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Written by Dr. Ajay Hotchandani   
Thursday, 24 July 2014 00:00

Doctor's Order - Back to basics – Proper Diet

I shall start off with a disclaimer, I am not a nutritional expert, however, I am a doctor and the advice I’m giving you here is what I have given my patients in the past.  One of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle includes a proper diet.  Interpretation of what a proper diet is where things get tricky.

According to the World Health Organization (2011) Belize’s estimated prevalence of obesity is greater than 30%.  What does this mean?  That at least 3 out of 10 Belizeans is obese, not just overweight but one level “heavier” than overweight.  Excessive weight at this level can lead to negative health effects such as heart conditions, diabetes, and joint pain. 

One of the topics of conversation between you and your health care provider may include the need to reduce your weight.  This is often achieved by eating a balanced diet and exercising.  In an ideal world this can be easily achieved, however, we live in a society where a salad costs twice as much as a fry chicken and is half as filling.  You eat a salad and within 30 minutes you are rummaging through the kitchen and fridge looking for something to eat.  

As mentioned before, the key to success is balance.  Balancing diet, exercise and lifestyle.  We were never a society that counted calories or paid any attention to the nutritional labels on the side of processed food.  That is starting to change.  We are becoming more health conscious, looking for low fat items, using healthier options such as olive oil to prepare food and baking instead of frying.  Where and when possible, we are introducing more vegetables into our diet. 

For those of you wanting to lose weight, it can be simplified down to caloric intake.  If you are “burning” up more calories than you are consuming the body breaks down fat to get some of its energy requirements, and that is how weight loss comes about.  This goes back to the concept of reading labels and counting calories.  The two ways to reduce fat is to exercise (as you burn up calories) and to consume fewer calories. 

So what do I tell my patients?  Start with realistic goals.  If you want to eat healthier I encourage you, but do it at a pace that is suitable for your lifestyle.  Start with simply changing your breakfast to start with, instead of fried jacks and eggs, switch to oats and a slice of fruit.  Most lunches contain rice, so instead of completely eliminating rice at first, cut back the amount.  As for exercise, walking 30 minutes a day is a good start.  Work your way up to a pace of exercise that suits your lifestyle and body type. 

Use the resources available to you online or apps on your phone.  There are numerous websites that help you set up diet plans and calculate your daily recommended caloric intake based on your data.  It is very important to remember that weight loss will not occur overnight.  It took you some time to put on that weight, it will take some time to get rid of it, as long as you do it properly and safely. 
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