For more than three decades, I’ve reported on the latest in health, fitness and medical breakthroughs. I can’t think of a better “beat” for a reporter in southern California – with one tiny exception.
From Atkins and South Beach to Jenny Craig and the “Zone,” literally hundreds of diet plans over the years have promised to help people lose weight.
Bottom line? When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic diet. The secret to losing weight is no secret at all. Eat less and move more. Period.
That also goes for the temptation to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad".
In February, we “busted” five popular myths about nutrition and dieting. Now, with a little help from the American Dietetic Association, (ADA) we’ll blow up five more diet myths and find the honest-to-goodness truth about how to keep your weight and health under control. Here we go!
Myth: To eat less sodium, avoid salty-tasting foods and use sea salt in place of table salt.
Reality: Your sense of taste doesn’t always notice sodium and sea salt or other gourmet salts aren’t any healthier than table salt. According to the ADA, just because it doesn’t taste salty doesn’t mean it isn’t salty. Many processed foods contain a lot of sodium, so check the label.
As for sea salt? It does contain slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt only because sea salt is coarser, so fewer grains fit into the teaspoon!
Myth: Drinking more water daily will help you lose weight.
Reality: There is no evidence that water peels off pounds. Foods containing water such as soup can fill you up, but the ADA’s Dr. Christine Rosenbloom says just drinking water alone doesn’t have the same impact. “Our thirst mechanism and our hunger mechanism are two different things.”
Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains.
Reality: Whole grains are a healthy choice, but you don’t need to ditch refined grains. You can have some of each. “You don’t have to replace all your foods with whole grains,” says Dr. Rosenbloom. Enriched grains, refined grains with certain nutrients added, have some perks. “Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and potassium, so it’s a trade-off.”
Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.
Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children’s behavior. “For most children,” says Dr. Rosenbloom, “the excitement kids have supposedly from consuming sugar is probably more related to the excitement of the event than to eating sugar.” She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children’s behavior as more hyperactive…even when no sugar is eaten.
Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Reality: It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don’t need as much as they think. And they probably don’t need it from supplements…they’re probably getting enough from their food. But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little protein, about 8 grams (the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk) to help their muscles rebuild. "You just don’t need four scoops of whey powder to get what you need.”
New diet myths can crop up at any time…fads come and go. Determining nutrition myth from reality really boils down to this: Step back, check out the evidence and be a bit skeptical.
The true approach to good health isn’t scare tactics from the barrage of media reports. It’s simply an overall healthy eating pattern enjoyed and followed over time.
“The Bucket List,” one of my all-time favorite movies was an enormous hit at the box office despite its seemingly maudlin theme. The 2007 comedy-drama film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman followed two terminally ill men on a road trip with a wish list of things to do before they "kick the bucket."
But the film clearly hit a collective nerve. Alternately hilarious and touching, the film’s mega-stars took on the issue of their inevitable mortality by making the most of what time they had left.
Only 53 at the time, but motivated by the movie’s powerful message, I found myself working on my own bucket list as I left the theater. In the seven years since, I’ve swum the 2.4-mile Ironman course off Kona, Hawaii, snorkeled along the Great Barrier Reef and visited Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.
Above: Carol LeBeau with friends Hattie Kaufman and Maggie Watkins at National Prayer Breakfast
Now, newly 60, I checked one more dream off my bucket list last month after attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. The annual event steeped in history is held the first Thursday in February which also coincides with February “sweeps,” the all-important ratings period in television news. So for 35 years, this former news anchor waited…for retirement…and for the chance to get one of the hottest tickets in the nation’s capitol.
Months ago, I accepted an invitation to speak at a media dinner in Washington the night before the breakfast. The event organizer apologized profusely for not being able to pay me. “We can, however, provide you with a ticket to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast.”
In the early morning of February 6, I picked up my precious ticket at registration and made my way through security and into the biggest ballroom I have ever seen! Steeped in history, every president since Dwight Eisenhower has joined the gathering featuring prayer, Scripture reading and rare bipartisan unity in Washington.
On the expansive dais, President Barack Obama, Michele Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden joined senators and congressmen from both sides of the aisle…for a time of prayer to Almighty God for strength and guidance in leading our country.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) read from the Hebrew Book of Ecclesiastes. Bethany Hamilton, the young, Christian surfer who lost her left arm to a shark, read the Good Samaritan passage from the Gospel of Luke and keynote speaker, Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator encouraged the room of 3,500 guests and foreign dignitaries to continue the fight against extreme poverty around the world.
As the President tied a bow around the morning with a heartfelt message about the need for bipartisanship and the importance of religious freedom worldwide, I couldn’t help but pray the moment of peace and harmony in that ballroom would last a little longer.
I believe someday, with God’s help, it will last forever.
