Sugar is a food element that must be avoided in excessive amounts in order to maintain the healthiest body possible. Foods high in sugar have become mainstays in American diets and comprise such empty-calorie foods as candy and soft drinks (Insel et al., 2010). These sugary foods provide energy but contain little, if any, fiber, vitamins, or minerals, and contribute to weight gain, the development of type II diabetes, and dental cavities (Klein et al., 2004; Insel et al., 2010). Studies have emerged that link the rising prevalence of obesity in children to the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks (Bleich et al., 2009). From 1997 to 2001, the consumption soft drinks and fruit drinks increased by 135%, and the prevalence of obesity doubled (Bleich et al., 2009). I now better recognize the need for sugar in a diet; however, sources of sugar should be obtained from fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates. Consuming sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugary foods provide only empty calories, and insignificant nutritional value.
Achieving a lifetime of health and weight maintenance success also involves the avoidance of fats. Fats are not an essential body-building material in the same respect as proteins, which are required for constructing bodily processes (Hauschka, 2002). The consistent consumption of excess calories, fats, saturated fats, and cholesterol leads to overnutrition (Insel et al., 2010). Overnutrition is the chronic intake of food that is more than required for good health, and is linked to several leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes (Insel et al., 2010). Studies have also shown that the consumption of fat, sugar, as well as caffeine is significantly related to weight gain (Colditz et al., 1990). Learning about nutrition has helped me realize that I am responsible for what I eat. Literally, I am the only person who controls what I eat, and I must make my choices according to nutritional guidelines to achieve the health that I want and need. Creating a lifetime of health success for myself demands a balanced diet to meet bodily nutritional needs, in addition to avoiding the excessive consumption of sugars and fats. Eating excessive amounts of sugars and fats will only compromise the lifestyle change I am trying to make.
A vital component to weight loss and a complement to proper nutritional practices is regular physical exercise. Through my nutritional education I have learned the benefits associated with regular exercise. Individuals who engage in regular exercise tend to have more energy, feel less on-edge, have better sleep, and feel healthier (Boyle, & Long, 2010). Exercise is important to maintain joint health, flexibility, muscle strength, and physical endurance. Physical activity is a critical component in weight loss and assists in healthy physiological processes. When an individual exercises, their muscles burn fat from the fatty deposits all over their body, especially from fatty areas with the greatest amount of excess fat (Boyle, & Long, 2010). Engaging the muscles in exercise reduces fat and contributes to weight loss.
Studies have shown that obese individuals can lose weight through dietary management and without physical exercise (Weinsier et al., 2000). Although these results indicate physical exercise is not a requirement to see weight loss results, the benefits of regular exercise extend well beyond a weight loss goal. Physical exercise cannot prevent or slow the aging process; however, regular exercise helps to minimize the harmful physiological effects of a sedentary lifestyle and reduces the degree of risk factors associated with many diseases and disabling conditions (Insel et al., 2011). Maintaining an exercise regimen promotes increased self-confidence, improves balance, mobility, reduces falls and fractures, enhances mental activity, assist with healthy appetite and nutrient intake through the lifespan (Insel et al., 2011). My experience with nutritional education has given me a new perspective on the value on exercise. Implementing a regular exercise plan will not only help me to lose weight, but will improve my quality of life throughout my lifespan.
My learning experience about proper nutrition has not only given me direction with diet and exercise to achieve my weight loss goal; it has also made me more aware of environmental and social factors that can impede on healthy life decisions. One's environment, where an individual lives, how they live, and who they live with, can impact what an individual decides to eat (Insel et al., 2010). Environmental factors such as economics, lifestyle, culture, and religion all influence food choices. Economic factors influencing food choices include income, location, and climate (Insel et al., 2010). Location and climate affect the availability and cost of certain foods. Many individuals associate wealth with healthier food choices. Statistically, however, studies show that wealthier households spend approximately 7% of income on food, versus low-income families which spend almost 25% of their income on food (Insel et al., 2010). Many low-income households spend more money on high-fat, high-sugar choices, which are believed to be cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. This is contradicted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that explained an individual can consume three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables for only 64 cents per day (Insel et al., 2010). The fast-paced American lifestyle has contributed to the belief individuals have little time to prepare food and is an environmental factor that undoubtedly affects me. Finding time to prepare meals and exercise is one of the greatest struggles with maintaining a healthy weight plan. Cultural influences promote food preferences as matter of family and social tradition or cultural background (Insel et al., 2010). Religious practices also have the potential to affect food choices and eating habits. I have always had a basic understanding of "diet and exercise" as a means a healthy lifestyle; however, this nutritional education has given me awareness about the influences of environmental factors.
Knowing the principles of proper nutrition, the value of exercise, and the influences of environmental factors have given me the tools to introduce changes into my lifestyle to achieve weight loss and maintain a healthy weight. I now accept that fad diets, crash diets, starvation, etc. do not induce healthy weight changes. Progression towards a nutritious lifestyle is effective in preventing obesity and diseases such as diabetes and supports health across the lifespan (Makdad et al., 2001). The most basic dietary changes I can incorporate into my lifestyle are ideals of moderation, variety, and balance (Insel et al., 2010). In terms of moderation, I must not eat too much or too little of anything, and instead of eliminating elements of my diet I will eat certain foods in healthier amounts. Introducing variety into my dietary changes does not mean eating more fruits, grains, meats, and vegetables; variety implies eating different types of various fruits, vegetables, and other food groups. For example, instead of eating only bananas and broccoli as sole sources of fruits and vegetables, I will include other sources of produce in my diet. The balance component of a healthful diet involves a balance of food groups, energy sources, and other nutrients (Insel et al., 2010). I need to first balance my diet by eating a variety of foods in moderation. I will also balance my diet according to calorie and energy intake and energy expenditure with daily activities and exercise. I understand that long-term dietary choices will provide me with the benefits of health across the lifespan and will allow me to reach my weight loss goal.
My weight loss goal is to lose 30 pounds in order to reach a healthy weight of 150 pounds. Achieving my goal will require dietary changes, a consistent exercise routine, and being aware of the influences of my personal food environment. As a working mother who also attends school, my greatest obstacle to reaching my goal is finding time. I have to make losing weight and altering my lifestyle a priority. The two major changes I must make to reach my weight loss goal are changing my eating habits and introducing an exercise plan. In order to do this, I plan to set a goal, keep a food journal, be accountable, and make a realistic dietary and exercise plan.
Setting a goal is critical to the weight loss process as it marks progress and helps with overall accountability. It is also important to have an "end-point" to supply motivation and an ultimate feeling of accomplishment. My weight loss goal is to lose 30 pounds. More importantly, while working towards this goal, I am determined to affect change into my dietary and exercise lifestyle that I can maintain throughout my lifetime. I accept that change will be gradual, and that my long-term goal cannot be measured in terms of pounds. My short-term goals are weekly as I plan to lose weight at a healthy pace of 1 pound per week. My mid-range goal is to reach my goal weight of 150 pounds in the 30-week period. My long-term goal will be realized…