily absorbed than manufactured supplements. They are also much less concentrated than manufactured supplements, and so are often safer. However, it is always best to consult with your personal physician before taking any nutritional supplement.

The proper supplements, combined with proper diet and exercise, can help you live a longer and healthier life.

Herlan Westra is the editor of Rhode Island Foghorn Online Magazine, which provides information and entertainment for a rapidly-growing audience nationwide. Herlan welcomes suggestions for future articles.

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Facts About Smoking

Most smokers sincerely want to quit. They know cigarettes threaten their health, set a bad example for their children, annoy their acquaintances and cost an inordinate amount of money.

Nobody can force a smoker to quit. It's something each person has to decide for himself/herself, and will require a personal commitment by the smoker. What kind of smoker are you? What do you get out of smoking? What does it do for you? It is important to identify what you use smoking for and what kind of satisfaction you feel that you are getting from smoking.

Many smokers use the cigarette as a kind of crutch in moments of stress or discomfort, and on occasion it may work; the cigarette is sometimes used as a tranquilizer. But the heavy smoker, the person who tries to handle severe personal problems by smoking heavily all day long, is apt to discover that cigarettes do not help him/her deal with his/her problems effectively.

When it comes to quitting, this kind of smoker may find it easy to stop when everything is going well, but may be tempted to start again in a time of crisis. Physical exertion, eating, drinking, or social activity in moderation may serve as useful substitutes for cigarettes, even in times of tension. The choice of a substitute depends on what will achieve the same effects without having any appreciable risk.

Once a smoker understands his/her own smoking behavior, he will be able to cope more successfully and select the best quitting approaches for himself/herself and the type of life-style he leads.

Because smoking is a form of addiction, 80 percent of smoker who quit usually experience some withdrawal symptoms. These may include headache, light-headedness, nausea, diarrhea, and chest pains. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, short-term depression, and inability to concentrate, may also appear. The main psychological symptom is increased irritability. People become so irritable, in fact, that they say they feel "like killing somebody." Yet there is no evidence that quitting smoking leads to physical violence.

Some people seem to lose all their energy and drive, wanting only to sleep. Others react in exactly the opposite way, becoming so over energized they can't find enough activity to burn off their excess energy. For instance, one woman said she cleaned out all her closets completely and was ready to go next door to start on her neighbor's. Both these extremes, however, eventually level off. The symptoms may be intense for two or three days, but within 10 to 14 days after quitting, most subside. The truth is that after people quit smoking, they have more energy, they generally will need less sleep, and feel better about themselves.

Quitting smoking not only extends the ex-smoker's life, but adds new happiness and meaning to one's current life. Most smokers state that immediately after they quit smoking, they start noticing dramatic differences in their overall health and vitality.

Quitting is beneficial at any age, no matter how long a person has been smoking. The mortality ratio of ex-smoker decreases after quitting. If the patient quits before a serious disease has developed, his/her body may eventually be able to restore itself almost completely.

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The Positive Weight Loss Approach

Once you have made up your mind to lose weight, you should make that commitment and go into it with a positive attitude. We all know that losing weight can be quite a challenge. In fact, for some, it can be downright tough. It takes time, practice and support to change lifetime habits. But it's a process you must learn in order to succeed. It is said that if you do something for 21 days it will become a habit. You and you alone are the one who has the power to lose unwanted pounds.

Think Like a Winner

Think like a winner, and not a loser - - remember that emotions are like muscles and the ones you use most grow the strongest. If you always look at the negative side of things, you'll become a downbeat, pessimistic person. Even slightly negative thoughts have a greater impact on you and last longer than powerful positive thoughts.

Negative thinking doesn't do you any good, it just holds you back from accomplishing the things you want to do. When a negative thought creeps into your mind, replace it reminding yourself that you're somebody, you have self-worth and you possess unique strengths and talents.

Contemplate what lies ahead of you. Losing weight is not just about diets. It's about a whole new you and the possibility of creating a new life for yourself. Investigate the weight loss programs that appeal to you and that you feel will teach you the behavioral skills you need to stick with throughout the weight-loss process.

First you should look for support among family and friends. It can be an enormous help to discuss obstacles and share skills and tactics with others on the same path. You might look for this support from others you know who are in weight loss programs and you can seek guidance from someone you know who has lost weight and kept it off.

There are success stories across the country today on television and in newspapers, magazines and tabloids about people who have miraculously lost untold pounds and kept it off. In all instances they say their mental attitude as well as their outlook on life has totally changed.

Learning New Skills

Diets and weight loss programs are more flexible now than they once were and there are many prepared foods already portioned out. They are made attractive and can be prepared in a matter of minutes. Low-fat and low-calorie foods are on shelves everywhere.

You will probably need to learn new, wiser eating skills. You will want a weight loss regimen that gives you some control, rather than imposing one rigid system. Look for one that offers a variety of different eating plans, so you can choose the one that's best for you.

Keep in mind, too, that your weight loss program will most likely include some physical exercises. Look at the exercising aspect of your program as fun and recreation and not as a form of grueling and sweaty work. The fact is that physical fitness is linked inseparable to all personal effectiveness in every field. Anyone willing to take the few simple steps that lie between them and fitness will shortly begin to feel better, and the improvement will reflect itself in every facet of their existence.

Doctors now say that walking is one of the best exercises. It helps the total circulation of blood throughout the body, and thus has a direct effect on your overall feeling of health. There are things such as aerobics, jogging, swimming and many other exercises which will benefit a weight loss program. Discuss the options with your doctor and take his advice in planning your exercise and weight loss program.

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