“America was founded by people who believed that God was their rock of safety. I recognize we must be cautious in claiming that God is on our side, but I think it’s all right to keep asking if we’re on His side.” - Ronald Reagan
The trails at Torrey Pines may be beautiful, but after a nearly two-hour trek up and down the scenic paths recently, I needed a nap! Disappointed in my apparent lack of physical prowess, I crawled into my car and drove home only to find an encouraging e-mail from Janine that clearly explained why Torrey Pines had totally wiped me out.
Turns out, my walking partner and “techie” friend had been wearing her “Fitbit” as we trekked the trails that morning. The tiny tracking device on her wrist had recorded our every step…and more… synching wirelessly with her computer and smart phone.
The “Fitbit” computer readout justified my exhaustion. Distracted as we hiked, gabbed and enjoyed the scenery, Janine and I took nearly 19,000 steps, covering 7.71 miles – the equivalent of climbing 86 floors during 115 active minutes. (Does the Fitbit really know when we took photos and potty breaks??!!)
Actually, the tracker uses a three-dimensional accelerometer similar to that found in the Wii Remote, to sense user movement. Simply stated, the device measures steps taken, and combines it with user data to calculate distance walked, calories burned etc.
Speaking of calories, the trendy tracker claims we burned 2,372 calories that morning! (I find that hard to believe…but it sure sounds good!) No wonder I found myself later that day crashed on the couch eating spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar!
These beefed up pedometers are making getting in shape as addictive as checking Facebook and Twitter. Janine wears her Fitbit “Force” all the time. She shoots for 10,000 steps a day, but with an added 4-mile run or “walk and talk” with a friend, can easily reach 20,000 steps.
“It keeps me motivated to get out there and get active on days I’m at my desk on the computer,” says Janine. “When I check my Fitbit and realize how few steps I’ve taken, I make it a point to get moving!”
I’m always late to the party when it comes to embracing new technology…but this is just too fun to pass up. Plus, these new-fangled trackers even allow you to compete with your friends.
Waddaya say, Janine?
Note: The Fitbit “Force” used by Janine has recently been recalled, not for any defect in the device, but because a few users have experienced contact dermatitis (skin rashes) where the tracker comes in contact with their wrists possibly from the nickel used in the band. Fitbit is replacing the device with one minus the nickel and offering a full refund to their customers.
True or false: You’ll get fat if you eat at night; high fructose corn syrup makes you gain weight; and caffeine is bad for you.
As a health and fitness reporter over the last three decades, the correct answers to these dietary dilemmas could go either way depending on the most recent study. As a reporter and consumer, I find that frustrating.
Well, there may finally be some clarity when it comes to caffeine, carbs, salt, fat and other nutrition and food myths – compliments of the American Dietetic Association. At their recent annual meeting in Chicago, food experts gathered from around the world to separate the science from the silliness issuing the truth behind 10 common diet myths.
In this writing, we’ll bust five diet myths….
Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.
Reality: Calories count whenever you eat them. The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Dr. Christine Rosenbloom notes some small studies with mixed results, tests on animals and a belief that because eating breakfast is linked to lower BMI… eating at night isn’t as good. But the science isn’t there. All in all, it’s your calorie total that matters – day or night.
Myth: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
Reality: You could use the glycemic index to adjust your food choices, but don’t make it your sole strategy for losing weight or controlling blood sugar. According to the ADA, for those people who are already counting carbs, this can be a way for them to fine-tune their food choices, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for weight loss.
Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes weight gain.
Reality: This may sound sacrilegious to some, but there’s probably nothing particularly evil about high fructose corn syrup compared to regular old sugar. This diet myth arose in 2003 when researchers noticed that obesity was rising, along with the use of high fructose corn syrup. The speculation was maybe we handle high fructose corn syrup differently than we do sugar, but there’s no evidence to support that. Beyond its calories, the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity.
Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy.
Reality: The ADA’s Dr. Rosenbloom says there is some evidence that caffeine may have a positive effect on some diseases including gout and Parkinson’s disease…besides caffeine’s famous alertness buzz. Also, caffeine does not dehydrate people who consume it regularly another commonly held belief. However, Dr. Rosenbloom does caution that caffeine isn’t always listed on product labels and children who drink a lot of caffeinated energy drinks may intake more caffeine than their parents expect. “Kids tend to guzzle these things,” she warns, “whereas an adult may sip a beverage.”
Myth: The less fat you eat, the better.
Reality: For some people, counting fat grams can work for weight control, but it’s not the only way. The ADA reports that people with heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may benefit from adding a little healthy fat – the monounsaturated kind and cutting back on carbs. But they shouldn’t increase their overall fat intake. Just swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Balance is key says Dr. Rosenbloom. “If you go to an Italian restaurant and have triple-cheese-meat-sausage lasagna then have a little olive oil on your bread, you’re not doing much for your heart.
Next month, we’ll examine five more nutrition myths. You can take it all with a grain of salt, but should it be table salt or sea salt? We’ll bust that myth, too.