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Improving long-term health starts with education, dietitians say

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Improving long-term health and finding proper nutrition starts with education, not wishful thinking, says area dietitians. (Adobe stock photo)

Monique Jones

The Birmingham Times

Improving long-term health and finding proper nutrition starts with education, not wishful thinking, says area dietitians. (Adobe stock photo)
Improving long-term health and finding proper nutrition starts with education, not wishful thinking, says area dietitians. (Adobe stock photo)

Improving long-term health and finding proper nutrition starts with education, not wishful thinking, say area dietitians.

“I think probably one of the most common trends I’ve seen is that people are confused,” said Brandon Booth, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), personal trainer, and founder of Birmingham-based Benchmark Nutrition, LLC. “I think [that’s] because of the wealth of information and misinformation. … People are so overwhelmed with all this information and misinformation that they don’t have a clue where to start. It’s simple at the outset but it’s confusing when you [dive] into it.”

“You have to know what to aim for before you can start shooting for [your goals],” said Robert Adam Britt, registered and licensed dietitian and operations manager of UAB HealthSmart. “We do very individualized nutrition counseling since things are not one-size-fits-all. We encourage people to speak to their health providers for some very specific information on how they can best improve their health.”

Booth said his clients are often concerned with what needs to be taken out of their diets and how to enhance weight loss.

“Some people are really carb conscious. They want to know what they need to eliminate to achieve their goals versus what foods they probably should include to achieve their goals,” he said. “A lot of people are asking about protein … about if they’re getting enough, and you’ll also hear questions about if there’s any supplements somebody can take to enhance the speed at which they achieve their goals.”

Slow and steady

Diet supplements might be popular with those eager to quickly shed pounds, but both Britt and Booth urge caution and say to think twice before adding a diet pill to your nutrition plan.

“Some people take things like caffeine pills in order to increase metabolism; of course that’s something that you definitely need to talk to your doctor about because that could have its own side effects and unfortunate results,” said Britt. “… Sometimes people will take B vitamins as a supplement to help lose weight, which can be safe. Whether or not it will help is a very different story and, again, is something they would need to talk to their medical providers, nutrition educators, to find out whether or not that would be beneficial to them.”

Instead of relying solely on diet pills to fast-track your weight loss process, the healthier way to go is to take the slow and steady approach.

The first step is to keep a food diary. Keeping a food diary is one of the easiest ways to understand your eating habits, Booth said.

“Sometimes we’re not aware of how much we’re taking in or how many calories or carbs or proteins are in our foods,” he said. “…With the food log, you might see [you] didn’t eat a single fruit or single vegetable all day. That’s a great place to start.”

Booth also recommends cutting down on soda intake and upping the amount of water you drink every day. Non-active women need about 70 fluid ounces of water at minimum; non-active men need about 90 fluid ounces.

Booth said these are “small changes that can lead to big results over time.”

“You need to have an open mind when you go into making diet changes,” he said. “It’s not going to be instant. It’s going to take time for you to see the results, but it’s your consistency that’s going to be a key factor.”

Overall, persistence is what will propel you towards long-term success.

“The most important things are consistency and habit, even though things tend to start off a little more difficult. The longer you stick with it, the more you make it a habit, the easier these things get,” said Britt. “Sometimes things like cravings pop up. Cravings for sugar, for salty foods, can reduce over time as you make the appropriate health goals. The primary key is sticking to it, being persistent with your changes.”

“Consistency is going to be the most important key to long-term health,” he said.